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NFC prediction: Bears topple potent Packers

Devin Hester

Devin Hester Credit: Getty Images

Putting the NFC Championship Game into a hockey perspective, one might say the Packers play an end-to-end game, while the Bears play dump-and-run.

Bet on the dump-and-run team.

The Packers have the far more potent attack, led by one of the most accurate and mobile quarterbacks in the league, Aaron Rodgers, and spiced up by a blitzing, aggressive defense. The Bears have an inconsistent and easily rattled quarterback in Jay Cutler, a mediocre receiving corps, but a good, solid defense highlighted by shutdown cornerback Charles Tillman, who can take out any opponent’s best receiver.

So why will the Bears win?

Weather, for one. The chilly, 21-degree game-time forecast will turn the Soldier Field surface (which Warren Sapp called “painted dirt” this week on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL”) into a frozen pond. The bad footing will slow down both the Packers’ passing offense and blitzing defense.

Bears running back Matt Forte and his 4.5-yard rushing average is far more reliable than the Packers’ patchwork backfield of Brandon Jackson and James Starks. The Bears will run him on draws and traps if the Packers do start to blitz. As long as the Chicago defense keeps dynamic fullback John Kuhn out of the red zone, the Bears should have the edge on the ground.

Defensively, the Packers do have an advantage with cover cornerback Charles Woodson, who has five forced fumbles to go with two interceptions. The pass rush got to Cutler for six sacks in a season-ending 10-3 win at Lambeau, and chances are they’ll pressure him enough to create discomfort this time.

Devin Hester, with his three punt return touchdowns, gives the Bears a tremendous special-teams edge.

Bears 21, Packers 14

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