Who Has The Edge? (Position Grid)  

 

Fearless Bears take aim at derailing dangerous Packers

A breakdown of Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Bears:

Aaron Rodgers is the hottest quarterback left in the playoffs with six TDs, no INTs and a 78-percent completion rate, but he hasn't faced a defense this postseason as formidable as the Bears. Rodgers has thrown for 545 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions vs. the Bears in two games this season.

James Starks had his breakout game against the Eagles in the wild-card round, but he wasn't a one-game flash. He had 66 yards rushing vs. Atlanta, giving the Packers some serious balance. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn are nice complements.

Greg Jennings is coming off a season-high eight-catch game vs. Atlanta, and he averaged a season-high 24 yards per catch in the finale vs. Chicago. Jennings and Donald Driver could be used more on quick routes against the Bears' pressure defense.

Tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga have had good postseasons in the running and passing games, with Bulaga, at right tackle, coming off a dominant game against Atlanta. The line has allowed four playoff sacks, and it's held up well vs. Chicago this season.

Chad Clifton

This can't be said enough: defensive end Cullen Jenkins is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He is highly disruptive against the run and unselfish enough to occupy double teams so Clay Matthews can get to the quarterback.

Erik Walden has had four sacks -- three in the finale against the Bears -- in four starts. Matthews, meanwhile, is on a tear, giving Green Bay a major pass-rushing threat against a team vulnerable in protection

As hot as Rodgers is on offense, cornerback Tramon Williams is tearing it up on defense. He has three postseason picks. Safeties Charlie Peprah and Nick Collins had big interceptions against the Bears in the season finale.

Green Bay allowed Atlanta's Eric Weems to return a kickoff 102 yards. All of the injuries this season have impacted the Packers' special teams, so they have to be extra disciplined and sure in their tackling.

Mike McCarthy has come up with ruthless game plans on offense, but Chicago has been one of the few teams to limit Green Bay from getting into a rhythm. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will certainly break out some packages the Bears haven't seen, but they'll only work if the run game can be limited.

Green Bay was 3-5 on the road entering the playoffs, having lost at Chicago early in the season. The Packers are now 5-5 on the road. They are playing at a higher level than any team in the postseason and have the most dangerous quarterback to boot.

Is this the game when Jay Cutler turns into a turnover machine? Green Bay sacked him nine times -- six in the season finale -- and picked him off three times this season. He continues to do enough to win games, though, but he has to remain upright.

Matt Forte is the Bears' most dangerous offensive threat. He had 150 combined rush/pass yards vs. Green Bay in the season finale and 134 total yards vs. Seattle in the divisional round. He's not a huge scoring threat, but he is vital.

At some point, this group has to get its due. Tight end Greg Olsen and receiver Johnny Knox have to be accounted for, as does Forte. They function well as a group, but Knox and Olsen are the most reliable threats and they've played well vs. Green Bay.

Right tackle J'Marcus Webb is going to be tested in the running and passing games, and he has to be at his best. The entire unit does. The Packers sacked Cutler six times in Week 17 and Cutler was taken down three times by Seattle in the divisional round.

J'Marcus Webb

Ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije haven't had much luck getting to Rodgers, and they will have to be disciplined in their rush lanes because of his evasiveness. Peppers and defensive tackle Tommie Harris need to be dominant against the run -- again.

Lance Briggs has gotten stronger as the season has progressed and is dominating right now. He will be tested in coverage as the Packers put a lot of stress on the outside linebackers with tight ends and slot receivers. Brian Urlacher must be big in midfield coverage.

Cornerback Tim Jennings is going to be tested. The Packers have gone at the smaller cornerbacks they've faced this offseason and Jennings, a scrappy player, is going to need help at times. Free safety Chris Harris could be a pivotal player.

Devin Hester continues to influence field position. Green Bay likely won't put the ball in his hands, giving the Bears a shorter field to work with. Chicago's kicking game has to be sound and not give the Packers short fields.

Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli has the front playing at a dominant level, and head coach Lovie Smith's defensive schemes have worked. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has to be patient against this defense because Green Bay has crushed teams when they go for the big strike.

Lovie Smith

Chicago seems to be finding a way and, despite some of its shortcomings on offense, that's all that matters. The defense has to continue to dominate and get Rodgers to the ground. The familiarity with Green Bay and playing at home is huge. The Bears fear nothing about Green Bay.


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