The Seattle Seahawks (7-9) will take their losing record into Soldier Field to see if their miracle playoff season will continue on against the Chicago Bears (11-5) this Sunday at 1 PM on Fox. This NFC playoff game may not be anything like the week 6 match-up in which the Bears went down by a field goal despite a late touchdown on a punt return from Devin Hester (40 rec, 475 yards, 4 TDs, 33 punt returns, 3 TDs, 12 kick returns, 427 yards). Still, the Seahawks cannot and will not be counted out. Pete Carroll's team is much improved and obviously experienced a lot of bad breaks over the course of a difficult season in one of the most competitive years of football the NFL has ever seen.
The Chicago Bears have been shaky, too. Three of their 5 regular season losses are against teams still left in the playoffs. They closed out the year with a 10-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Jay Cutler's (261-432, 3,274 yards, 23 TDs, 6 Int.) team on offense is not much to write home about with a ranking of 22nd in the league in rushing yards and 28th in passing yardage. The defensive squad stepping up in a big way is the best chance the Bears have to derail the Cinderella post-season run of the Seahawks. The Bears defense allowed the second fewest rushing yards in the league on the season, and the 4th fewest points.
The Seahawks have all the momentum despite having much worse ranking numbers on both defense and offense. The only category they crack the top 20 in on either side of the ball is passing (19th). Matt Hasselbeck (266-444, 3,001 yards, 12 TDs, 17 Int.) had a highlight reel game last week (22-35, 272 yards, 4 TDs), and Marshawn Lynch (202 carries, 737 yards, 6 TDs) had the playoff run of his career to seal the game against the Defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints by a score of 41-36. Lynch ran for 131 yards on 19 carries last week and scored a rushing touchdown.
These are perhaps the worst two teams in the playoffs this year on paper. It could be a sloppy, ugly game for both teams. The experts seem to be heavily favoring the Bears, but many of these same folks picked the Saints to win last week.
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The weather also won't be cracking 20, degrees that is, at Soldier Field on Sunday. The home field advantage and the blistering cold temps won't bode well for the Bears if Jay Cutler is sacked another half-dozen times as he was by the Seahawks in their last meeting. The ground will be much harder than it was in October.
Though Cutler and the Bears offense is unpredictable, the Bears defense is their best weapon. The old stand by squad of Brian Urlacher (125 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), Julius Peppers (54 tackles, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles), and Charles Tillman (82 tackles, 3 forced fumbles) are one of the meanest defensive trios in the game. If these guys decide to shut down Marshawn Lynch and Hasselbeck, they just might be able to do it, and they have to keep it close in order for the shaky offense of the Bears to win the day. Israel Idonije (49 tackles, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) and Lance Briggs (89 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) add even more potency to this tough defense.
On paper the Bears crush the Seahawks every time you crunch the numbers. The veteran rushers and receivers on the Bears offense are equipped to get the job done if Cutler is on his game. Momentum and constant improvement is the strength for Seattle right now, though. They have their own defensive stars to shut down the Bears and Cutler in DEs Chris Clemons (49 tackles, 11 sacks) and Raheem Brock (32 tackles, 9 sacks, forced fumble). Free Safety Earl Thomas also adds to this squad's depth with 5 interceptions, 76 tackles, and a forced fumble of his own.
The Bears will be coming in well rested, maybe too rested, and they'll be taking a cold Soldier Field against a hot Seahawk team. Without a perfect Bears performance, the Seahawks squeak through another week to win and stay alive, but their toughest test will be next week against the winner of the Packers vs. Falcons game.