The Packers head to Chicago to play the Bears on Sunday, and it is no secret that the Packers seem to be the overall favorite to win it all. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been dynamic in both playoff games after the team barely made the playoffs. Rodgers does have some help from the variety of great receivers he can throw the ball to, like WR Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Rodgers also has a new partner in crime in running back James Starks, who set a Green Bay rookie record with 123 rushing yards on just 23 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles in their 21-16 Wild Card win.
Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards against the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons, who were virtually unbeatable at home until they hosted Rodgers and the Packers a week ago. Rodgers connected with his receivers for three touchdowns, and he scored one rushing in the 48-21 win. Packers CB Charles Woodson and LB Clay Matthews have been leading the defense, as the Packer D dominated the Falcons with five sacks.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler is looking to repeat his performance against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional game, a 35-24 win last weekend. Cutler, unlike Rodgers, has not yet earned the Bears fans’ trust, but that can all change if he leads the Bears to Dallas. Finding the legs of Matt Forte and utilizing the run game are why the Bears are a game away from the Super Bowl. The Chicago defense is lead by Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers. This group plays at a high level and makes game-changing plays, which is why this unit is brawny. “Da Bears” defense is not a group you can mess with and the Packers will have their hands full protecting their most precious cargo.
The Bears have one huge advantage, other than being at home in Soldier Field, and that would be on special teams. Devin Hester is the best punt returner ever to play, and it will be interesting to see if the Packers even punt to him. This is a question for any opponent facing the Bears: Do we kick it short, giving them a better field position, or give Hester a chance to make a big play? The Packers are hot right now and coming in on fire is what wins in the playoffs. Still, the Bears have the leadership that has motivated the team all season long. This game is Cutler vs. Rodgers, as the QBs both have to perform at their very best.
2011 NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION: Since everything this NFL season seems to go the opposite direction, I am picking the Chicago Bears to win. SCORE: 24-20.