Countdown to the NFC Championship Game: 5 Days
Today, we will look at the matchup between the Packers’ offense versus the Bears’ defense. The Packers are hot, having scored an average of 35 points per game the last 5 weeks. However, the Bears held them to 10 points in the third game of that 5-game span. In fact, the Bears’ defense has matched up well with the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense over the last 2 years—in 4 games against the Bears, they have scored 17 points per game. In the 31 games against everyone else? Just under 30 points per game—almost 2 TDs less per game. Lets look at the matchups:
Packers’ offensive line versus Bears’ defensive line: The Packers offensive line, blamed last year for almost sending Aaron Rodgers into early retirement, was much improved this year—Aaron Rodgers was sacked 31 times this season, as opposed to 50 times last season. This season, in the Bears’ 20-17 win in Week 3, the Packers committed 18 penalties—mostly holding and illegal procedure, and the referees missed another 10-15. In the Packers’ 10-3 win in Week 17, the offensive line did a much better job protecting Rodgers, and he was able to complete a couple long passes to set up the 2 Packers’ scores.
Green Bay X-Factor: Aaron Rodgers’ scrambling ability. He is not Michael Vick, but Rodgers’ ability to move in the pocket and throw in the run could give the Packers’ WRs more time to get open and create big plays.
Chicago X-Factor: Tommie Harris. You know what you’re going to get from DEs Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. Tommie Harris has 3 sacks in the past 2 games. If he can shoot gaps in the run game and create up-the-middle pressure in the passing game, Green Bay’s offensive line will have trouble keeping Aaron Rodgers comfortable.
Packers’ RBs, TEs and WRs versus the Bears’ LBs and secondary: You will have a hard time finding a trio of LBs that read plays and fly to the ball like the Bears’ Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Pisa Tinoisamoa. That being said, Packers’ TE Jeremichael Finley had 9 catches for 120 yards in the first meeting this season. Luckily for the Bears, he is out for the year. The Packers have maybe the most talented trio of WRs in the league with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones. And Jordy Nelson is as good a 4th WR as you will find in the league. For the Bears, there seemed to be alot of holes in the secondary once S Chris Harris left the game with a hip injury. Our back four seemed out of position. Alot. Harris says he will be able to go, so lets hope he is at 100 percent. Also, Tillman dropped 2 potential INTs in that 4th quarter against the Seahawks, and we cannot afford to miss those opportunities against an elite QB like Rodgers.
Packers’ X-Factor: WR James Jones. The Bears were able to shut down the first option of the Seahawks, WR Mike Williams. However, WR Brandon Stokely was open out of the slot the entire game. It seemed that there were some holes in the Bears’ zones between the nickle corner DJ Moore and the LBs for quick hitting seam plays. Expect the Packers to try to exploit some quick hitters to negate the Bears’ pass rush.
Bears’ X-Factor: Stripping the Ball. The key play in the Week 3 win over the Packers was Urlacher popping the ball loose from WR James Jones, which CB Tim Jennings recovered. Last week against the Falcons, WR Greg Jennings had the ball knocked out from behind by LB Stephen Nicholas in the first quarter. CB Charles Tillman and FS Chris Harris are notorious for popping the ball out while tackling runners. The Packers should be throwing alot of underneath passes and trying to run after the catch. In a game where one mistake could determine the outcome, a fumble recovery could be the difference once again.