27

January

Aaron Rodgers and Illegal Hits: When Will the NFL Walk the Talk?

When I read that Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was fined $10,000 by the NFL today for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Sunday’s NFC Championship, one thought and one thought only went through my head:

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

For a player who recently signed a huge free agent contract that could total $91.5 million, $10,000 is like pennies to you and me. During the regular season, the NFL apparently made it crystal clear to teams and players that hits that involve the leading of the helmet would not be tolerated and would be met with stiff fines and possible suspensions.

If $10,000 is a stiff fine to multi-millionaires, then I’m the King of England.

Look at Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison (who the Packers will face in Super Bowl XLV). He has been fined for times for illegal hits and the fines total $125,000 for an average of roughly $31,000 per offense. Again, pocket change to the millionaire players of the NFL.

But let’s get back to Peppers, and more importantly for Packer fans, Rodgers.

This is not the first time Peppers has rung Rodgers’ “bell.” In a regular season game at Lambeau Field in 2008, Peppers was flagged for a bruising hit on Rodgers out of bounds when he played for the Carolina Panthers. That hit can be seen here: Julius Peppers Nails Aaron Rodgers

If the NFL really is taking multiple offenses seriously, why aren’t they looking at past seasons so they can definitively establish a pattern of illegal hits from a player? As a lot of fans are so fond of saying when criticizing coaches, it’s not one game—it’s the “body of work.”

Worse yet, this fine once again raises a question that Packer fans have been asking over the past year and maybe more:

“Why is the league so interested in protecting 31 other quarterbacks but not Aaron Rodgers?”

Is some of this fan protectionism of “their” guy? Possibly. Have other quarterbacks taken shots like Rodgers has and not had a flag thrown? No question.

Still, it seems like Rodgers takes more illegal hits that don’t get called than any other quarterback in the league. The question everyone is asking is: why?

26

January

Lost in Chicago: My NFC Championship Game Excellent Adventure (Packers vs. Bears)

My wife and I moments after the Packers punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.

My wife and I made the trek to Chicago last weekend to watch the NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. In addition to seeing the Packers win and go back to the Super Bowl, we met some new friends, discovered a Packers bar in the heart of Bears territory and left with memories that will last the rest of our lives.

This is the uncut and unedited story from our trip. Enjoy.

Never Get in a Car With Strangers (unless they’re Packers fans)

It was about 6 p.m. on Saturday when I realized this trip was going to be a fun one. That’s when I piled into John Rehor’s car with my wife, Corey Behnke and Wally Pingel to try and find Will’s Northwoods, a famous Packers bar in Chicago.

In most situations, getting into a car with three people you know only through Twitter and met in person just an hour ago is a bad idea. But these people were Packers fans — fun Packers fans! What’s the harm in climbing into a car with the co-founder of Cheesehead TV, one of the most well-known Packers bloggers out there, and a man responsible for designing Packers-themed web sites?

We didn’t think anything of it, so I made my wife sit in the back between Behnke and Pingel and I took shotgun next to Rehor. Somebody’s iPhone told us that Will’s Northwoods was only 7 minutes away so off we went, hoping to arrive in time to see Jermichael Finley (and his hot wife).

Will’s Northwoods

One hour later, we finally found the place.

Yeah, we took a few wrong turns along the way. One time we thought we were there, only to learn that Behnke typed the wrong address into Google. We also had to stop at a gas station – one of those gas stations where the cashier is surrounded by bullet-proof glass – to pee. Also, Rehor almost ran over a horse (yes, there was a horse on a random side street in Chicago at night).

But we finally got there, and it was more than worth the trip.

24

January

Packers Game Balls and Lame Calls: NFC Champions Edition -On to Super Bowl XLV

First of all let me get one thing out of the way:

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, with that out of my system let’s move on.

Green Bay Packers 21, Chicago Bears 14. The Packers are headed to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 6.

As thrilling as the spoils of victory have been, the game turned out to be a near 60 minute heart attack for Packers. The game wasn’t over until a Sam Shields interception with under a minute to play after the Packers let the Bears back into the game after getting out in front 14-0.

So who gets a Game Ball and who gets a Lame Call for the NFC Championship?

Let’s take a gander.

Game Balls


RB James Starks

Starks didn’t break the century mark, but his ability to break some big runs opened up a lot of playaction opportunities for the passing game.
As the sudden “star” of these 2010 playoffs, “Neo” (as Starks is called) has given much needed life to what was a lifeless Packers rushing attack and finally helped bring the Packers” offense into balance at the most critical time of the year.

His touchdown run put the Packers up 14-0 and the Packers were able to remain aggressive on defense the rest of the game, allowing Dom Capers the chance to work his magic to ensure the Bears had no chance.

CB Sam Shields

His two picks were crucial to sealing the Packers win, with his second one being the obvious dagger to the heart of the Bears’ hopes of advancing to the Super Bowl.

Not bad for an undrafted rookie free agent. Not bad at all.

NT B.J. Raji

The Bears had “The Fridge,” now we have “The Freezer.”

Raji showed off his underrated pass coverage ability picking off Caleb Hanie deep in Bears territory and taking it in for the touchdown.

After nearly channeling his inner Leon Lett by holding the ball out in celebration before reaching the end zone, Raji put an exclamation point on his emergence this season as one of the most athletic nose tackles in the NFL.

QB Aaron Rodgers

23

January

Packers 21 Bears 14 – Jekyll & Hyde Packers Hang on, Next Stop: Super Bowl

The Packers and the Bears met today in what was expected to be a classic game – it wasn’t. The first half was total domination by the Packers’ defense, knocking Jay Cutler out of the game in the process. They really only had one thing to worry about – Matt Forte

The Packers’ offense had little trouble moving the ball against the Bears, but their age-old problem of leaving points on the table reared it’s ugly head once again. This, of course, kept the Bears within striking distance the whole game.

Had Aaron Rodgers not tackled Brian Urlacher after throwing the ball right to him, this would have been a one score game and just a Devin Hester return away from being tied.

But the Packers special teams were also at the top of their game. Tim Mathsay had another fantastic day against the Bears. Using an assortment of different types of kicks and various placements, the Packers kept the Bears off-balance and were able to pin them deep on many occasions.

In the second half, however, the Packers seemingly forgot everything they did right in the first half. Either that, or the Bears just finally showed up for this game.

The play calling got conservative and the defense lost it’s swagger, allowing Caleb Hanie, a 3rd string QB to lead the Bears on two touchdown drives.

Only two huge interceptions by the Packers saved the day, a pick-six by BJ Raji and the now-traditional game ending INT, this time by Sam Shields.

Exhale…

My game day impressions:

PREGAME:

I’ve tried very hard to avoid a “polluted mindset” this week, not reading any outside articles about the Packers Bears matchup. While normally I devour that stuff, this week seemed different. After all, it’s the third time the Packers are playing the Bears. I already know how I feel about both teams and this game.

My simple feeling is that the Packers are the better team and will win the game. Unless they kill themselves with mistakes, as they did in the first meeting this season.

MY KEY TO THE GAME: If I had to pick JUST ONE thing, it would be this: Stop Matt Forte. And that doesn’t just mean on the ground. He is arguably more dangerous to the Packers catching passes than running.  Force Cutler and the Bears into third and longs and the INTs will follow.

23

January

Our Packers – Bears Predictions

The writing crew at AllGreenBayPackers.com put their prognostication skills on the line for this NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears:

Adam Czech: Packers 26, Bears 22
The Packers need to win the turnover battle and put together long drives that result in touchdowns. Also, weird things will happen-it’s soldier field-don’t let it snowball.

Chad Toporski: Packers 23, Bears 17
Despite the hype of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, this game is going to come down to the performance of two of the best defenses in the NFC. And while the Chicago Bears are extremely solid up front, their secondary is less stellar. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers defense is a more complete unit, with key playmakers at all positions. Look for the Packers to finish with at least a +2 turnover differential and four sacks.

Kris Burke: Packers 23, Bears 17
In what will be an emotional tug of war for nearly 60 minutes, the game likely will come down to the final drive. Aaron Rodgers will continue his hot hand Cutler will make another interception eerily similar to the one he threw against the Packers in Week 17.

Thomas Hobbes: Packers 16, Bears 10
I see this as a game of defense and field position.  The Bears will probably get one lucky strike against the Packers; either a kickoff/punt return for a touchdown or a long touchdown pass to one of their speedy receivers.  The Packers will have better success moving the ball on the Bears, but will have to settle for field goals.

Jersey Al Bracco: Packers 24, Bears 19
Robbie Gould has a big day for the Bears with 4 field goals but the Packers hold the Bears to one touchdown. Aaron Rodgers throws for two TDs, Mason Crosby makes one of 2 field goal attempts, and it’s enough to punch their ticket to Dallas.

Feel free to leave your own predictions in the comments…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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21

January

NFC Championship Preview – Packers vs Bears Rivalry Reaches New Heights – The Playoffs

Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and the NFC Championship.

I don’t think it can possibly get any better than this.

After the Packers impressive 48-21 over the Atlanta Falcons and the Bears’ easier than it looked 35-24 win over the upstart Seattle Seahawks, both teams prepare to meet for only the second time in their long and storied rivalry. For the first time since 1941, the Packers and Bears get together for– to steal a line from Brent Musberger–all the Tostitos.

Since the Packers faced the Bears twice already this season, I don’t think it’s necessary to break them down once again. We know them well enough by now and the same could be said for the Bears knowing the Packers. It’s a division rivals against one another, so the familiarity between the two teams is rather obvious.

Instead let’s go ahead jump to FIVE (hey, it’s a big game alright?) keys to the NFC Championship

1. The condition of Soldier Field

Much has been made this week over the shape the sod in Soldier Field is in. It was already showing noticeable damage during the Seahawks game last week, and with brutal cold settling in across the entire Midwest, there hasn’t been enough time to re-sod the entire football field

With the game also expected to be played under cold temperatures, the condition of the field will be crucial to both teams. The Bears obviously have had some experience playing in it and the Packers have not. You would think that would give the Bears an edge, but the Packers have played their share of games in Lambeau with the sod coming up in chunks.

While Lambeau has never been in this bad of shape, both teams will likely struggle with poor field conditions.

2. The officiating crew
In this week’s sign of the apocalypse, the NFL announced that Terry McAuley’s crew will be calling the NFC Championship Game.

Why is this significant?

Remember the Week 3 game in Soldier Field against the Bears where the Packers were flagged for a staggering 18 penalties? McAuley’s crew worked that game.

Will they do the same in this game?

20

January

A Cold Shower for Overly Excited Green Bay Packers Fans

I can’t remember ever feeling this good about a Green Bay Packers team. I liked their chances against the Eagles, I was very confident they would beat the Falcons, and I have a good feeling about Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

This feeling of positivity just does not seem right. I’m not sure how to handle it. Usually I’m pessimistic and grumpy to a fault. I expect the worst and wait for everything to come crashing down with another last-second Mason Crosby clank off the goalpost, Mike McCarthy clock kerfuffle or Aaron Rodgers sack/interception.

I feel I need to channel my old pessimistic self, so that is exactly what I am going to do now. There are many reasons why the Packers will not win on Sunday. For those overly excited Packers fans like me, consider this a cold shower.

It’s the Bears. It’s Soldier Field
That about says it all doesn’t it? Very little has gone right for the Packers at Soldier Field recently. Too many penalties, blocked field goals, special teams meltdowns. You name it and it has gone wrong.

And how about that turf? If you dumped a can of green spray paint on a gravel road in Menomonie, WI you would have a better playing surface. That mess of a field neutralizes any speed advantage Bears’ opponents might have and forces you to muck it up and play their slop brand of football.

If I was a prison warden, I would not even allow my prisoners to set foot on that disaster of a playing surface.

Devin Hester
Led by Hester, the Bears average 17.1 yards per punt return. I said 17.1 yards per return! How many times have the Packers gotten 17 yards on a punt return this season? Not very many. The Bears get it almost every time!

Sure, Tim Masthay and the special teams unit contained Hester in week 17. Big whoop. They were just delaying the inevitable. Lovie Smith probably looked at the matchup on special teams and immediately instructed team officials to start making plans for Dallas.

Jay Cutler is super talented
Cutler’s physical tools are unbelievable. Sometimes he throws these deep balls where he appears off-balance, yet somehow manages to flick a perfect strike to one of his streaking wide receivers.