(Sports Network) – Welcome to Soldier Field, where the home team is guaranteed a playoff spot and looking to better its prospects, while this week’s visitor is trying to get its foot in the door of the postseason tournament.
The Chicago Bears and New York Jets will meet on what’s sure to be a chilly Northern Illinois Sunday afternoon, looking at least on the outside as mirror images of one another across dueling conferences.
The Jets ended an ill-timed two-game losing skid with a road win at Pittsburgh last Sunday, reaching the 10-win plateau after 14 games and maintaining a two- game bulge on its nearest pursuers, San Diego and either Indianapolis or Jacksonville, for the last of the AFC’s two Wild Card spots.
New York clinches a berth with a victory over the Bears.
Still, injuries and other distractions have been the big stories surrounding the Jets this week, with quarterback Mark Sanchez undergoing an MRI on his throwing shoulder, wide receiver Santonio Holmes limited in workouts with turf toe and head coach Rex Ryan answering questions about his wife’s role in videos surfacing this week on the internet.
“We’re going to be ready to play Chicago,” Ryan said. “I am ready. This is my job and I’m focused on the job at hand.”
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw for a pedestrian 194 yards against the Vikings, but has eight touchdown passes in his last four games. Running back Matt Forte ran for 92 yards on 17 carries on Monday and wide receiver Devin Hester established an NFL record for kick and punt return touchdowns with the 14th of his career, breaking the combined mark previously held by Brian Mitchell.
Ryan said the Jets’ kicker and punter have already been instructed to steer clear of Hester.