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.
What a weekend for football, two teams who were featured in last years super bowl, have had an early exit from the playoff’s, as both the Saints and the Colts lost this weekend. So let’s take get to it and take you to Seattle.
Saints 36 Seattle 41
To some, this game was the biggest upset in post-season NFL history. The Saints rolled into Seattle banged up, heavily at the running back position. It was a crucial part of the saints offense, and it was idle from this game. Seattle got their “golden-boy” quarterback back under center Saturday, and it couldn’t have come at any better time. Matt Hasselbeck passed 272 yards with 4 touchdown passes while completing 22 of 34 passes. Although Hasselbecks performance wasn’t the biggest highlight, RB Lynch took that one, as he galloped to an amazing (and that’s an understatement) 67 yard touchdown run. He broke at least a half a dozen tacklers on that play. Drew Brees passed for 404 yards with only 2 touchdown passes, he completed 39 of 60 passes. 60 passes ? Yes 60 passes, which is why they lost. They only ran the ball 20 times, for 71 yards, although they generated two rushing touchdowns. They lacked the continuity, the balance. Seattle ran the ball 23 times for 151 generating 1 touchdown, but they had balance, they passed the ball only 35 times.
Eagles 16 Packers 21
Rodgers came up big today as he finally won a playoff game, the Packers QB threw for 180 yards and 3 touchdown passes, completing 18 of 27. The rushing game was spot on today as rookie running back Starks rushed for 123 yards in 23 carries. No interceptions today, but Aron did put the ball on the ground, which lead to a Eagles touchdown drive. Mike Vick threw for 292 yards with 1 touchdown pass, completing 20 out of 36. But the running game never really left the ground as they only rushed for 82 yards combined. Again the ability to run the ball was the difference maker in this one, that and Vick’s interception in the endzone at the end of the game.
Colts 15 Jets 16
This epic rematch of last years AFC Championship earns this week game of the week. This was a game of who ever had the ball last, would win the game. Mark Sanchez threw for 189 yards with 1 interception, completing 18 of 31. The Jets rushed for a combined total of 189 yards generating 2 touchdowns led by Tomlinson (82 yds), and Greene (70 yds). The Jet’s ability to run the ball, worked out perfectly, but Sanchez’s last drive was key as he drove his team down the field for the game’s winning field goal. Payton Manning threw for 225 yards and 1 touchdown pass, completing 18 of 26. The Colts rushed the ball 27 times for only 93 yards. The Colts had balance on offense, they just couldn’t get any thing out of it. It just came down to who had the ball last, the Jets answered right back after Manning led his team to a score.
Chiefs 7 Ravens 30
Joe Flaco got it done through the air today, throwing for 265 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. He completed 25 of 34 passes and no interceptions. Running back’s Ray Rice and Willis McGahee rushed for a combined total of 101 yards and 1 touchdown. The Ravens defense came up big, generating 3 turnovers. Matt Cassel threw for only 80 yards completing 9 out of 18 passes. Ouch, that’s less than I was throwing in middle school, I threw for an average 134 yards back then. The Chiefs rushed for 91 yards and one touchdown, led by running back Charles who rushed for 82 of those. The Chief’s beat them selves in this one, the turnovers really hurt.
(11-6) Greenbay @ (12-4) Atlanta PREDICTION: Greenbay wins 23-20
(8-9) Seattle @ (11-5) Chicago PREDICTION: Chicago wins 38-17
(11-5) Jets @ (14-2) Patriots PREDICTION: Jets win 37-34
(12-4) Ravens @ (12-4) Steelers PREDICTION: Steelers win 17-13