The Packers' suddenly porous pass defense overshadowed a bit of a clunker from quarterback Aaron Rodgers last week in New Orleans; Rodgers threw three interceptions and was sacked twice in the second half of a 51-29 loss. And while it's difficult to pin the Packers' record on the transition to Rodgers, you can certainly make an argument that they'll have a tough time defeating Carolina without a strong game from him.
Rodgers' numbers have split remarkably between the Packers' wins and losses. Consider this dichotomy, brought to you courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:
Carolina's pass defense is ranked No. 8 overall based on yardage allowed, but the figures above suggest passing yards haven't been as important as interceptions and sacks in determining wins and losses. The Panthers have nine interceptions this season, tied for No. 19 in the NFL, and are tied for No. 15 with 28 sacks.
All of which suggests the Packers stand a better chance Sunday if Rodgers limits his interceptions and sacks. That's the kind of deep analysis you've grown to expect from the Black and Blue blog.
Continuing with our theme of quarterbacks, the Bears have come to expect mistake-free play from quarterback Kyle Orton -- the type of performance that can make the difference in a road game with huge playoff implications. Orton, in fact, has thrown 185 consecutive passes without an interception, dating back to Sept. 28.
Orton has thrown four interceptions this season, but they have come during just two games. That means he's had eight starts this season without an interception, a mark that ranks second in the NFL behind Washington's Jason Campbell.
There will be plenty of variables in play Sunday night, including whether the Bears' defense can do a better job after giving up 41 points to the Vikings in the teams' first meeting. We're also on alert for a (game-breaking) Devin Hester sighting.
But Orton's cool efficiency is what gives the Bears their best chance to win this game.