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Bears-Packers Preview

The Bears and Packers own arguably the best rivalry in all of sports.

Not only will it be on full display Sunday afternoon, but it will determine the NFC Champion and who moves onto the Superbowl.

Both teams enter Sunday with big wins the previous week. The Packers shocked the Falcons with a 48-21 victory behind the arm of Aaron Rodgers. The Bears handled the playoff underdog Seahawks fairly easily as well, defeating them 35-24. During the regular season the Bears and Packers played twice, splitting wins. But regardless of the regular season, the Packers come in as one of the hottest playoff teams, whereas the Bears come in poised, rested and healthy. This game will be decided based on matchups and these are the most intriguing ones to watch:

Devin Hester vs. Green Bay's Kick-off/Punt Team
Devin Hester is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL, and maybe in history. The Packers can't risk kicking to him, especially since Eric Weems burned them on a 102-yard kick return last week. While they may decide not to kick to him, this is not an easy task. Week in and week out teams try to avoid Hester and have been known to give the Bears excellent field position. If the Packers special teams shorten the field for Jay Cutler every possession, they're going to have a difficult time winning this game especially since the Bears have one of the NFL's most accurate kickers in Robbie Gould. The grass at Soldier Field isn't exactly in great shape, so if you see the Packers giving Dangerous Devin a chance, don't be surprised to see him running past over-pursuing, slipping Packers.
EDGE: Devin Hester

Bears Receivers vs. Packers Corners
Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson are serious playmakers and have been proving that throughout the postseason. Williams picked off Matt Ryan near the end of the half and took it 70 yards for a touchdown. Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett didn't have too much production last week, but all of these guys are very fast and can break a long touchdown at any time. Don't expect to see a huge day from any of these receivers, but they could definitely figure for a touchdown or two.
EDGE: Packers Corners

Greg Olsen vs. Packers Linebackers/Safeties
Greg Olsen played a huge part in the Bears route over the Seahawks last week and he'll be a big factor again. Linebacker Clay Matthews is a likely candidate to win the defensive MVP award and Safety Nick Collins is a pro bowler. In their first meeting, Olsen had his way with the Packers, catching 5 passes for 64 yards and a score. These two will have their hands full with Olsen, who is both big and athletic. Matthews loves to blitz and move around the field, so don't be surprised if you see Olsen guarded by Collins often. Cutler has done a fine job this year against the blitz, getting the ball out quickly, sometimes during his drop or off his back foot. There is a good chance the Packers key on him because of his showing last week, so don't be surprised if he has a linebacker on him with possible safety help.
EDGE: Greg Olsen

Bears Run O vs. Packers Run D
In order to win the game, the Bears must focus on establishing the run early and often. I know this can discourage fans, but this is the truth. The Falcons couldn't get Michael Turner going, and as a result, they fell behind early and had to abandon the run. The Bears offense all takes place under-center, and the element of run and play action will allow them to move the ball. B.J. Raji is a force inside and will give the Bears troubles all day. Chicago needs to double team him and be aware of his presence. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor need to expose the Packers run defense early and must to do it on the edges. The Bears zone run scheme has worked well all year, allowing Forte and Taylor to be able to cutback and run through holes as they see them. If the Bears can take away Raji and work to the second level, they will have some success running the ball.
EDGE: Packers Run D

Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers
Even though these two are never on the field at the same time, they both need to compete in one very important stat: Turnovers. Turnovers will decide this game and it will depend on who makes the most turnovers and who turns it over first. An early turnover can be a killer, ultimately deciding the game before it even starts. Cutler has been known to make poor decisions and Rodgers has been known to occasionally try to do too much. Both need to protect the football, but it will not come easy. Not only are they going to be competing in rough field conditions, they will each face defenses known for making plays. Both have played fantastic football of late and neither have been giving away easy turnovers. But, mark my words, there will be a few in this game and they will be costly.
EDGE: EVEN

Lovie Smith vs. Mike McCarthy
Battle of the nice guys. Neither coach sports a smile too often, but one will be grinning at the end of this one. Lovie's staff consists of three former head coaches. Mike Tice, former Vikings head coach, is coaching the offensive line and is doing a great job with little talent. Early on, the O-line struggled often, but Tice has fixed this and greatly improved the line that looks better each week. Rod Marinelli, former Lions coach, was hired to coach the defensive line and he has done an exceptional job as well. He has resurfaced Julius Peppers, and if anyone remembers, Peppers was heavily criticized in the past. Now Peppers is known for his talent and fear he strikes in offensive linemen. Criticism this year has been nonexistent. Finally the Bears went out and got Mike Martz, former Rams coach, to be their offensive coordinator. Him and Cutler have meshed quite well so far and he quickly turned the Bears into serious contenders. It may not be the Greatest Show on Turf, but it can be explosive and has obviously got them to the NFC Championship game. Mike McCarthy has his fair share of accomplishments, as he was named NFC Assistant Coach of the Year back in 2000 with the Saints. While McCarthy barely squeaked the Packers in the playoffs, he has been coaching nearly unstoppable football of late and has been an under-the-radar factor of their success since much of the praise has only been going to Rodgers.
EDGE: Lovie & Co.

These matchups will dictate the game, along with the Packers plan for Julius Peppers. Green Bay's receivers have been decent of late but have made poor plays throughout the playoffs. Against the Eagles, James Jones dropped a for sure touchdown on a perfect throw by Rodgers, and last week, Greg Jennings gave up a momentum shifting fumble. If the Bears can force these kinds of turnovers on the Packers receivers and protect the ball on offense they will come up with a big win.

The Bears seem to be underdogs yet again based on the media. While it is a little insulting that the Bears aren't favored with a 2 seed and a home game, they don't mind holding the quiet identity. About being 3 point underdogs, Danieal Manning said, "I'm surprised we weren't underdogs this last game we just played. It doesn't surprise me. We're just going to come in and do our best." 

The game kicks off at 2:00 pm CT at Soldier Field. 


-Cooper Rushing

5 comments:

  1. I love thinking about this game with defensive players in it like Peppers and Tillman, and Mathews and Woodson they need to stop focusing on the QB's so much.

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  2. The overlooked match-up is the Packers 4- and 5-wide receiver sets against Bears' D. This is where the Packers will win the game

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  3. They ran 4- and 5- receiver sets against the Bears week 3 and 17 and had little success. They might have won week 17, but they only scored one touchdown and it was from the 1 yard line.

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  4. Well that didn't go the way anyone hoped, it sucked big time. The Packers did everything possible to hand us the game and we couldn't take advantage and now we have to worry our franchise QB is a sissy.

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