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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 23, 2011 at 9:19 AM

Hey, it really is too bad that Chicago Bears injured QB Jay Cutler won't be playing here in this Christmas Nite game from Lambeau Field - after all, Cutler hails from Santa Claus, Indiana and so that would have been a perfect backdrop to this NFC North affair between the Bears and the now 13-and-1 Green Bay Packers ... right?

As it is, the once-upon-a-time 7-3 Bears are now just a .500 team and fighting an uphill battle for their playoff lives here on the second-to-last weekend of this 2011 NFL regular season while the Packers have bigger fish to fry. Yes, Green Bay's not won back-to-back Super Bowl championships since the 1966-67 seasons which happened to be Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II (of course) but this year's club is the odds-on favorite to win it all again.

Heck, we just checked with the good folks in Las Vegas and the current price to "win it all" for Green Bay is listed at -125-to-$100 meaning you actually risk $125 to win $100 - crazy but true. Now the Packers look to wrap up the NFC's #1 playoff seed in a Christmas Nite prime-time affair and so let's get to the game preview and the pertinent spread notes ...

CHICAGO (7-7) at GREEN BAY (13-1) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Now that we all know the GB Packers "work holidays" - they played Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, here on Christmas Night against Chicago and they'll be part of the New Year's Day sked next Sunday with a home game against the archrival Lions - the key question will be just how hard does sixth-year head coach Mike McCarthy push his troops here now that a perfect season is gonzo and there's lots of walking-wounded on the Green Bay side.

On the flip side, Chicago will start ultra-journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback - nope, that Caleb Hanie experiment didn't work too well! - and so look for Packers DC Dom Capers to "send the house" in passing situations and so don't be surprised when/if Green Bay defensive backs Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams (among others) scoot off with a pick six or two.

The Bears need to win their final two games and get some outside help in games involving Detroit and/or Atlanta - the odds are stacked against Lovie Smith's squad, for sure - while the Pack could nail down the #1 conference seed with a "W" here and QB Aaron Rodgers (297 yards passing and three aerial TDs in 27-17 win/cover at 4 ½-point dog Chicago back in Week 3 play) won't have his full complement of targets with WR Greg Jennings (67 catches and 9 TDs) out here with a knee injury.

Spread Notes - Green Bay is 9-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and note the Packers are a composite 20-8 versus the vig dating to the middle of the 2010 campaign. Since 2001, the Packers are 14-7-1 against the odds in head-to-head showdowns against the Bears. Meanwhile, Chicago's 0-3-1 ATS overall since late November but "Da Bears" are a decent 8-5 vig-wise in divisional duels dating back to late in the 2009 season.
 

NFL'S CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

Hope when New York Jets WR Santonio Holmes wakes up Christmas morning that Santa Claus will have brought him a brain (and some humility too) ...

Maybe the fat guy with the white beard wearing the red suit will also be kind enough to bring Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz a book on anger management - he could read it to himself and than read it aloud to his undisciplined NFC North crew ...

Maybe the Cleveland Browns will gets lots of Christmas gifts like an offense that doesn't break down every five minutes (see 14 points or less scored in eight Browns games this year) ...

Here's hoping that Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett gets an egg timer for Christmas - that might help remind him when to call a time out ...

For Indianapolis Colts fans, here's a crying towel for you all! After nine consecutive playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win back in 2006, the Colts fans came across like major whiners during this Peyton Manning-less season. Sorry to be Grinch-like here but we're half hoping the Colts don't draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck next spring ...

On that theme, a Christmas wish that the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins each find an I.O.U. from Santa Claus that promises a franchise quarterback for 'em beginning in 2012. Perhaps now that USC's Matt Barkley has announced his return to the Men of Troy - and good for him - maybe the Fish can get their hands on Heisman Trophy-winning QB Robert Griffin III and the 'Skins can nab Wisconsin's Russell Wilson ...

Let's hope Oakland Raiders QB Carson Palmer gets some new contact lenses so he can make out who are his teammates and who are the opponents - some of his picks this year have been that dreadful ...

Finally, a major lump of coal in the stocking of the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Buffalo Bills - each of you showed major quit along the way after promising starts and shame on the players/coaches on both teams here. Naughty, naughty!

NOTE: Catch our NBA Opening-Day Report in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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