Erickson: The most exciting game of the year

first_imgDubbed as Super Bowl favorites, the Green Bay Packers struggled after being plagued with injuries through the first half of the season. After an embarrassing loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 14, it is highly probable no one saw the Packers making it to the NFC Championship.With their first win coming from the rulebook, there were not high hopes for the Bears when the season began. Soon, the Bears found themselves the team to beat in the NFC North. With a convincing win that ultimately forced Favre into his long awaited retirement, the Bears became division champs.In their 182nd meeting, one team will have to go home, able to get some rest from after a long season. The other team will make its way to Dallas to fight for the coveted Lombardi Trophy.It’s a great story, really. Two big rivals battling it out in the ice-cold Midwest. What storyline could be better for Sunday afternoon’s game?Well, I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble, but the Packers and the Bears themselves do not quite hate each other, as the fans would like to think. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has even said himself that he and Jay Cutler are friends. There is a lot of respect between these two teams, so do not expect the intense trash talk heard at Jets games.In fact, respect will make this game the most exciting game of the season.On Jan. 2, while most of Wisconsin and Badger nation as a whole were drowning their sorrows, the Bears traveled to Green Bay, hoping to ruin the Packers’ playoff hopes.A 10-3 game may not sound like the most exciting game on paper, but it was a classic Chicago-Green Bay defensive grind. It was such an intense game, coming down to the final seconds when Packer safety Nick Collins picked off Cutler to bring a decisive end to the Bears’ season and propel the Pack into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.With the NFC Championship marking the third meeting this season between these two franchises, it will finally prove which team is the best in the division – each squad boasts a win over the other this season – with a much bigger reward waiting on the other side.So, aside from the rivalry, what’s so great about this game?For starters, it proves the NFC North is stronger this season than anyone originally imagined.With Tom Brady beginning to lead the Patriots back to their old dominating ways from the mid-2000s and the continuing strength of the Steelers, Ravens and Colts, the NFC did not seem to match up against the AFC all season. While the NFC West could easily be named the weakest division in the bunch – a 7-9 team took the division title – the NFC North started to slowly lose ground as the Packers were plagued with injuries and the Vikings just could not find a way to win.Now, three weeks into the playoffs, the NFC North boasts two teams in the conference championship that are equally capable of a strong Super Bowl run.Both teams are lead by young quarterbacks looking to make their mark on the NFL.Aaron Rodgers may be the preferable choice between the two, but Cutler can hold his own.There’s no denying Cutler has helped turn the Bears from a mediocre team to a championship-caliber franchise. While he is not perfect by any means – no quarterback is – he finished sixteenth in the league with an 86.3 passer rating, and through the playoffs, has a 111.3 passer rating – second only to Rodgers.Cutler has only played in one playoff game – last week against the Seahawks – but he gave a very convincing performance against a team that was on a huge emotional high after exceeding everyone’s expectations by beating the Saints. Cutler was 15-for-28 and threw for 274 yards.Rodgers’ numbers speak for themselves. Against the Falcons, Troy Aikman said he would pick Rodgers to start a new franchise with, and the Packers’ signal caller also has been named among other current quarterback greats like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning – despite his lack of a championship ring.Rodgers feels honored to be mentioned with such respected players and thinks Aikman is probably being a little too kind, he said in a press conference Wednesday. Rodgers also mentioned that to be mentioned with the likes of Manning and Brady he needs to bring some more hardware to Green Bay.Hoping to bring home some hardware for themselves, both teams are looking to finally return to the Super Bowl.It’s not just the quarterbacks that will get them there. Sunday will be a fun game, but instead of the offenses controlling the game, it will be all about the defense. Just like the Jan. 2 game, this one will come down to the final moments and will depend on which defense can make more big plays.Wisconsin just hopes it’s the Packers.Kelly is a sophomore intending to major in journalism. Do you think the NFC Championship game is as exciting as she does? Let her know how much you love the Pack by sending her an e-mail at [email protected]last_img

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