Complete Breakdown of the NFC Championship, Plus Who’s Going to Dallas
This storied rivalry with write another chapter this weekend when the Green Bay Packers travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in their 182nd meeting. This is the biggest game between these two franchises, this one decides who represents the NFC in Super Bowl XLV. Lets get started and break down the Chicago Bears and what they’ve done to be successful.
For Chicago, it all starts with the defense. They play a cover 2 defense (tampa 2) and stay true to it. They Don’t do anything fancy. The Bears pass rush relies on its front four Israel Idonije, Tommie Harris, Anthony Adams, and the heart and soul of the front four, Julius Peppers. They jam the receivers at the line of scrimmage, and drop their linebackers into coverage. Brain Urlacher and Lance Briggs, two very big variables to this defense. They both had sideline to sideline speed and are able to make the big play.
We cannot escape that the Bears have one of the best special teams unit in the NFL. This will be a huge factor in this weekend’s game. Devin Hester has the speed and agility to take any kick or punt to the house, but it starts with their coverage unit. Back in the Bears and Packers first meeting this season, the special teams unit supplied a punt return for a touchdown and blocked field goal by Julius Peppers. Not to mention a game winning field goal off the golden leg of Bears kicker Robbie Gould.
On offense they key has been giving Jay Cutler time in the pocket, and utilizing the run game successfully. The play of Jay Cutler has been huge since the bye-week, buying time with his mobility and making plays outside of the pocket. This young receivers unit has been quickly on the rise to a solid unit. Earl Bennet, Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and tight end Greg Olsen, have turned into reliable targets for Cutler. The key to this offenses success has been the balance between the run and the pass, and the same personnel on the offensive line.
Here are the keys to beating the Packers this weekend. On defense, applying pressure on quarterback Arron Rodgers while keeping containment on him. Rodgers is as good as anyone when he’s outside the pocket, so jamming the receivers at the line is going to be important. Stopping the run game is going to limit Rodgers from the play action pass, so they’ll need to use some stunts with their front four and play from Urlacher and Briggs, two of the best run stoppers on that defense. On offense, protecting Cutler is going to be a must. The offensive line needs to give him time in the pocket for the play to develop, Cutler is going to have to use his mobility to buy time. Generating a run game is also key, they were successful with this during their last match up, this will open up the play action pass. The receivers have to play lights out, and be reliable targets for Cutler to get the ball to. They’ll need to capitalize on good field position and turnovers. The special teams unit is going to have generate at least two big plays.
Lets take a look at Green Bays success. This season has been a roller coaster for the Packers, with their significant number of injuries, including one season ending injury to their starting running back Ryan Grant in the first game, and not to mention their stint this season where they lost two back to back games in overtime. They relied on Packers quarter back Arron Rodgers for answers, and answers they got, as he threw for 3,922 yards this season with 28 touchdowns. Receivers Greg Jennings and James Jones have caught for a combined total of 1,944 yards, Jennings doing most of the damage with 1,265 yards and 12 touchdown. The running game has been idle through out the season as back up running back Brandon Jackson carried the ball 190 times for 703 yards with three touchdowns. Rodgers rushed for 356 yards off of 64 attempts while scoring four touchdowns. I think it says something when your quarterback has more rushing touchdowns then your running back, and almost half the rushing yards on less then half of the carries.
This Packers defense has evolved into one of the top defenses in the league. Ranked 2nd in points with 15.0 average, 5th in passing yards with 192.2 yards per game, 5th in yards total with 309.1 yards per game, and 18th in rushing 114.9 yards per game. Not to mention this stingy the defense has shut down two of the best offenses in the playoffs, Philadelphia and Atlanta. This defense is led by linebacker Clay Matthews, and cornerback Charles Woodson. Matthews has 3 sacks in the playoffs so far, but the real jewel here is the play of cornerback Tramon Williams, who recorded 3 interceptions in the playoffs thus far.
Lets talk about the keys to beating the Chicago Bears. If your going to beat this team, you have to make them beat their selves. Their defense is going to have to get to Jay Cutler early, the more hits you get on him, the more he gets uncomfortable and the more his timing gets thrown off, thus producing bad throws. Stopping the running game by pinching the A and B gaps as well as keeping containment on the outsides. If you shut down the run game, you have now made the Bears one dimensional, meaning that Bears offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, is going throw the ball a lot more than he would like. Throwing off the Bears balanced offensive attack is key. Corners Williams and Woodson will need to take advantage of these one on one match ups and break on the ball while its in the air.
On offense, its going to be about protecting Rodgers from the Bears monster front four, and setting up the run game. Starkks is going to have to be a huge factor in this game. They cannot beat the Bears alone on just passing, they will need a steady mix of both. Rodgers will be going up against one of the best defenses in the league right now, so accuracy and timing is going to be very critical. He will need to pick up the blitzes early and hit his hot routes for short but decent gains. The Bears play a cover 2 defense, Rodgers needs to exploit the middle of the field, such as the Patriots did. Cover 2 beaters are in the seams, and short routes underneath. Setting up play action pass is a must, this is where 35 percent of their plays come from. With no play-action passing game, means no chances to catch the safeties out of position for the deep ball. Beating the Bears is all going to come to do; 1. Stopping the running game. 2. Getting to Jay Cutler. 3. Setting up the running game.
I’m going to go with Chicago in this heavy weight fight, and here’s why. The Chicago Bears have found that balance in their offense, Cutler and Martz are syncing together perfectly. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor have carried the load well on the ground attack, and will continue this Sunday as they’ll run to slow down this Packers rush. Greg Olsen and Earl Bennet are going to be huge factors, both are hot route receivers for Jay Cutler. I believe the defense comes out and shuts down this soaring Packers offense the same way they shut down a soaring Philadelphia Eagles offense earlier this season. Special teams is going to be the deciding factor, as one or two plays will be a momentum changer in the Bears favor. The Bears are extremely talented at all 3 phases. One things for sure this is going to be a game that will be talked about for years and years to come. My prediction, Chicago wins 24-21 and advances to the Super Bowl.