It looked like the end of the end during the first game of the season when their starting RB Ryan Grant (back-to-back 1200 yard rusher) sustained a season ending injury. Then soon after, Pro Bowl caliber TE JerMichael Finley was put on IR. They lost 3 starting LBs, their two starting safties, a starting OL, their #2 CB, and Aaron Rodgers for two games. In total, the Packers lost almost a total of 100 games from opening day starters due to injuries. So how in the world have they been so competitive. Their are two main reasons that they have been able to withstand these devastating injuries and get as far as they have.
1. The first is the outstanding job on the GM Ted Thompson in the NFL draft.
Let's take a look at his draft picks since he started as GM of the Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Nick Collins, and Greg Jennings, Mason Crosby, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams. He also acquired some guy named Charles Woodson. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea that Ted Thompson has an eye for not just talent, but for superstar level talent.
2. Mike McCarthy should be the Coach of the Year.
No other team has ever had to deal with a string of injuries like this all year, and coach Mike McCarthy has been able to utilize everything that Ted Thompson has given him. Think about it, even without a running game, McCarthy has been able to use Kuhn, Starks, and Jackson in different situations. Kuhn, the short yardage back converted 9 one yard to go situations in a row at one time. Jackson is used mostly on screens, and has the second best yards per catch of all running backs in the league. Starks is all purpose guy who has been getting more and more carries as the year has gone along. After losing Al Harris to injury, Tramon Williams has stepped up and was one of the worst snubs for the Pro Bowl this year. Troy Aikman said it last week against Atlanta that there is no other coach that he would cast his vote for Coach of the Year than Mike McCarthy. The Packers are also the 3rd least penalized team in the NFL with only 5 flags per game.
Keys to the NFC Championship:
1. Contain Matt Forte and Chester Taylor.
The Pack did a great job bottling up Michael Turner and Jason Snelling last week in Atlanta, forcing Matt Ryan to beat them with his arm. The Packers must do the same this week and force Cutler to beat them under pressure against one of the best secondaries in the game. I feel if the Bears run for less that 100 yards, the Packers have a great chance to win.
2. Do not, DO NOT punt to Devin Hester.
Hester returned one in the first meeting when the Packers lost in Chicago, but had only two returns for a total of 17 yards in their second meeting in December. Tim Masthay has done a phenomenal job of not letting Hester and Desean Jackson beat them in their two most recent games against the Bears and Eagles, he must do the same again.
3. Keep the penalties down.
The Packers committed 18 penalties in the game they lost to the Bears, and that same officiating crew will be doing this game; the Pack need to be that 3rd least penalized team to win.
If the Packers do these things, they have a great chance of winning, and will have beaten the Giants, Bears, Eagle, Falcons and Bears in consecutive weeks and will be one of the hottest teams to ever roll into the Super Bowl.
Key Matchup: Aaron Rodgers vs. the Chicago Pass Rush
Aaron Rodgers looked like Houdini last weekend avoiding the Atlanta defenders. Rodgers is the second best rushing QB behind Michael Vick. If he stays upright, look for him to pick apart the Bear's secondary.
This is looking to be one of the Classic Games in NFL history with the Biggest Rivalry in all of sports with the greatest stakes this rivalry has seen. This is a game you don't want to miss.