Green Bay Packers (1.51) at Chicago Bears (2.65)
As hard is this is to fathom, a playoff matchup between these two storied NFC North rivals is actually a very rare occurrence. The Packers and Bears haven’t met in the playoffs since 1941, a startling statistic when you consider they’ve played each other twice every regular season for the last 70 years. And while Chicago leads the all-time series 92-83-6, it also finds itself a four-point home underdog to advance to the Super Bowl.
A big reason for Chicago’s home underdog status has been the recently play of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. He was the catalyst for the Packers’ 48-21 destruction of the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional playoff round, going 31-of-36 passing for 366 yards and three touchdowns. In describing his play, Rodgers displayed the humbleness and humility he’s known for, saying on that it was “one of those nights” where he was “in the zone.”
Speaking of being in the zone, that’s where Jay Culter was last week in a 35-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Bears QB played well, finishing 15-of-28 for 274 yards, but it was his scoring prowess that will go down in NFL lore. By running for two touchdowns and throwing two as well, Cutler became just the second QB in league history to accomplish the feat in a playoff game. The other? Former Cleveland Browns great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham, who turned the trick twice — in the 1954 and 1955 NFL title games.
While Sunday’s NFC Championship game will be fought out between two of the better young QBs in football in Rodgers and Cutler, a curious non-human element could be at play. The playing surface at Soldier Field — a lovely mixture of soft-sod grass and mud — is widely regarded as one of the poorest in the NFL. And last weekend, it was made even deplorable by a snowstorm that attacked for most of the game, causing a lot of footing and sliding issues for the players. “It’s rough,” Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings said of Soldier Field’s grass playing surface. “It’s probably one of the worst, probably the worst, in the league.”
Some player notes to pass along…
— Bears S Chris Harris (hip) did not practice Wednesday but said he will play Sunday.
— Packers FB John Kuhn is on the injury report this week after he suffered a shoulder stinger in the second half of the divisional-playoff win at the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday. Kuhn had limited work Wednesday, but he should be fine for the game.
— Green Bay OLB Frank Zombo was the only player who didn’t practice Wednesday. Head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t sound overly optimistic afterward that Zombo would be good enough to play in Sunday’s NFC Championship at the Chicago Bears. Zombo missed the final five games of the regular season with a knee sprain.
LVI: Gabriel Morency Previews the NFL Conference Championship Games