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Bears plan to go all out vs. Packers

The Giants will be rooting hard for the Bears Sunday. But the Bears might be rooting just as hard for the Giants.

They see the highlights. They follow the national storylines. And they know that their road to the Super Bowl will be a lot less difficult if the swooning Giants and not the soaring Packers are among the six teams in the NFC tournament.

So what do the Bears have to play for Sunday? Just a chance to knock one of the hottest teams and sharpest quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers out of the playoffs before the playoffs even start.

"In years before, there was nothing we could get out of the game besides just beating Green Bay," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said, a reference to the 2006 regular-season capper in which the Bears had their position as the top seed in the playoffs locked up and lost to the Packers. "This game, even though we've clinched a first-round bye, we can knock our opponent out of the playoff race. I think that's enough to play for."

Both games will begin at 4:15 p.m. If the Packers win, they're in. Even if the Giants beat the Redskins, it won't get them a playoff berth unless the Bears beat the Packers.

"It's a big game for us, too," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "It's our rivalry. We'd like to be 12-4, like to knock them out of the playoffs. There's not as much on the line, but it's a big game."

Bears coach Lovie Smith has said he plans to play his starters and to try to win the game, even though the Bears already have clinched a first-round bye and will know whether they can get the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by the time they kick off at Lambeau Field. For that to happen, the Saints and the Falcons would have to lose earlier in the day.

The Giants have been trying to convince Smith to follow through on that promise, pointing to their own Super Bowl run that was sparked by playing full-throttle in a "meaningless" game against the Patriots at the end of the 2007 season.

(Of course, the Giants lost that game anyway. And after Chicago lost to the Packers, 26-7, at the end of the 2006 season, the Bears advanced to the Super Bowl themselves.)

Packers coach Mike McCarthy called the thought that the Bears might not be giving it their all today "a polluted mind-set."

"Leave the pollution outside the doors," he said. "We're focused on beating whoever comes out that gate on Sunday . . . We need to get to 10 wins and we've been focused on that for quite some time. We're in position to accomplish our goal of getting into the playoffs, and that's what we're focused on."

The Bears say they are focused on winning, too. And they'd certainly like to bump the Packers out of their path before the postseason journey even begins.

But the Packers are desperate and have urgency. The Bears? They have a backup plan. And just knowing that can affect how they perform.

"Obviously, we want to play well every game," Urlacher said. "If we don't, it's not the end of the world."

Maybe not for his team. For the Giants, it might be.

New York Sports