It isn’t unusual for a fan of the NFC North to feel some kind of stress during the regular season. With the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears meeting for the NFC Championship on Sunday, though, blood pressure is high as a kite right now.
At Soldier Field, head coaches Mike McCarthy and Lovie Smith hope to bring that kite back down to earth, as excitement is booming in this classic NFL rivalry, which dates back to 1921.
After a year or two of anguish, The Bears and Packers have triumphantly returned to the top tier of the NFC in the past 12 months. Not only has this factor refueled a previously stagnant rivalry, it has also provided insight into a very testing future up North, as quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers have developed into perennial Super Bowl contenders.
Therefore, this may not be the only time we see the Bears and Packers clash for a spot to the big dance.
But what about the negatives that goes hand in hand with Green Bay’s trip to The Windy City?
Last week the Packers and Bears were relatively healthy in comparison to other playoff teams, yet the cuts and bruises that come with postseason football have begun to pile up for as the seasons extends.
Here’s a look at who’s in and who’s out on Sunday.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers injury concerns of last week have taken a minor turn for the worst since last Saturday’s trip to Atlanta, as defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to make do without linebacker Frank Zombo in Chicago.
According to sources, Zombo is still nursing a knee injury which has kept him out of the lineup since Week 14. Of course, Green Bay has improved drastically since then, yet Zombo’s sacking ability would have come in handy when facing the new-found quick footed ways of Jay Cutler.
As for the good news, Green Bay expects to see fellow linebacker A.J Hawk suit up. According to head coach Mike McCarthy, Hawk has been limited in practice during the week, but a bruised knee isn’t likely to keep him out of Sunday’s game.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for breakout player Eric Walden.
Currently Walden’s status is unknown, a shoulder injury has bothered Green Bay’s promising linebacker throughout the week, but tomorrow’s NFC Championship fixture is a major guess in regards to playing possibility.
Like Walden, center Jason Spitz is also listed as questionable. Green Bay’s offensive line has been fantastic during the playoffs, making Spitz’s calf injury mildly concerning.
Finally, the Packers do have many other casualties to keep an eye on. Wide receiver Donald Driver has now been taken off the injury list, but concerns still lay for the likes of defensive end’s Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett, along with tackle Chad Clifton and cornerback Patrick Lee.
Linebacker Clay Matthews also nurses a shin injury which limited him in practice, and Charles Woodson’s toe injury must be treated with delicacy on Sunday.
Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears have been the healthiest team in the 2010 postseason. Major injuries have been avoided on both offense and defense, and yet again, this is the case matching up against the Green Bay Packers.
After Mike McCarthy told reporters that linebacker Frank Zombo is out on Sunday, questioning instantly shifted towards Chicago’s starting full safety, Chris Harris, who was one of few unknown players ahead of this weekend.
Highlighting the small injury list for the Bears, Harris’ hip injury has labeled his presence at Soldier Field as questionable, considering he did miss Wednesday and Friday’s practice sessions.
Aside from Harris, the Bears look clean. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is nursing a knee injury, but is probable to play. So is defensive end Israel Idonije who is experiencing a very minor thumb injury.
The lasting worry for the Bears is wide receiver Earl Bennett. Unknown to all, Bennett failed to practice during the week due to non-injury related concern. Occupying Bennet, cornerback Zackary Bowman also missed practice on the same cause.
All in all, Chicago is in great shape, equaling the makings of a possible Super Bowl contender.
No Need to Worry, Once Again
Minor concerns plague both teams right now. However, the Bears are by far the much healthier team in the grand scheme of things.
Green Bay allowed their practice field to resemble a freezer during the week, to prepare themselves for the cold confines of Soldier Field, after seeking the benefits of a dome atmosphere last week in Atlanta.
Linebacker Frank Zombo will be missed, and if center Jason Spitz is out, the Packer offensive line could be vulnerable. With that being said, should Bears safety Chris Harris also be sidelined, expect Aaron Rodgers to take full advantage up the middle.
No huge issues once again, but the Packers do have some minor bruises to attend to as a rough and physical affair is expected on Sunday.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.