Published: January 20th, 2011 | Tags: Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers, Brian Baldinger, Brian Urlacher, D.J. Moore, Danieal Manning, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, NFC Championship Game, Pisa Tinoisamoa
I went out on my own on the “Playbook” picks this week and took the Bears over the Packers for several reasons.
First off, the Bears are very unique among all the playoff teams. Defensively, they really don’t change what they do for anybody. When they were blown out by the Patriots in Week 14, the Bears were criticized for playing their safeties 20 yards deep during a snowstorm, but it’s that same mentality that makes the Bears who they are. They don’t tinker the way other teams do, and feel like what they have is solid and sound. It’s the beauty of the Bears, and I agree with it.
The Bears don’t have a dime or a sub package at all, and they make all of one substitution on defense when they take linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa out in favor of defensive back D.J. Moore. Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs never come off the field, while Chris Harris, Danieal Manning and Major Wright rotate at safety. Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman play on the outside, and if the offenses go to four receivers, the Bears are confident in moving Manning down to play corner.
The Bears can get pressure with their front four, and it was evident to me during the Week 17 matchup that the Packers fear them. They were trying like hell to win that game, but rarely went to four-receiver sets because they were worried about the protection holding up. The Bears don’t like to blitz, but they can. Sometimes they’ll even show blitz to draw blocks and force teams into max protection. I expect Julius Peppers to go out and show everyone in this game why he was the most coveted defensive player in free agency.
The big question this week has been how they’ll contain Aaron Rodgers. Well, they’ve done it before, holding the Packers to just 10 points three Sundays ago by rushing the front four. They also have tremendous speed at linebacker – guys who can run down any quarterback. The Bears can trust their front seven.
Another side to the equation is that the Bears, in my opinion, have the best special teams in the league. They have the best return man in Devin Hester, Peppers has blocked a field goal, and Brad Maynard and Robbie Gould are two of the most experienced kickers in the league.
And don’t forget the Bears play at Solider Field, which is like playing in a barn. Players have to think about cutting and keeping their feet under them, which naturally slows things down. The Eagles, the fastest team in the league, slipped all day long in Week 12. I’ve watched them put down the green seed two hours before kickoff a couple of times this season. It looks real on TV, but there’s no grass in the middle of the field. The footing is slick and when it’s cold, the corners become frozen.
There’s also the experience factor. Lovie Smith and Mike Martz have coached in Super Bowls, Mike Tice has been around a long time, and the core of this team has also played in a Super Bowl. This game isn’t too big for them, and that counts for something.
The Bears aren’t invincible by any means. They’re fully capable of losing this game at home, but I see them getting it done.
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