Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Chicago, IL, Soldier Field
Sunday, January 23, 2011 3:00 PM ET, CBS
Laying the scene
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The division known for the most fierce rivalries in the NFL will see two of its most storied rivalries facing each other for a third time this season as the Bears and Packers square off in the NFC Championship game. The first round was a penalty-filled outing lost by the Packers, who rebounded in Week 17 to defeat the Bears 10-3. With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, this game will be even more intense than the first two, as the stakes couldn't be any higher.
What Green Bay has to do to win
On offense, the Packers' key goal will be to neutralize defensive end Julius Peppers. Because the Packers don't have a lot of healthy tight ends, they will likely use their running backs to chip Peppers. For this reason, expect to see more passing than usual out of the Packers' full house formation, so they can max-protect Rodgers when they need to. Also, they need to attack the seams of the defense, which is a Tampa 2 defense's biggest weakness.
On defense, their front seven physically outmatches the Bears’ offensive line, so all they really need to do is just disguise their coverages and pressures. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is one of the best in the league at this, so that shouldn’t be too tough.
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What Chicago has to do to win
Keeping your quarterback upright is conducive to winning football games, so the Bears need to keep quarterback Jay Cutler's drops short, and they need to incorporate several "blitz-beater" routes into their gameplan. Cutler needs to do his part and get rid of the ball quickly, and he needs to tuck the ball and run if he's under pressure and nobody's open. If he forces the ball into tight windows because of the pressure he's facing, the Packers' opportunistic defensive backs will make plays and bury the Bears quickly. On the other hand, if Cutler takes what the defense gives him, the defense will have to fall back and quit attacking so much, which will open up room in the running game for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor.
The Bears have been playing above their talent level for quite a while now, but this looks like the end of the road for them. On offense, Aaron Rodgers has been simply unstoppable, and will give the Bears' defense fits. On defense, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers will surely outsmart Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, and Jay Cutler will likely be taken to the turf several times. In the end, the Packers advance to Super Bowl XLV.
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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