Countdown to NFC Championship Game: 24 Hours

All over the web, you see things like “Tale of the Tape” to compare the two teams vying for the NFC Championship, the  Packers and the Bears—almost ad nauseam.  So I want to do something different here—I want to talk about certain factors, other than the coaches and players specifically, that could effect the game on Sunday.

1) The officiating crew. Terry Macauley and his crew were the officials during the Week 3 matchup between the Packers and the Bears. In that game, the Packers were called for 18 penalties. Now, before we get carried away on some sort of conspiracy theory, lets remember two things: a) The crew Macauley will be working with isn’t his crew from the season—its a crew of all officials who graded out the highest during the season—an All-Star crew, if you will.  So the umpires and line judges who called most of those penalties are probably different guys; and b) An objective person watching that game would be quick to point out that the officiating crew probably missed another 10 holding calls on the Packers.  Still, it bears watching—will this crew, after hearing premature criticism this week after what happened in the Week 3 matchup, call this one extra loose?

2) Takeaways. For the Bears, its the Jay Cutler-ill-advised pass-into triple coverage. For the Packers, its the Wide Receiver-gets-stripped-from behind. Both have plagued these teams at the most inopportune of moments this season. Who can avoid the costly mistake?

3) Weather. Strangely, when you look at both offenses, they have been built more like teams that play indoors or down south rather than outdoors, January in the Midwest. Both teams have played really well in inclement weather this season; and both teams have had a stinker in the cold weather. The forecast for Sunday is 20 degrees, with a slight chance of snow—which team will be less affected come Sunday?

33 responses

  1. lincoln1

    AZ and Denver were desperate to unload both of those players, which is why they got less for them. There is no need for them to trade Fitzgerald yet so the only way to get him at this point is too give them something that they cannnot refuse.

    January 25, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      I think its all about how bad he wants out of there. remember Vincent Jackson held out the first 11 games or whatever it was and guess what? he’s probably a goner at free agency and the Chargers missed the Playoffs. If he had been there you have to think that’s not the case. I’m still shocked they didn’t make it. Especially out of that division. Also keep in mind Fitzgerald is making a ton and the CBA is expected to get much less. They’re talking like 30-40 million less! And the Bidwells aren’t exactly know for deep pockets and that fan base is zero! It may not take much to convince them to take some picks for Larry.

      January 26, 2011 at 11:13 am

  2. lincoln1

    I do believe that if Cutler was actually having a good game on sunday he would have went back out with the injury. But he was terrible and so Lovie made the decision to go with Collins. Even if Cutler would have stayed healthy it would not have mattered because he was just that awful on Sunday.

    As for a WR we need one, but again if they didnt think we needed one before this season, then getting to the NFC championship will not change their minds. Even having a #1 WR will not matter if Cutler over throws him by 20 yards

    January 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm

  3. johnnyharvard

    I don’t see why all weaknesses can’t be addressed. The WR position to me needs drastic improvement. There isn’t an Elite guy on the roster nor will there ever be if they stand pat. I think the WR position has been ignored for far too long. I’m hoping that Martz convinces them how badly they need one and I believe he can spot a real one when he see’s one. I can’t think of the last team that didn’t have an Elite one and made it to any kind of high level. These guys can’t beat the jam! I’d also use Davis more on passing downs. He’s a huge target and a great athlete. 6’7″ and the dude has a 40″ verticle and isn’t afraid to mix it up. Thats one of the things I hated most about that last game. We got out muscled and showed very little fight to off-set it.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      Oh and I think SD signs Floyd over Jackson. Remember they had issues with Jackson as he was a lengthy hold out and could’ve helped cost them a playoff spot. They won’t forget that. They’ll keep one of them.

      January 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm

  4. Lincoln1

    Fitzgerald would be huge, but thats really a pipe dream. he is worth at least 2 #1 picks and the bears can not right know give up any more draft picks. There is no reason to give Lovie an extension at this time, but they will so we are stuck with him and thats not a good thing by any means

    January 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      Both Boldin and Marshall were had for less than that. I don’t think it’ll happen because ‘Zona already made the decision and it was Fitzgerald over Boldin. Unless they go full blown rebuild I don’t think it’ll happen. If they do decide to go full blown rebuild, (and I feel they should IMO) than a one will probably be part of the deal which I’d gladly give up. I don’t think a couple ones will be required. At the very most a one and a lower pick like a 5 could rap it up. I don’t think it’ll happen tough.

      I’d be perfectly happy with signing Jackson and keeping the pick and maybe add one of those big receivers for a developmental pick in the 3rd or lower and at the very least step up the competition. I just don’t like the toughness of Knox and Hester. They’re kinda finesse guys. They could be the big play go deep gimmick guys.

      January 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      • you know i like the other WR from San Diego, Malcolm FLoyd—almost as big a Jackson; a little faster; and can probably be had for half the price. But I would be fine with our WRs if it meant we could upgrade our offensive line. I honestly feel that the decision to bench Jay Cutler was more an indictment of our O-line not being able to protect him, than it says anything about jay.

        January 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm

  5. johnnyharvard

    LOL! I don’t doubt that about you. You are definitely a waiting for the other shoe to drop guy.

    I have to agree that this game showed a lot of deficiencies in the team off the field. That was a sad display of coaching. From the decisions that were made on the field to the way that team was prepared. Their intensity level was not nearly to the level of the Packers to start that game. I still am not convinced in Lovie, but have to live with him for at least one more year. I hope you’re wrong about them not thinking they need a receiver, because they really do. If they want Cutler to max out they do. Maybe 2. There are an elite group out there too. Its really amazing how many are going to be available. Theres also rumor Fitzgerald might force his way out of Arizona. Than theres a nice group of big athletic WR’s in the draft. very deep impressive group. Bears could easily grab a couple in this draft alone that can cause some headaches for opposing defenses.

    January 25, 2011 at 10:30 am

  6. Lincoln1

    We really are not that close to GB. If they didnt take the second half off they would have won 30-0. We were never in that game yesterday. Never at a point did I feel like we were going to tie that game. Even when we were driving at the end myself and the people i watched the game with were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    The Bears need alot of help. We need a WR, but they are not easy to find and the bears dont seem to feel like they need one. This organization is so stupid its sickening. Even they have handled the Cutler injury poorly. I

    January 24, 2011 at 4:57 pm

  7. Lincoln1

    those calls didnt cost us the game though. Once Cutler went out the game was over. Hanie played well, but the packer D let up alot. I know they are pissed that they let a 3rd stinger do that. In the end the better team won and we should just be grateful that we were even in this position cause lord knows we were more lucky then good this season. Only in the NFC would that happen. Hopefully the steelers beat the pack

    January 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      I’m not blaming the calls because they could’ve been overcome. None of them decided the game just like none decided the first game in week 3 against the Pack. And yes the better team won. They aren’t better by much though. I disagree with the more lucky than good. Bears played them well all year. Thats not luck. Bears do need to add to the team though. Packers pretty much have their guys so they won’t add to it much. You figure a lot of their picks get cut as they are pretty deep too. Bears will keep their picks so they better be playmakers. We need a WR bad! A true Number one SOB! O-line guys can be found more so than WR’s. The really good ones are usually very high picks. Not sure what shot we have in free agency as there may not be a Free agency, if there is a lockout. Than they’ll come back on short time and I don’t see a real chance at having free agency. lets not forget the schedule. Especially if its 18 games. What a mess. Hopefully they all wisen up, and avoid it by quickly agreeing on a CBA.

      January 24, 2011 at 9:25 am

  8. johnnyharvard

    Oh well time to look at the draft reports and Mocks and than hopefully free agency if theres no lock out.

    January 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm

  9. Lincoln1

    This packer team is very young and very good. detroit also has alot of good talent who probably should have beaten us twice. The bears need alot of work. Not to mention god only knows where Cutler will be mentally after the fans are done with him

    January 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      I don’t think you need to worry about cutlers mental aspect. i think he handled it well in his press conference. The one thing about jay not giving a fuck comes in handy in times like these. He won’t fall apart because some ignorant beer gutted fan calls him a pussy when Jay would kick his fat ass any day. According to Moon Mullin on CSN Kruetz said Jays leg was shaking like an ACL tear would cause. Looks like he’ll be under the knife. I’d like to see that hit to see if it was dirty. I won’t blame it on the refs, but boy did we get screwed today on a few o those calls.

      January 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      • agreed. especially the pass interference calls. and the holding call on chester taylor.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm

  10. johnnyharvard

    Very disappointed in the play calling by Martz. I was expecting better. especially in that last drive. the timeout with a stopped clock and than an end around? bad! I’d rather they have called a QB draw or something. especially with the Packers rushing only 3! There’s work to be done yet, but there is things to be encouraged about. The cupboard is not bear. We’ll see if they can follow up with a great off season and be back to finish the job next season.

    January 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    • I think if we upgrade the LT spot and CB2 spot, we will be okay.

      January 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      • johnnyharvard

        I’d like to toughen up at WR and with the interior line on both sides the most. I think Jennings can be replaced by a guy on our roster. If the Bears get more interior pressure the CB’s won’t be so exposed. Its time to start developing younger guys on defense though as we’re not getting younger and figure to sustain an injury or two next year. Gotta have your depth improved. But I’d go with an O-lineman in Free agency as well as WR if a stud isn’t there at 29/30. Than I go defense in the draft the first two rounds since thats where the strength and depth is as far as getting impact guys. Especially if they get Nevin. Than maybe a ball hawking secondary guy, but I wouldn’t mind a DE and move Izzy back inside. LB can’t be ignored either.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:23 pm

      • johnnyharvard

        Yeah those were bad but the one that got me ticked was the Peppers hit. I think the hit Jay took in the end zone was clearly late and was ignored. And that grounding call was BS. I wasn’t worried about that same crew officiating that did in the first game here. Looks like I should’ve been.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      • yeah… it sure seemed like they may have overcompensated in the other direction today. on the other hand, if you would have told me yesterday that todd collins and caleb hanie would be in the game for the second half, and we would have a chance to win until the last drive of the fourth quarter, i would have been pretty skeptical. much kudos should be given to the rest of the team, especially the defense.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      • johnnyharvard

        On a side note I have to say I am very disappointed by all the dumb fans turning on jay. I am even hearing the lets make Hanie the starter posts. Ridiculous! Gos I wish we had better fans.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      • agreed. he had one quarter; and it didnt really open up for hanie until we were down again by 14. also alot people talking about the cutler faking the injury. if anything, i thought it was the bears front office calling the shots, and maybe erring on the side of caution with jay. much like urlacher last year; and hillenmeyer early this season. dont think cutler took himself out of the game.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      • johnnyharvard

        I think the decision to have Collins over Hanie on the depth chart has to draw some questions about this coaching staffs ability to evaluate talent. Hanie was clearly the better choice. I think no huddle would’ve been a good switch up to, and more two TE sets. I thought Martz had a poor game and should have some pressure put on him to do a better job next year! Not sure if he had his hands tied or not, but I am not pleased. That last sequence was disheartening. That timeout with the clock stopped bothers me. Than to call an end around? And to Bennett who’s not even our best playmaker. Not sure what the hell that was. Thought our WR’s let jay down a little today. I saw no fight from that group. definitely got to improve there. I would seriously consider a couple more WR’s who have balls. I think thats what this team needs most and thats balls!!!

        January 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm

  11. Lincoln1

    Im all for fan support, but one big play by the packers and the crowd is right out of the game. Again this isnt the sea hawks we are playing. people don’t seem to understand that

    January 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

  12. Lincoln1

    There 53 man team is better then we are and it not even that close. Hub Arkush even said the same thing. The only thing we are better then they are on the D is at LB and they have maybe the player of the year playing LB. Their D line is better over all, and to say that our secondary is even close to their is an insult to people everywhere.

    On offense Rodgers makes them go. We were ranked 30th in offense for a reason. Our offense is not that good if the opposing D decides to do something about it. Special teams is where we have the clear advantage.

    With that said we only have to be better then them for 3 hours today. and that is the only thing that matters.

    January 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      Man are u incredible. Bears almost beat them with Hanie. First year in the offense with three years to learn behind Farve and Rogers won 6 freaking games! First year in a more complicated offense cutler wins 12! This offense will be even better next year. there’s a lot to be positive about. I didn’t see a team that was overwhelmingly better. Bears hung tough and should be proud for not folding their tents.

      January 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      • I agree. Hanie played tough; the first INT any QB would have thrown; and the second one was just trying to make a play on fourth down. Urlacher, Peppers, and the defense was incredible; we def have to upgrade Jennings’ CB spot and Omiyale’s OT spot. other than that; I like where we are at. holding Rodgers, the hottest QB in the NFL and so-called highest-rsted QB in the history of the NFL to a 55.8 rating should mean something to rest of the NFL.

        January 23, 2011 at 6:01 pm

  13. Lincoln1

    If the packers execute, since they are the better team, they win. except for special teams they are better. The way we win is the fact that we need turnovers and that we need their WR to drop passes like they have a tendency to do. if they doesnt happen then it will be a long day.

    January 23, 2011 at 8:05 am

    • I disagree a little. I think the Bears will have a home-field advantage that the Packers have yet to encounter in the playoffs. I have been to Atlanta; their crowd SUCKS and there were probably 25-30% Packers fans there anyway. In Philly, their crowd is just as likely to boo their own team as they would the opponent. You saw in week 3, the crowd noise was responsible for some false starts. and that was not a playoff game. i think it will make some of a difference.

      January 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

      • johnnyharvard

        I agree. Atlanta doesn’t even deserve a pro sports team. Those backward hicks love their high school and college teams. Georgia and Florida have the worst pro sports fans anywhere. Its one of the reasons I think the Pack moved on. I think it stunned the Falcons they got no support once their team encountered adversity. Rogers was able to audible all day long in and out of run pass.

        January 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    • johnnyharvard

      Whats your defense of this opinion? I think its pretty even. I know the Packers have a more experienced receiver group and IMO the est in the league, but Bears aren’t as far off as some would think. Knox can be a solid number 3 Bennett is as good or better than any WR the Pack have at number 2. Number 1 is Jennings hands down. No doubt. He may be the best in the league. But 2-4 I think its a draw at best for the Pack. I take Bennett over Driver because of age otherwise ability wise its a draw their. Knox over Jame Jones at 3 and Hester over nelson at number 4. Hell Aromashodu and Rashied Davis are as good as anyone else they have as their 5th and 6th options. I think TE’s we have them beat. When Finely is in there its a draw. Olsen is as dangerous as he is and I think Olsen has actually become a better run blocker than Finely who sucks at blocking and isn’t asked to do it. Kellen Davis, and Clark are as good if not better than Lee and that other white guy they use. RB’s theres no contest. Once they learn this system and acquire a number 1 type they’ll be every bit as dangerous as the Packs Receivers.

      O-line the Bears are more physically talented than the Pack O-line. The pack have a bunch of big oafs on that line, but they’ve been playing together in the same system for awhile. The Bears aren’t there mentally. Most their issues occur with blown assignments and a lot of it is, because of the TE’s and RB’s not to mention the WR’s blowing assignments forcing jay to hold on to it longer. As they play together more and make a move at one or two spots i see the Bears being much better up front then the pack because they are way more athetic. Just watch them in the run game and when they screen. They are excellent there. Now its just a matter of learning their assignments along with the skill guys. here check this out. Thiesman the third guy to break down the Bears O shows what I’m talkiong about at about 2:40 of this video. http://www.nfl.com/videos/chicago-bears/09000d5d81dd51a5/Playbook-How-to-attack-the-Packers

      On defense the Bears have the better front 7 and the Packers have us in the secondary, but both aren’t as far off as the other in both areas.

      QB’s you have to give it to Rogers, but its not that far off either. Cutler will get there as soon as his supporting cast catches up ton his ability. remember what he did in his 3rd year in that Denver offense. At that time no one was talking about Rogers and everyone was up jays ass. Thats one of the reasons we were predicted to be in the super bowl last year. Now people are down on him, but if he finishes off these next two games I think people will actually catapult him over Rogers as winning seems to be a great decider for most even if the QB has only a small part in that winning.

      Special teams is no contest.

      Even if the Pack are better as you suggest it isn’t that much better. You act like the Bears are woefully over matched against them. But I expect that out of you by now.

      January 23, 2011 at 11:52 am

  14. johnnyharvard

    I think the X-factor remains the game plan Martz has. That last game tells me the Bears had the clear advantage of not only having these looks on tape as the Pack emptied their entire playbook, but have the players experiencing it first hand. To me that’s a huge advantage for the bears. Players just need to execute and the bears should win, because this coaching staff will have all the right answers I believe. Here’s a video on a report from ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that pretty much states the very thing I’m talking about. http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6037194

    To me the fact the Bears kept it so basic on both sides and with their special teams shows me they were very confident that they would probably face the Packers down the line and had no fear of it, or else they’d have tried to put them away right then and there.

    January 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm

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