Friday, January 21, 2011

The view from Chicago: Bear Down!

Analysts, pundits, and supposed football experts all seem to agree on one thing: the Packers will beat the Bears. They are all mesmerized by Aaron Rodgers' playoff performances and their sexy 3-4 scheme on defense. But, I have news for you, football America: The Bears and Packers split the season series in two close games. The Bears have as good of a chance of winning as the Packers do. Here are three keys that will tilt the game in the Bears' favor.

1) The Bears' offensive line:
The Chicago Bears' offensive line has been arguably the worst unit in the league over the course of the season. They gave up the most sacks by any unit over the course of the season, and have been racked by injuries. But, due to recent stability on the line and the coaching of Mike Tice, the Bears have been opening up more holes for Matt Forte and less for opposing pass rushers. The line put on a clinic for most of the Seattle game, giving Cutler time to carve up the defense while Matt Forte went off for another huge game. If the line is able to play well enough against a great green Bay pass rush, look for Cutler and Forte to light it up.

2) Special Teams:
The Bears' Devin Hester had a renaissance this year in the return game, returning three kicks for scores and averaging an astounding 17.1 yards per punt return. Add in all of the hidden yardage due to teams kicking the ball out of bounds and playing keep-away, and Devin Hester has a huge impact on the game. Look no further than week three against the Pack, when Hester returned a punt for a touchdown, which turned out to be the difference. In week 17, the Packers did a good job of limiting what Devin Hester could do. Hester always shows up in the biggest games though. Also, the Pack has had trouble covering kicks and punts all year, as evidenced by the 102 yard return in their last game by the Falcons. Look for Hester to have a big impact on the game, and possibly be the deciding factor.

3) The Bears' Pass Rush
The Bears' Cover 2 scheme can stop Aaron Rodgers, as it has held the Packer's offense to a combined 27 points in their two regular season meetings. The scheme only works, though, if the front 4 get pressure. That way, the back seven can drop back into coverage and limit big plays. But, if the defensive line cannot get pressure, and the Bears have to use more guys to get pressure, then Aaron Rodgers will pick them apart. The Bears can stop the Packers when the run the ball. But, if they do not get any pressure on Rodgers from their line, the Bears are in trouble. Due to the condition of Soldier Field, the Bears must get inspired play from their defensive tackles, namely Tommie Harris, as the conditions may partly neutralize stud rusher Julius Peppers.

If the Bears are able to follow these keys, they will surely win, and all of Chicago will be singing, "Bear down, Chicago Bears." The Packers will be a tough task, but I think the Bears will carry through in an upset.
Final prediction: Bears-30, Packers-24

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