Fox chose to 'flex' the Bears - Packers game Sunday to 3:15 CST. They did that so they could showcase two classic rivals in a game that matters a great deal to both teams. The Green Bay Packers need to win this game to make the playoffs. Otherwise they have to hope the Washington Redskins can beat the New York Giants. The Bears are still in contention for the number one seed that would ensure them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But they probably won't be by the time Sunday's game starts. The networks chose not to flex the games from the NFC South; Carolina @ Atlanta and New Orleans @ Tampa Bay. It would take the unlikely event of both the Falcons and the Saints losing for the Bears to have a chance for the number one seed, by beating the Packers.
By kickoff, it's almost certain this game will be meaningless to Chicago. But they should go ahead and prepare for it, as if it was crucial, just in case. If the news from the South is good, the Bears can go in guns blazing. If not, they can tinker a bit.
Lovie Smith has said he has no plans to sit his starters, regardless of the circumstances. I agree with this decision to some degree. The defense has given up some uncharacteristicly high numbers lately, and there are some who feel that the quick slant has been exposed as their achilles heel. With so much on the line for them, the Packers are sure to test that theory. The Bears should just keep rotating their defensive players in, giving everyone on the depth chart some playing time. Don't let anyone get worn out, while testing strategies, rather than worrying about results.
Same thing on the offensive side of the ball. Jay Cutler is rolling, and the offense seems to be having growth spurts every week. They should keep the engine running. Treat this game like a simulation; try out some new wrinkles (without giving away too much) and let everyone gets some reps.
One caveat: Protect Jay Cutler, at all costs. If this is a meaningless game, don't gamble with injury. The Packers are going to be playing at full tilt to secure a playoff berth. Let's not let the Bears playoff hopes fall victim to Green Bay's bloodlust.