NFC Championship Picks: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Analysis

Last Updated: January 16th, 2011 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)

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The first spot in Super Bowl XLV will be handed out on Sunday, January 23rd at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, as the Chicago Bears will take on the Green Bay Packers. These two teams know all about each other, having already played two games this season, with the home team winning both duels. The Bears covered both sets of NFL odds in these divisional clashes, and the oddsmakers still have them as three point underdogs on Sunday. Which team will beat the NFC Championship odds? Check out these three keys to the game that should be the deciding factors.

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Key #1: The Bears need to play defense like they did in the first half against Seattle and not in the second half
We know that the NFC Divisional Round duel against the Seattle Seahawks was really a tale of two halves for the Bears, as they were completing dominating for about two and a half quarters before pulling up lame down the stretch and nearly blowing the cover. However, this is a unit that has just been downright nasty all season long, allowing just 90.1 yards per game on the ground in the regular season. Chicago only allowed 34 yards on 12 carries in its first postseason tussle as well. The Bears did allow 331.5 yards per game in the regular season to these Packers, but we really know better. A lot of the yards for QB Aaron Rodgers were created from just a few big plays, but they ultimately were not parlayed into all that many points. Keeping this team to just 27 points in two games is definitely a feat to be proud of. There were also two turnovers forced by the men from the Windy City in this one, which is a problem that the Packers have had at times over the course of this season. They’ve done a great job of protecting the pigskin thus far in the second season, especially against the Falcons when they had just one blown fumble, and the three turnovers that they have had haven’t really come back to bite them.

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Green Bay Packers -3
Chicago Bears +3
Over/Under 44
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Key #2: Alright Jay Cutler… What’ve you got?
This isn’t necessarily a key that will cause Chicago to win this game, but it certainly could be a key to losing it. Cutler has been much maligned since coming to the Windy City, as he has thrown 42 picks in two years after throwing for just 37 picks in two and a half years with the Denver Broncos. The media in the Midway has been all over his case about not protecting the football and not coming up big in big games, and there are certainly still some reasons to believe that this is the case after winning his first playoff game on Sunday. Cutler did only go 15-of-28 on the day, a completion percent of just 53.6 percent, and this came against a defense that was dreadful against the pass all year long. The former Vanderbilt Commodore did toss three picks in two games against Green Bay in the regular season, and he ended the season with 16 boo boos. Enter the Packers ‘D’. This unit had 24 picks in the regular season, the most in the NFC and just one behind the New England Patriots for the league lead. We always thought that you wouldn’t find a better ball hawk in the game than DB Charles Woodson, but we were wrong. DB Tramon Williams has developed a tremendous nose for the ball, and he had the amazing pick six that sunk the Atlanta Falcons last Saturday. If Cutler gets careless with the football, he will throw picks to this team, and if he does that, the Bears don’t stand a chance.

Key #3: The battle at the line of scrimmage
You can bet that line play is going to be preached on both sides of the football this week. The Packers probably think they can get away with a little more leniency on this facet of the game because they are so talented elsewhere, but the team that wins this battle is most likely going to be the one that wins this game. Neither offensive line was that sharp all year, as neither opened up that many holes for the running game. Even in the divisional round games, the Bears averaged just 3.91 yards per carry (and that includes a 21 yard scamper by Cutler), while the Packers only averaged 3.10 yards per carry. Chicago’s OL is going to have to find a way to stop a Green Bay front that had five sacks of QB Matt Ryan on Saturday night, two of which came from one of the biggest sack masters in the league, LB Clay Matthews. The Packers are going to have to contend with a front seven that just has a mean streak in it, and though the Bears did really have the individual stats this year that some of the players on Green Bay’s ‘D’ did, they had the second best defensive front in terms of rushing this year in the league at just 90.1 yards per game.

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Posted in NFL Football - Last Updated on Sunday, January 16th, 2011 @ 6:23 pm (EST)
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