The 182nd meeting between border rivals Green Bay and Chicago
takes place Sunday at noon PT on FOX at Solider Field.
Few, if any, of their games have been more important. At stake is the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
Oddsmakers at the Las Vegas Hilton and TheGreek.com opened the Packers as three-point road favorites with added juice and an ‘over/under’ of 44. Some other places, including MGM Mirage and Station Casinos, opened the Packers as 3 ½-point favorites.
Green Bay certainly is riding a lot of momentum. The Packers are the ‘it’ team right now. But do they deserve to be favored?
The Bears are the healthier team, have covered both meetings versus Green Bay and hold a strong special teams edge with dangerous kick/punt returner Devin Hester.
Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler may hold the answer.
Rodgers has been sensational with 11 touchdowns and only one interception in his last four games. Cutler is streaky and lately he’s been on with a quarterback rating above 100 in five of his last seven games.
Rodgers takes good care of the ball. Cutler, though, was picked off 16 times during the regular season in 15 games. Green Bay ranked sixth in takeaways with 32 during the regular season.
The Packers defense held Michael Vick in check in their 21-16 wild-card road win against Philadelphia as one-point ‘dogs. Atlanta could manage just 14 points on offense against Green Bay last week.
Green Bay allowed just 45 yards on the ground to Atlanta and sacked Matt Ryan five times in its 48-21 victory as two-point road underdogs. That was Green Bay’s highest-scoring playoff game in its history.
Despite losing six contributors on defense for the season, the Packers still finished second in fewest points allowed at 15 per game and ranked fifth in total defense and pass defense.
No cornerback is playing better than Tramon Williams, who has picked off three passes the last two weeks.
Thanks to creative defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers’ defense is diverse and unpredictable. Green Bay confused Vick by not blitzing more and bothered Ryan by frequently blitzing.
Chicago has gotten big years from Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
Still, the Bears have allowed an average of 31.2 points in their last four home games. These matchups have been from late November on when winter conditions makes the traction slick on the grass field at Solider Field. This has worked against Chicago’s defense, which relies on quickness rather than brawn.
The Packers have survived elimination games the past four weeks. This is their third consecutive road game. However, it’s only a short distance from Green Bay to Chicago. The Packers are 26-12-1 ATS in their past 39 road matchups.
The Bears were idle two weeks ago courtesy of winning the NFC North with an 11-5 mark. The Bears built a 35-10 lead on Seattle in last week’s divisional round matchup, winning 35-24 as 10-point home favorites.
Unlike the Packers, which lost 15 players to injuries for the season, the Bears are remarkably healthy. Chicago has won eight of 10 games since its regular-season bye.
One of those losses came to Green Bay, 10-3, during the last week of the regular season. Coach Lovie Smith, to his credit, played his starters and went all out despite the game not meaning anything to Chicago. The Packers were 11-point favorites with the combined 13 points going well ‘under’ the 43 ½-point total.
Chicago also covered in the first meeting upsetting the Packers, 20-17, in Week 3 as three-point home ‘dogs. The combined 37 points dipped ‘under’ the 45 ½-point total. The last six games in the series have gone ‘under.’
The Packers outgained the Bears by 103 yards, but allowed a 62-yard punt return touchdown by Hester and committed a franchise-worse 18 penalties, including one that wiped out a touchdown.