NFC Championship Picks: Bears Vs Packers Game Predictions

NFC Championship
Green Bay Packers (6) at Chicago Bears (2), Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Sunday, January 23, 2011, 3 pm EST, TV: FOX
Opening Line: Packers -3
Current Line: Packers -3.5
Opening Total: 43
Current Total: 43.5
Money Line: Packers -195 / Bears +165

Bears Packers NFC Championship Preview
Good or bad, Bears QB Jay Cutler figures to be the difference maker in Sunday's NFC Championship

The Chicago Bears (12-5) and Green Bay Packers (12-6) will square off for the 182nd time in their historic rivalry on Sunday, but none of the previous meetings will take on more significance than this one for the NFC championship and a spot in Super Bowl XLV.  The Packers (-3.5) were expected to compete with Minnesota for the NFC North title this year but now find themselves facing the surprising division champs in what will be their third straight road game in the playoffs.

Many have called the Bears lucky en route to their second NFC championship game appearance in five years, beginning with their season-opening 19-14 win over Detroit when Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson appeared to hand them their first loss.  But Johnson’s apparent game-winning touchdown catch was denied, and good fortune has followed Chicago the rest of the way.

Last week’s 35-24 victory against Seattle in the divisional playoffs was no exception, as the Bears got to host a team that won the AFC West with a 7-9 record.  Regardless, they have taken advantage of nearly every opportunity they have been presented during their journey and need to pass their toughest test yet against a resilient Green Bay team that was expected to be here.

The only doubts surrounding the Packers have revolved around their health and their ability to stop Chicago’s All-Pro kick returner Devin Hester, who burned them with a key touchdown on a 62-yard punt return in a 20-17 win at Soldier Field back in Week 3.  Green Bay’s best defense for Hester will be not to punt the ball, which is exactly what happened last week in Atlanta.

Some believe that nobody has ever played the quarterback position in the postseason better than Aaron Rodgers this year, as he became the first player ever to throw 10 touchdowns in his first three playoff games following a 48-21 rout of top seed Atlanta on the road last Saturday.  Rodgers completed a remarkable 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and also rushed for a touchdown against the Falcons.  However, he completed 53 of 73 passes for 545 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in two meetings with the Bears during the regular season.  While those are still solid numbers, Chicago has done a good job of limiting big plays against him in the past.

The biggest advantage Green Bay might have in this game though comes on the defensive side of the ball behind coordinator Dom Capers.  The Packers have arguably the best secondary in the NFL led my cornerback Tramon Williams (three interceptions in two playoff games) along with the best pass rusher in potential Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews.  How they pressure and defend Bears quarterback Jay Cutler could ultimately decide the outcome of this game.

Cutler is coming off an impressive playoff debut last Sunday against the Seahawks, becoming only the second player in league history to pass and run for a pair of touchdowns in a postseason game.  He completed 15 of 28 passes for 274 yards and his first toss resulted in a 58-yard touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen.  The obvious issue with Cutler is his tendency to turn the ball over under pressure, something Green Bay knows all too well.

The Packers are 4-1 in five career meetings with Cutler, including 3-1 since he was dealt to Chicago.  They have picked him off nine times as a Bear, including four in last year’s season opener.  Still, Green Bay has not won any of the last four meetings by more than a touchdown.  Cutler is certainly capable of giving the ball away, but he is also 22-0 when he achieves a passer rating over 100.  In other words, his team simply does not lose when he has a good game.

Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz will need to make sure Cutler runs a balanced offense that features a heavy dose of running back Matt Forte, who played extremely well in the regular-season finale against the Packers.  Forte helped the Bears control the clock in a 10-3 loss that nearly kept Green Bay out of the playoffs altogether, rushing for 91 yards on 15 carries and making eight catches for 60 yards.  He clearly has an edge in the running game over Packers rookie James Starks.

Chicago has covered the last two meetings with Green Bay after the Packers went 4-0 against the spread in the four previous games between the teams.  The UNDER has cashed in the last six meetings along with eight of the past 10.

Now that you have read this NFC championship football betting preview featuring the Bears & Packers, check out the NFL odds on this and all the games to compare the best lines at multiple sportsbooks.

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