It’s a rare NFL championship weekend without the New England Patriots, but Bill Belichick’s fingerprints will be all over the two conference title games.

Preparations for Sunday’s two-game slate are nearly finished, and as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gets ready for an NFC Championship Game showdown with the San Francisco 49ers, he’s not entirely sure what to expect from the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

Sure, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense has been poring over 49ers game film, but there’s a growing trend in the NFL with teams showing completely different looks when the game actually begins. It’s something Rodgers has seen numerous times, and he thinks Belichick started it all.

“I think that’s the NFL in the last five years, especially, it’s kind of the Belichick effect where teams are more reluctant to really try and scheme up opponents instead of relying on their base defense,” Rodgers told reporters at a Friday press conference. “There’s less and less teams like the Lovie Smith Bears defenses over the years that say ‘Hey, screw it, we’re going to play four-man front, play Tampa-2 the entire game and make you go the whole field, and strip the ball and tackle securely and stop the run with a six-man, seven-man front.’

“There’s more teams that are scheming specifically up for teams. I think the tough part is it might be different than you saw on film. The drawback from that is a lot of these teams are used to playing coverages they’re not used to playing, they’re not super-comfortable playing, they don’t have a lot of reps in and that can cause some confusion at times.”

This Sunday represents Rodgers’ second crack this season at Robert Saleh’s defense. The first time around didn’t fare very well for Rodgers and Green Bay. The quarterback was held to a season-low 104 passing yards in an ugly 37-8 loss.

Thumbnail photo via Stan Szeto/USA TODAY Sports Images