LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — There will be no shortage of eyes on Jay Cutler this week, even with Aaron Rodgers returning to the field.
The season comes down to a playoffs-or-bust finale for the NFC North title when the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers meet at Soldier Field on Sunday, and the quarterbacks will be in the spotlight.
Rodgers will be behind center for the Packers for the first time since he injured his collarbone in a loss to Chicago on Nov. 4. Cutler will get his share of attention, too.
Cutler has an expiring contract, a bad history against Green Bay and at least a few fans in Chicago who would just as soon see Josh McCown starting. Cutler insisted he's not looking for vindication.
"This isn't a personal game for anybody in that locker room," he said. "It's all of us together."
Maybe. But no matter how much Cutler tries to make it about the team, to a large degree this one is still about him.
Even as his fifth season in Chicago winds down, big questions remain about his demeanor, his leadership and his ability to perform in big situations.
The fact that his contract is up just adds another wrinkle to the story.
General manager Phil Emery has expressed his support for Cutler, but exactly how the negotiations play out remains to be seen.
Emery has said he would prefer to work out a multiyear deal rather than have Cutler play under the franchise tag next season, assuming they retain him.
But could a bad game by the quarterback this week affect his value? And if he leads the Bears to a victory, same question. For now, Cutler's future is a bit murky.
"I haven't really thought about it," Cutler said. "Not going to think about it. I've got enough on my plate thinking about Green Bay."
And if that conjures up a few bad memories for him, it easy to see why.
Cutler is 1-8 against the Packers, including a loss with Denver in 2007 and in the NFC title game at Soldier Field three years ago. He has 17 interceptions, nine touchdowns and a 59.9 rating in those games, and when the Bears won at Lambeau Field this year, it was with McCown filling in.
Cutler sat out that game with a groin injury and suffered a high ankle sprain against Detroit the following week, forcing him to miss four more games.