NFL Free Picks: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears 1/23/11

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After splitting the first two clashes of the year, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears will be duking it out one final time this year at Soldier Field in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon. We have all of the action covered here at Cappers Info with our NFC Championship Game picks.

Matchup: Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Date: Sunday, January 23th, 3:00 ET
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Game Line: Green Bay -3
Over/Under 44

Packers Notes: You won't find a more trendy team in NFL betting action right now than the Packers, as they have posted back to back tremendous victories in the Wild Card and Divisional rounds of the playoffs and have stormed into the NFC Championship Game as favorites. They were the trendy choice at the start of the year to win it all as well, and it almost seems like a distant memory that they had to beat these Bears in Week 17 just to get into the second season. As it is though, QB Aaron Rodgers is the hottest signal caller in the league, as he is completing 77.8 percent of his passes in the playoffs and has six TDs without throwing a pick. All four of his top receivers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, and James Jones had at least 75 receiving yards against the Falcons on Saturday night, while RB James Starks had a second straight respectable game on the ground after not being heard from in the entire regular season. However, the key really has been the defense. We've always known that Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers in a genius on this side of the ball, and it is really showing this year. Capers' unit ranked No. 2 in the league in scoring at 15.0 points per game this year, and it was No. 5 overall in yardage at 309.1 yards per game. Those numbers have vastly improved in the second season. Green Bay allowed just 16 points to the Philadelphia Eagles, who had one of the best offenses in the league this year when QB Michael Vick was healthy, and it turned around just six days later and kept QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, RB Michael Turner and company to just 194 total yards. The real impact play of the game was a 70 yard INT return for a TD by DB Tramon Williams. A game ball also went to LB Clay Matthews, who was arguably the best defensive player of the entire season this year. Matthews had four tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery as a part of the great effort against Atlanta.

Bears Notes: Are they really that lucky, or are they really that good? That's the question that has been surrounding the Bears all season long, and it is amazing that we are in the fourth weekend of January and still don't have an answer to that question. Beating up the Seattle Seahawks was nice in the Divisional round of the playoffs, but there isn't a person alive that didn't know that Head Coach Pete Carroll's men had the weakest side in the entire postseason from the get go. This was a game that was expected to be won by double digits, and that's exactly what happened. Chicago came out and dropped the first 28 points on the board before letting its foot up off the gas pedal just a tad. Though nothing was really proven, the confidence for QB Jay Cutler really has to be soaring after this one on Sunday. He threw for 274 yards and two long TDs, and he rushed for a pair of scores as well. The key though, was not turning the ball over. Chicago only had one turnover, and that was on a bad play call and poor execution on a halfback pass by RB Matt Forte. Cutler didn't play well in two games against the Packers this year, throwing for just 389 yards and one TD against two picks, and you can bet that the buzzards will once again be swarming in the Windy City about whether this is a man that can really bring this team to the Super Bowl if he doesn't have a good game against the Pack on Sunday.

The Final Word: For a good chunk of the season, we've been preaching that the Bears are a victim in NFL betting action. There really isn't a home team that should be an underdog at this juncture of the playoffs, particularly in a rivalry game like this. All you're going to hear all week long is that the Bears are a product of a weak schedule and a weak division, and that Cutler is only good enough to beat up the bad teams. Everyone will talk about how he is going to implode and throw three picks against the Packers, and how Forte won't be able to get anything going on the ground. Look, Green Bay is great. We know that. However, our first inclination in this one is that the Bears really do have the better defense. This unit really proved it this year when it held the Packers to just 27 points in two games. If Chicago flexes its muscles in this one, there is no reason that it can't go back to the Super Bowl for the second time in the tenure of Head Coach Lovie Smith.

Free NFC Championship Picks: Chicago Bears +3
NFC Championship Prediction: Chicago 20 – Green Bay 17

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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