By Kevin Gibson
Aaron Rodgers is being labeled by everyone but the ghost of George Halas as the “hottest quarterback in the NFL” right now. Nevertheless, Sunday’s NFC Championship game likely will come down to defense.
Look at the two previous Packers-Bears slugfests this season: a penalty-riddled 20-17 Green Bay loss at Soldier Field in Week 3, followed by a gritty Packers’ 10-3 home victory in Week 17.
In that first game, Rodgers went over 300 yards passing but had a long of just 28 yards; meanwhile, the running game mustered just 63 positive yards. In the second, Rodgers went for 229 while the running game mustered just 60 yards.
James Starks or no James Starks, it’s clear the Packers can’t count on running the ball this coming Sunday in Chicago. And while the passing game went for more big plays in the second matchup, including a nice 46-yarder to Greg Jennings, one has to believe we’ll be looking at more of a controlled, dink-and-dunk affair with the Bears’ nasty front four and linebacking crew getting after Rodgers all afternoon.
The good news for Packers fans is that as hot as Rodgers has been, the Green Bay defense has been just as hot, smothering Jay Cutler for six sacks and two picks in Week 17, and wreaking havoc against Philadelphia and Atlanta in the playoffs.
Tramon Williams, of course, has been the hero, with three picks, two of them happening in the end zone to save potential scores and one being turned into a pick-six that got the Atlanta rout started last weekend. Clay Matthews and the pass rush have been effective, too, with eight total sacks in the playoffs – and one would hope they will be able to force the erratic Cutler (who often looks like the late 2000s version of Brett Favre) into some bone-headed pass attempts.
Prediction: If the Chicago Bears score fewer than 20 points this weekend, the Packers will go to the Super Bowl. But we shouldn’t expect another 48-point outburst; this game will be decided by the defenses.