NFC Championship Preview – Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

So here we – championship weekend. And for the first time since 1990, we have a division rivalry game for the NFC championship – the Packers at the Bears. I cant quite believe we’re here already, the season goes far too fast. It does seem to just get better and better the closer you get to the Superbowl though, so strap in this weekend, it’s going to be a screamer. Lets take a look at the NFC side.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

The Green Bay/Chicago rivalry is the longest standing rivalry in the NFL, stretching back to 1921 and after this weekend will stand at 182 games. Honours were even in the regular season, with Chicago winning 20-17 back in September and the Packers getting their revenge (and a ticket to the playoffs) with a scrappy 10-3 win in week 17.

That, of course, will not matter. It is the playoffs after all, whatever we could take from those 2 games about this matchup is ancient history – these are 2 different animals now.

It seems like Green Bay has caught the playoff momentum bug, and they’re looking very tough to stop now. Last week, the Packers brushed aside the Atlanta Falcons (in the Georgia Dome) like they were a fly causing a nuisance. Aaron Rogers was in stunning form, playing what was possibly the best game of his career. Rogers only missed on 5 of his 36 pass attempts and accounted for 4 TDs (3 passing, 1 rushing) in a 48-21 crushing. Rogers definitely seems to have that big game mentality needed for the playoffs. The only thing that kept him from making a longer run in last years post season was being outgunned by the great Kurt Warner.  The big question for the Packers will be if he can maintain that playoff-form going against a Chicago team that knows them very well.

On the Bears side, they must be quite scared as they watch the footage from that Atlanta game, but they will come into this game knowing they have a defence capable of slowing down Rogers & co. What will be vital for Chicago is getting Green Bay’s running game shut down early. Forcing Rogers to pass more doesn’t sound ideal for anyone, but if they can handle the run with their front 4 (defensive line, for those of you still on the jargon learning journey!) and expect the pass, that’ll make life a whole lot easier for them as a defensive unit.

Offensively, the Bears are going to have to be at their absolute best in this game. Jay Cutler has had an up & down year, but the good news is he has got better as the seasons gone on, and last week against the Seahawks he threw for 2 TDs and rushed for 2 more. However, Green Bay, of course, are not the Seahawks. Chicago got the job done last week, but they’re simply going to have to be better this Sunday night.

If its true (and I believe it is) that the Packers offence is at their barnstorming playoff best, then theres every chance this turns into a shootout of the kind we saw last year (Arizona Cardinals & Green Bay Packers), and you just cant shake off the niggling thought that Jay Cutler just wont be able to keep up with that kind of firepower.

Players to Watch

He’s one of our favourite players here at UKNFL. He doesn’t see the ball anywhere near as much as some of your household name running backs (Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, etc) but he’s been a key part of a Packers offence that lost their starting RB in week 1. I am of course talking about fullback, John Kuhn. He’s not your typically explosive player, he’s not going to scamper for a 70 yard TD, but he’s such a workhorse in the Packers offensive lineup that none of that matters. As his leading blocker, it was Kuhn that was largely responsible for James Starks 123 rushing yards against Philadelphia. Last week against the Falcons, he touched the ball 4 times (2 carries, 2 catches). 2 of those touches resulted in touchdowns. When the Packers get within 10 yards of the goal line on Sunday, thats when you watch for him. And its likely that not long after you’ll see our Twitter feed loaded with KUUUUUHHHHNNN hash-tags.

I mentioned earlier about the Bears having to stop the run early, preferably using little more than their D-line. A huge part of this will be Julius Peppers. The perennial pro-bowl defensive end is getting on in years a bit now, but he’s still a vicious edge rusher, and plays the run just as well as he can rush the QB. He may have as big a job as anyone this weekend. If Chicago can eliminate whatever rushing game the Packers want to play, Peppers next task is getting after Aaron Rogers, and if he can shake him up a bit that’ll will greatly increase the chances of a Bears win.

Predictions

This is a really difficult one to call. I just can’t tell which Bears team (more specifically, which Jay Cutler) is going to show up. When it comes down to it, I think the Packers will be too much for the Bears in both the offensive & defensive phases of the game.

Green Bay Packers by 10.

 

Andy Stuart

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