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12 things: Week 17 storylines

What to expect -- and not to expect -- from the NFL's final regular-season games

Originally Published: December 31, 2010
By David Fleming | ESPN The Magazine

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If you're intrigued by the annual sit/don't sit debate that happens in Week 17 of the NFL season, then the Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers game has it all.

At 11-4, the Bears have already clinched a playoff bye. Now they have to weigh the risk of an injury to someone such as Jay Cutler (7-1 in his past eight starts) against the outside chance that they could still grab the No. 1 seed overall in the NFC. (That's not likely since the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons would have to lose and the Bears would have to beat the Packers at home, where they are 6-1 and have outscored opponents 124-40 in their past three games.)

Yet while Cutler insists he's going to play until the bitter end in Lambeau, Bears coach Lovie Smith sounds more like he's planning to do the safe, smart thing and shut things down early. A move that would, of course, greatly benefit the Packers, who make the playoffs with a win on Sunday.

Yes, that means the Bears are more than likely going to help their hated rivals make the playoffs.

That, folks, is the messed up world of Week 17, the NFL's second exhibition season. This is a place where fantasy football teams, Las Vegas lines and all common sense gets blown to smithereens, as teams with nothing to play for square off against teams with everything to lose.

Here's my best guess as to how -- and why -- things will play out in the regular season finale.

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