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Packers ready for Bears

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Associated Press
January 1, 2011
— Packers coach Mike McCarthy has had it easy this week: He hasn't had to remind his players what the season finale against the Bears means to his team.

McCarthy says Friday, "Our football team is very excited to play.


With a win, the Packers (9-6) are in the playoffs.


Green Bay could gain the final NFC wild-card spot without beating the Bears if the New York Giants and Tampa Bay lose their games.


NFC North champion Chicago (11-4), meanwhile, could lock in as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs if both Atlanta and New Orleans don't lose their games earlier in the day.


That's led to some speculation the Bears coach Lovie Smith would be inclined to rest players and lessen the risk of an injury occurring before the postseason.


"At first, initially, I thought it would be in their best interests (to do that)," Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said. "But then my coach brought it up and I was listening to some of the media and Lovie's pretty big on beating the Packers. I don't really see him letting an opportunity squander away."


Smith this week said he intends to play his regular starters as the Bears look to become the first team in the NFC North since the league's division realignment in 2002 to go unbeaten against their three division opponents. Plus, a Chicago win could potentially keep its biggest rival out of the playoffs.


"It's hard to ever speculate on your opponent's approach," said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, a former NFL head coach. "What we've got to do is put our total focus and concentration on us going out and playing our best game. I think that our guys understand the magnitude and the importance of it."


McCarthy after practice Friday reiterated comments he made earlier in the week that it's "a polluted mindset" for the Packers to get hung up on the possibility of Chicago keeping its top players out of part or all of the game.


"You can't worry about it," Raji said. "Especially in my position, you can't really worry too much about that. If you do, then you get off track and your technique will go and you worry about who you're playing against. So I'm going to go in with the mindset that everyone is going to play."


McCarthy didn't play several starters and also pulled a few more, including quarterback Brett Favre, in the Packers' meaningless 2007 final regular-season game. Green Bay was locked in as the No. 2 seed and had a first-round bye in the playoffs.


"I'm not really worried about what spot they're in," McCarthy said of the Bears. "I'm just looking forward to playing Sunday."


Green Bay won't be at full strength with defensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf) and linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) ruled out for another game.


But safety Nick Collins (ribs) and cornerback/kick returner Sam Shields (knee), who missed practice time this week, are probable to play.


NOTES: The Packers placed rookie G/T Marshall Newhouse (back) on injured reserve, their league-leading 15th player on the season-ending list. Green Bay signed C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith to the 53-man roster. Dietrich-Smith was with the Packers as an undrafted rookie last year, but they cut him before the start of this season. He then had a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks early in the season but never played. The Packers added LB Diyral Briggs (ankle) to the injury report. He is probable for the game.



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