2011 NFC Championship Preview
On Sunday, January 23rd the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will square off for the third time the season. The Bears won the first meeting 20-17 on September 27th, and the Packers won 10-3 in the season finale to clinch the final playoff spot. Green Bay advanced to the NFC Championship after a first round against the Philadelphia Eagles and a dominating 48-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round. The Bears had a bye in the first round easily handled the Seattle Seahawks in their divisional match up. With a Super Bowl trip on the line you can be sure that these bitter rivals will leave it all on the field in this one.
When the Packers are on Offense
If the NFC Championship comes down to the quarterbacks my money is on Green Bay. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had another great regular season with 3922 yards and 28 touchdowns. In the Packers two playoff games Rodgers has been brilliant with 546 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Rodgers does a great job of throwing to the open receiver and he has some great ones in Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson. Rookie running back James Starks has given the Packers a boost in the playoffs with 189 rushing yards in the two games.
The Bears defense has been great this season especially against the run allowing only 90 rushing yards per game. Against the Packers on Sunday the Bears will have to play solid pass defense and try to slow Rodgers. Expect the Bears to show the Packers a lot of different looks defensively and bring blitzes out of different formations. With Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Lance Briggs the Bears have legitimate play makers on defense. The Packers offense against the Bears defense will be a great battle on Sunday afternoon.
When the Bears are on Offense
The Chicago Bears need Jay Cutler to play well if they are going to beat the Packers on Sunday. Cutler has shown this year that he is capable of leading his team to victory but which Jay Cutler will show up Sunday? Jay played well against the Seahawks last week with 2 touchdowns through the air to go with 2 rushing touchdowns, but his completion percentage was still only 53.6%. The Bear offensive line struggled this year allowing Cutler to be sacked 52 times this season and they will have their hands full with Clay Matthews. The Bears will look to get Devin Hester involved in the offense anyway possible and his ability to break a big play could be huge in this game.
The Packers defense is aggressive and will definitely bring the heat against Cutler. In their last meeting with the Bears the Packers defense finished with 6 sacks and 2 interceptions against Cutler. The Packers defense has played well in the playoffs so far slowing down two great quarterbacks in Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have lots of blitzes dialed up and will trust his corners to cover one on one against the Bears receivers.
NFC Championship Betting Lines – Bears vs. Packers
The Bears are the higher seed and are playing at home but the Packers are currently favored by 3 points. I like Aaron Rodgers a lot and I think he and the Packers will win and cover the spread against the Bears. The over/under is set at 43.5 and despite both teams outstanding defense I am leaning towards the over in this one. I think the Packers offense is hot right now and will be able to score against the Bears. The Bears special teams are dangerous with Devin Hester returning kicks and the Bears will take advantage of good field position.
Prediction: Green Bay 27 – Chicago 20