Packers beat offensively challenged Bears, become second No. 6 seed to make Super Bowl

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji (Left-Center) celebrates with teammates after intercepting and scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter of their NFC Championship game at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA 23 January 2011. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14 and will play the AFC Champion in Super Bowl XLV 06 February in Dallas, Texas, USA. EPA/JOHN G. MABANGLO fotoglif933236

Here are five quick-hit thoughts about the Packers’ 21-14 win over the Bears in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

1. The Packers’ improbable run continues.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate what the 2010 Green Bay Packers have been able to do. They entered the season as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, only to see their hopes seemingly wash away because of injuries. Needing two wins in the final two weeks just to qualify for the postseason, they crushed the Giants and edged out the Bears to clinch the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Against long odds, the Packers then go on the road and knock off the Eagles, the No. 1-seeded Falcons and the No. 2-seeded Bears to reach the Super Bowl. It’s hard enough to win on the road, nevertheless do so in the postseason when home field advantage is so paramount. The Packers are red-hot and match up well with either the Jets or Steelers.

2. Capers deserves a lot of praise for the play of his defense.
Rex Ryan has earned a lot of attention this postseason for his defensive game plans, but Dom Capers deserves some of the spotlight after what Green Bay did on Sunday. His defense is the main reason the Packers won today – not Aaron Rodgers. The Bears made things interesting in the fourth quarter and the Packers did catch a break when Jay Cutler left the game with a knee injury, but let’s not take anything away from Capers’ game plan. The Bears could do nothing offensively for the first three quarters and their offensive line couldn’t stop Green Bay’s pass rush. Matt Forte had a couple of nice runs and Caleb Hanie made some clutch throws in the fourth quarter but again, domination was on display. The Packers held the Bears to 218 passing yards and 83 rushing, all while forcing three turnovers. On a day when Rodgers wasn’t at his best, the Packers needed a strong defensive effort and that’s exactly what they got.

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2010 NFL Question Marks: Green Bay Packers

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers calls a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter of the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Packers and whether or not Green Bay fans can expect the offensive line to keep Aaron Rodgers upright this season.

You’re dreaming if you don’t think the Packers have what it takes to reach the Super Bowl this year. Aaron Rodgers proved last season that he could play at an elite level and Dom Capers was a miracle worker (he only had one offseason to transform the Packers from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and they finished 2nd in the NFL in total defense) in his first year as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator.

But even though expectations are high right now in the land of cheese, one question continues to loom large: Can the offensive line keep Rodgers upright?

I don’t know how Rodgers didn’t wind up breathing out of a tube at some point last year. The amount of blows he took on a weekly basis was flabbergasting, but to his credit he somehow went on to throw for 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns.

I don’t think you’re listening: He threw for 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns with the equivalent of a FINISH LINE ribbon for an offensive line.

Now, was some of that his fault? Yes. At times, he took far too long to get rid of the ball and he sometimes took sacks that he shouldn’t have. But most of the blame could be laid at the feet of the offensive line.

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The Packers would be a great fit for Thomas

It was only a matter of time before the Patriots gave outside linebacker Adalius Thomas the boot. He was already stealing money from them with his poor play before he became a distraction last season, thus leading to his release on Monday.

One team’s trash is sometimes another team’s treasure, as the Packers could emerge as serious contenders for Thomas’ services. Even though GM Ted Thompson insists that the left outside linebacker position in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense isn’t a dire need, it is.

2009 seventh round pick Brad Jones saw a fair amount of playing time last year when Aaron Kampman went down with an injury. But while he was decent against the run, he’s not the pass-rusher that Clay Matthews is on the other side. And in Capers’ system, both outside linebackers have to be able to get after the quarterback.

That’s where Thomas comes in. While the 33-year-old has lost a step over the past couple of years, Thomas can still get after the quarterback when he’s motivated. And seeing as how Thompson did nothing to upgrade the outside linebacker position during the draft, the Packers could use someone to push Jones for the starting job.

The Packers could upgrade their LOLB spot by adding Thomas to a one-year deal and still groom Jones for the future if they wanted. If Thomas turns out to be a bust, then Jones has already shown that he’s a capable starter and the team could rid themselves of Thomas after the season.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Favre’s wet dream is mere hours away

The moment Brett Favre has been waiting for since Ted Thompson crapped in his cereal over 12 months ago is vastly approaching.

The Vikings host the Packers tonight at the Metrodome and Brett will no doubt be fired up to try to stick it to Thompson, as he so amply put it when the GM traded him to the Jets last year. (The fact that Favre put Thompson in a bad position with his fickle changing of the mind is still lost on Brett, but that’s a story for another time.)

The question becomes, will Brett beat Thompson’s Packers tonight?

Like most weeks, the Vikings will try to establish the run with Adrian Peterson in hopes of opening things up in the passing game. The Packers have a solid secondary, so Brad Childress would be foolish to take the ball out of Peterson’s hands early in the game and start forcing the action with Favre in the passing game. It would behoove Childress not to get wrapped up in the Favre-vs-Green Bay death match and just keep things simple with AP.

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2009 fantasy football is coming aoon—a look back at 2008 defenses

Last month we started looking at last season’s statistics for position players in fantasy football land, and today we’ll look at a position many often overlook. That’s fantasy defenses, which can sometimes put up just enough points to earn your team a victory once in a while. It’s always smart to try and grab one of the top units, although as we’ve seen before, things change, sometimes drastically, from year to year with fantasy D’s. Me? I like to grab my defense before my kicker. This list is based on point totals from one of my leagues, so keep in mind that stats vary from year to year.

1. Baltimore Ravens—The Ravens’ defense is perennially awesome, and we’ll find out for sure how much of that was due to former coordinator Rex Ryan, who is now the head honcho for the Jets. Ryan took plenty of players with him too, like LB Bart Scott and S Jim Leonhard, but the Ravens still have Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Reed just keeps getting better every year, and his sick nose for the ball is one reason the Ravens had a league high 26 picks. They will keep scoring low as always, but their 34 sacks last season isn’t much to get excited about. Bottom line: The Ravens won’t be a number one this year, but are still top 10.

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