The Packers and Bears split their two regular season games and meet for the 182nd time on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. But it’s just the 2nd meeting in the playoffs, the last of which took place back in 1941.
The Packers advanced to the title game with a 48-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons, knocking the top seed in the NFC out of the playoffs. The Bears, who are the highest remaining seed (2), beat Seattle 35-24 in Chicago last week.
What to watch for
— Jay Cutler is hot at the moment. He threw for 2 touchdowns and ran for 2 more in the Bears playoff win over Seattle last week. If Butler doesn’t turn it over on Sunday, the Bears have a good chance to win. Cutler has turned to scrambling a little more. Last week’s 2 touchdowns show he’s effective there.
— Bears center Olin Kreutz vs. Packers NT B.J. Raji – Kreutz is an effective player, but he’s small and doesn’t match up well with Raji. Raji has been remarkable in his second season with the Packers, forcing his way into the opponents backfield. That could mean problems for the Bears running game.
–Bears tightend Greg Olsen creates mismatches in the passing game with his speed. If Cutler can get some time to throw, Olsen could be one of his frequent targets.
–Packers special teams vs. Bears special teams – The Packers had performed better on special teams of late, until Eric Weems returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week. Devin Hester and Daniel Manning are two of the top returners in the league. The Packers will have to be really good in the kicking game to prevent any return damage. They did a good job in shutting down Hester in the week 17 match-up in Green Bay.
–Dom Capers vs. Jay Cutler – When you pressure Jay Cutler, his percentages for success drop considerably and his chances for making a key mistake go up. To be really effective, the Packers will also need to shut down the Bears ground attack. If they do, Capers should be able to dial up the pressure on Cutler, giving the Packers a chance to win.
— Bears pass rush – The Packers will need to keep the Bears pass rush to a minimum. If they can slow down Julius Peppers and the rest of the Bears base pass rush, then Aaron Rodgers will have a better chance to pick apart Chicago’s zone defense. If the Bears get a rush with their down lineman, then it could be a long day for Rodgers and company.
I like the Packers to pull out a tight win, 13-10. But if Jay Cutler doesn’t turn the ball over, I think the Bears will pull off the upset. That being said, I’m betting on Cutler to force one or two and for the Packers to pull it out and return to the Super Bowl.