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Packers-Bears III could be one for the books

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Jan. 17, 2011 @ 11:33 a.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Will the third time be a charm for the red-hot Packers? Look for the ratings to go through the roof in any event next Sunday afternoon when Mike McCarthy’s troops soldier on in Soldier Field against the Bears in the third matchup this season between these arch-rivals in this season’s NFC championship.

In their first playoff encounter since seven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago, bombs could once again fill the air if both teams’ offenses are as lively as they were in the divisional playoff round (879 total yards combined).

Then again, considering these teams’ equally potent defenses, a replay of Green Bay’s hard-earned playoff-clinching 10-3 victory of the Bears that featured a combined 511 yards could just as easily be in the offing.

The PFW Spin

The TV gods are toasting one another this evening, acknowledging one of the most attractive NFC championship showdowns in some time with scintillating subplots galore.

Start with the quarterbacks. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers must be considered the front-runner for postseason MVP honors following his exceptional Saturday-night performance against the No. 1-seeded Falcons. But Bears QB Jay Cutler was certainly no slouch in his playoff debut on Sunday, exposing the soft spots in the Seahawks’ pass defense and running the ball (two TDs) with equal effectiveness.

Move on to all the big-time defenders who also will be on display, like Pro Football Weekly league defensive MVP Clay Matthews, CBs Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson and steadily improving NT B.J. Raji of the Packers and Bears Pro Bowlers Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

Raji apparently was a bit woozy during the 48-21 dismantling of the Falcons and needs to be monitored for concussion symptoms. If he’s at less than full strength, the Packers could have some real problems handling Bears dual-threat RB Matt Forte, who had 91 yards rushing and 60 yards receiving in Chicago’s Week 17 game against the Packers.

So who has the edge? What follows are the edges PFW gave these teams in the positional matchups in its NFC championshop game preview in this week’s print edition: Quarterback (Packers), Running back (Bears), Wide receiver (Packers), Offensive line (Packers), Defensive line (Bears), Linebacker (Bears), Defensive back (Packers), special teams (Bears), coach (Packers). Add them all up, and the Packers come out just slightly ahead 5-4, which is in sync with the extremely close margin of victory I personally expect from the Packers on the road to Super Bowl XLV.

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