NFC Championship Preview

Contributed by: Bill Enright
Last Updated: Jan 20, 2011 2:01 PM

These two NFC North Division foes have met 181 times. It's the longest rivalry in the history of the NFL. Of those 181 games, only one was in the Postseason and that was back in 1941.


How they got here:

The Green Bay Packers entered the playoffs as a Wild Card and the NFC's 6th seed. They defeated the Eagles 21-16 in Philadelphia during the first round of the playoffs. Then Green Bay went on to demolish the top-seeded Falcons 48-21 in Atlanta.

The Bears earned the Number 2 seed in the NFC and thus had a bye during Wild Card Weekend. They faced the Seahawks at home last weekend and won 35-24.

Regular Season Match-ups:

The Bears and Packers split their series during the regular season, but both games were tight. Chicago won at home in Week 3, 20-17. The Packers earned a playoff birth the last game of the season by defeating the Bears 10-3 in Green Bay.

The Quarterbacks:

Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler is 1-4 against the Packers and has five TDs and nine picks in those five games. He passed for 221 yards, with one TD and INT during their Week 3 match-up. In the Week 17 loss in Green Bay, Cutler was sacked six times, threw two INTs, passed for 168 yards and had zero touchdowns.

Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 4-6 against the Bears and has seven TDs and four INTS during those match-ups. Back when the Packers lost to the Bears in Week 3, Rodgers threw for 316 yards and had one TD and INT.  During their win over Chicago at Lambeau, Rodgers passed for 229 yards and once again had one TD and one INT.

Both of these QBs have been on fire in the playoffs. Jay Cutler became just the 2nd QB in NFL Post-Season History to pass for two touchdowns and run for another two in the same game. Rodgers has seven TDs and zero interceptions during the team's first two playoff victories and is boasting a league best 136.8 passer rating.


Supporting Cast:

It's no secret the Packers have one of the most efficient and explosive passing attacks in the NFL.  Just take a look at what Rodgers' receivers did against the Falcons; four of the team's Wide Receivers picked up over 75 yards. Greg Jennings led the team with eight receptions and 101 yards. Jordy Nelson also had eight catches, which he converted for 79 yards and a TD. James Jones made a nice contribution by grabbing four passes for 75 yards and a score. And last but not least is Donald Driver, who caught six passes for 76 yards. 




Factor in the team's recently found success at rushing the football and it's clear the Bears Defense will have their hands full. Rookie Running Back, James Starks, set a franchise record with his 123yard performance against the Eagles during Wild Card Weekend. He then carried the rock 25 times against the Falcons and picked up 66 yards. Even Full Back John Kuhn is getting in on the action. Kuhn scored twice in Atlanta, he rushed for a score and caught a TD pass.

Like the Packers, the Bears also have a wide range of Offensive playmakers. Perhaps the most important outside of Cutler, is Running Back Matt Forte. He really turned it on during the last month of the season by picking up 92 yards in Week 15, 113 yards in Week 16, and 91 yards in Week 17 vs. the Packers. Forte averaged 5.8 yards per carry during the team's last six regular season games.

Though their receiving corps isn't as proven compared to Green Bay's, the Bears Wide Receivers can be just as dynamic. Johnny Knox led the team across the board with 960 yards, 51 receptions and five TDs this season. Knox didn't catch any passes in Week 17, but during the team's Week 3 match-up against the Packers, he caught four passes for 94 yards. Devin Hester on the other hand was very quiet when facing the NFC North rival, catching just one pass for 16 yards in each game. But his value on Special Teams is where Hester makes his mark. He's the NFL's all-time leader with 14 punt returns for TDs, which includes the three he ran back this season. Hester led the NFL this season with an average of 17 yards per punt return. Tight End Greg Olsen had the best game of his career during last week's Divisional Playoff game against the Seahawks. He caught three passes and scored off a 58 yard pass. In total, Olsen picked up 113 yards, which was the highest among all players.


Defense wins Championships:

Both teams are proof that a strong Defense typically leads to wins and eventually a Championship. During the regular season the Packers allowed an average of 309 yards per game, good enough for 5th in the NFL. The Bears were right behind them, allowing 314 yards per game, which was the 9th best. When it comes to stopping the run, only one team (Steelers) was more dominant than the Bears. Chicago held opponents to 90 rushing yards per game. The Packers weren't as successful, but were still solid, giving up 114 yards to opposing teams per game. The Packers had the 5th best passing Defense and limited teams to 194 yards per game. Part of their success in stopping the pass is their ability to get to the QB. Green Bay finished the year with 47 sacks, second best in the league. This unit sacked Jay Cutler nine times this season. The Bears on the other hand, allowed 224 passing yards per game, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Chicago finished with 34 sacks, which was 17th in the league.

Fantasy Breakdown

Good Start: Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Greg Jennings

Middle of the road: Matt Forte, Donald Driver, Johnny Knox, Matt Forte, James Starks, Greg Olsen

Risky Start: Jordy Nelson, James Jones, John Kuhn, Andrew Quarless, Devin Hester.


Find out where all these players rank in this week's FFCPI.

Follow Bill Enright on Twitter: @BillEnright

Follow @FFChamps on Twitter