In what is a major surprise to most people this is only the second time that the Bears and Packers have met in the playoffs in the history of the NFL.
|Mike McCarthy has led his depleted Packers|
The Packers were hot favorites for the Superbowl coming into the season before their roster was ravaged by injuries while the Bears came from nowhere to win the NFC North.
The Bears are the 2nd seed in the NFC and will host the game but the 6th seed Packers are the bookmakers favorite for good reason.
The Packers are led by their record breaking quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After his first three playoff appearances, the 27 year old who played college football at Cal has scored a record 10 touchdowns and is the only player in history to have at least a 120 quarterback rating in each of his first three games.
|Rodgers has plenty of reasons to smile|
Rodgers only weakness is the depletion of the offense around him but that has only served as an obstacle rather than a limitation. Rodgers is astute at escaping pressure and throwing on the run while also commanding great awareness from the pocket. His accuracy is incredible, best in the league according to this blog, as he allows his fantastic receiving corp to amass chunks of yardage running under his deep ball or catching the ball and running with it. Rodgers receivers are built like runningbacks and are among the best in the league as a unit.
The Bears' starting cornerbacks are in for a tough challenge but they have played at an elite level all season. Charles 'Peanut'
Tillman and Tim Jennings have been shutting down receivers all year. Rodgers played to this when they last visited Soldier Field as now injured Tight end Jermichael Finley led the team with 9 receptions and 115 yards. Finley's presence has been missed all season but should the Bears' corners take out Driver and Jennings, their targets should be realigned for James Jones and Jordy Nelson.
|The Packers' star receiving corp|
Nelson and Jones are some of the best, if not the best pair, of 3rd and 4th choice receivers in the league. They combined for over 1'250 yards in the regular season and will cause major matchup problems for the Bears other corners; Zackary Bowman and DJ Moore. Expect Rodgers to look for Nelson and particularly Jones with quick passes to neutralize the effect of the Bears pass rush, in particular Julius Peppers.
Peppers leads an impressive defensive line that should be able to manhandle the below average offensive line of the Packers. Rodgers will need to be at his elusive best to escape the pocket should he try to go deep with the ball. The Bears will likely move Julius Peppers to the left side to try to take advantage of the starting rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga will not be able to handle Peppers who has had an MVP caliber season.
|Peppers has had an MVP season|
Peppers has the ability to take over football games and defensively the Bears will need him to constantly pressure Rodgers should they win this game.
Offensively the Bears will have a tough time going against a thoroughly impressive defensive unit. The Bears like to put the ball in Jay Cutler's hands to run Mike Martz complex offense but will be better served to rely on Matt Forte in this game.
The Packers have a very talented secondary led by all pro talent Charles Woodson. Woodson pairs with Tramon Williams to create the best playmaking tandem in the league. Neither player will shut down their opposition like a Darelle Revis or Nnamdi Asamugha but they will regular make big plays that can lead to turnovers or defensive stops without giving up the big play. The major difference between the two teams defensively is the Packers depth on the back end that is very strong.
|Forte will stick to running this weekend|
Forte will need to have a big game as the Packers defense ranked 2nd in the league in points allowed and 5th against the pass. Their 18th ranked run defense is not exactly a glaring hole but it is certainly a crack that the Bears should look to blow open. Forte averaged 4.5 yards per carry during the season on his way to a 1'000 yard season but was always only a compliment to the passing game. The focus will shift onto him this Sunday as he tries to plow his way past Dom Capers 3-4 scheme.
If the Bears cannot run the ball or Mike Martz simply decides to stick with what the team does best and throw the ball they will need to account for both Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson on pre-snap reads. Woodson can line up anywhere and you can never predict whether he is blitzing or dropping into zone or man coverage. Matthews on the other hand was 4th in the league in sacks with 13.5 in the regular season adding a further 3 in two postseason games. Accounting for Matthews and Woodson is made even more difficult because of the other playmakers on the defense.
|Williams had a pick for a TD in Atlanta|
Tramon Williams had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, against Atlanta and 1 against Michael Vick's Eagles in the first round. The hard hitting Nick Collins added to the trio of pass rushing defensive linemen in BJ Raji, Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett will pose major threats to Jay Cutler who is infamous for throwing interceptions when under pressure. Cutler has thrown 42 interceptions in the past two seasons as a Chicago Bear including 16 during the regular season this year.
Turnovers are going to be a key aspect of this game and the potential for the Packers defense to get their hands on the ball hugely turns the game in their favor.Sports Central Winner.
Green Bay Packers.