The 2010 regular season has officially come to an end, and the 2011 NFL playoffs are fully underway. Now that an intriguing Divisional Round has just been completed, it's time to prepare for what is likely to be a pair of exciting Conference Championship Games.
The first will determine the winner of the NFC when the No. 6 Green Bay Packers (10-6) will be traveling to the Windy City to take on the No. 2 Chicago Bears (11-5). This game will feature big-time players such as Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson for the Packers and Jay Cutler, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher for the Bears.
Interestingly enough, these two teams are NFC North rivals so they've got a storied history and have already battled each other twice this season in which they split.
The first one, on Monday Night Football, went to the Bears 20-17 in Week 3. Sure, the Packers outgained them 379-276 in terms of total yards and controlled the clock for 35:49 in comparison to 24:11. However, they also committed a whopping 18 penalties for 152 yards and turned the ball over twice. All in all, a very sloppy game, which is why they ultimately lost.
If I could also point out, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was targeted nine times and hauled in six receptions for 115 yards. Unfortunately for them, he's been placed on injured reserve, so they'll have to look elsewhere for offensive production.
Moreover, Devin Hester scored a touchdown on a 62 yard punt return during the first minute of the second half, which not only spurred a lead change but really set the tempo and turned the tide in the Bears' favor. The Packers will need to contain him this time around.
In their second matchup, a Packers 10-3 victory in Week 17, it was a bit of a different story. Ironically, this win sent the Packers to the playoffs. Now, the Bears can either get revenge or kick themselves in the dirt for mapping their own demise.
Numbers wise, the two teams fared comparably, yet the difference was the passing game. As it's been proven on numerous occasions before, it's a quarterback driven league and frankly the Packers have the better of the two.
Now looking at this Sunday's game, I have a feeling the Packers have the slight edge.
First off, I believe that they are built to beat the Bears particularly because of their ability to overcome their typically stifling defense. The Bears allow the second fewest rushing yards and are coming off a game in which they held a Seahawks team to just 34, which was 116 less than they amassed the week before.
Nevertheless, that shouldn't be too detrimental for the Packers since they struggle rushing the ball in general.
Therefore, the Packers will exploit them with an aerial attack that put up the fifth most yards against a Bears secondary that ranks 20th defending the pass.
As I referenced earlier, it's a pass dominated league and the Packers are built for success
On the flip side, they surrender the second fewest points and Jay Cutler should struggle against a pass defense that allows just 194.2 yards per game, which is fifth best in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Matt Forte and their ground game should have a usual outing as they offset the Packers run defense. However, I don't think that'll be enough.
Factor in how I felt the Bears simply lost control against the Seahawks last week and that may hurt their confidence level a bit in this one. On the other hand, the Packers are rolling as they've now beat four consecutive impressive opponents including being only the second team to beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
Based on recent history, whichever team has momentum heading in could end up victorious.
That all said, I have the Packers beating the Bears and advancing to Super Bowl XLV.
Final Score: Packers 21 - Bears 17
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