With the playoffs quickly approaching, a win against the San Jose SaberCats on Saturday might mean a little extra cash in the pockets of the Chicago Rush players.
"Everybody wants that extra game check," joked Rush wide receiver Jared Perry. "That's what we're looking for."
The Rush and SaberCats are battling for the fourth and final playoff spot in the National Conference. Chicago (9-5) currently holds a half-game lead over San Jose (9-6) and if the playoffs began today, the Rush would enter the postseason as the four seed.
The team that leaves the Allstate Arena on Saturday night with an additional 'w' in the win column is likely the team that makes the playoffs, while the losing side will need help from other teams to keep playoff hopes alive.
"We want to be that team that's able to win and only has to worry about what we need to do the rest of the way out," McMillen said. "When you've got things out of your control and you've got to worry about other teams winning and losing, there's nothing really you can do there."
While the Rush have emphasized the importance of every game on the 2012 schedule, the players are not denying the stakes behind Saturday's contest.
"This is the season," said fullback/linebacker Kelvin Morris. "There's no other way to look at it. It's a game we have to win. We're going to go out there and put it all on the line."
Chicago enters Week 17 having won three of its last four games including last week's road victory against the Kansas City Command, the team's first win away from the Allstate Arena since March 31.
"It was great to get the monkey off our back," head coach Bob McMillen said. "We've got two more road games to go, so this was a good starting point for us."
The SaberCats stole the first matchup with the Rush in dramatic fashion. Despite having an eight-point lead and possession of the ball with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rush allowed the Sabercats to escape with an 84-77 overtime victory on May 27 in San Jose.
"We went out there and we may have given them one," McMillen said. "(The SaberCats) played hard at the end there and didn't quit no matter what the score was."
But McMillen and his players insist the team that will take the field against San Jose on Saturday isn't the same team that lost back in March.
"Earlier we had a lot of individuals, guys doing their own thing," McMillen said. "Guys are starting to believe in what we're trying to do here. I think our leadership has grown on this team and players are starting to take over."
Perry said the Rush's practice habits have also improved as the season has gone on.
"We've got a point to prove," Perry said. "Everybody has been going at each other, trying to make each other better. When you have a team competing, it's going to make everybody better."