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In The Blue: Though the experts picked the Bears to come in either third or fourth in the four-team NFC North, a lot of their caveats about what it would take for a successful season actually came true.
In The Orange: Speaking of wins, you wouldn't know it by the national coverage, but Jay Cutler has exactly one fewer playoff victory than Aaron Rodgers, who has been fondled so much by SportsCenter this week he has blue balls.
THEY SAID: If Julius Peppers played hard every game and Brian Urlacher returned to Pro Bowl form after a season spent hobbled by injury because of injury, the defense could return to Top 10 form.
THEY SAID: If Mike Martz could install a system limiting Jay Cutler's poor decision-making and keeping him from throwing 20 interceptions again, there might be enough firepower from the young and improving WR corps plus Greg Olsen.
THEY SAID: If the running attack could blend the youthful talent of Matt Forte with the veteran presence of Chester Taylor, these weapons could contribute in both the run and pass games.
Check, though Taylor hasn't been much of a presence; he apparently was put on the roster as insurance on Forte's health instead of as an active participant.
THEY SAID: If Mike Tice can pull a miracle from the heap of garbage that is the offensive line, this team can consistently put up points.
THEY SAID: After a strong finish to the 2009-2010 season, Devin Aromashodu could emerge as a top threat.
For the most part, the "ifs" have come to pass.
And yet, the experts aren't convinced.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING NOW: When Peppers (If #1) and the front four can't put pressure on Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay will score at will. The Bears game plan will then collapse, leading to a sea of bad decisions by Jay Cutler (If #2) when the running game is abandoned (If #3) and the offensive line can't keep him upright (If #4).
The experts, it turns out, are good at identifying the "ifs" but not the "whens."
THEY SAID: The Bears had no chance against the Cowboys.
THEY SAID: The Bears had every chance against the Redskins and Seahawks .
THEY SAID: The Bears had no chance against Brett Favre and the (im)potent Vikings.
THEY SAID: The Eagles would finally prove the Bears a fluke.
THEY SAID: The Jets would finally prove the Bears a fluke.
They also said the Patriots would prove the Bears a fluke, but who's still in it?
Now they don't know what to think but the Packers are a three-point road favorite. Isn't anyone paying attention?
One last look at the few nuggets we gleaned from the Seahawks game before prepping you for the Packers.
* One of the most effective plays last Sunday was Forte up the middle for 5 yards. Yes, Mike Martz told him to get tackled after 5 yards. Why adjust when things are working?
* The only thing that stopped Devin Hester from running back another punt was his old nemesis, the kicker.
* Fox analyst Daryl Johnston mentioned "The Devin Hester Effect" repeatedly during first half on successful offensive plays. However, the only notable play Hester "effected" on offense was a terrible screen for -2 yards. Perhaps Johnston was thinking of the so-called "Axe Effect" and expected that Hester would turn into a desirable chocolate man before our very eyes. Though many fine ladies around the nation will argue that this smooth talking gent already is . . . aww yeah.
* Matt Forte is no Todd Collins.
* Mike Tice's beard makes him look like Santa Claus's son.
* Earl Bennett's 9 rushing yards was literally as good an output as any individual Seahawks RB. Receiver Golden Tate led Seattle with 13 yards and in the most perplexing move of the playoffs, Pete Carroll dialed up four (4) attempts for Marshawn Lynch.
Sooooo . . . are we cool? Is that enough of a recap? The Bears are a pretty okay NFC team and the Seahawks are by all accounts a bad team from a bad division that racked up 8 wins in 17 tries.
Bears win at home, Seahawks lose.
Great. Moving on.
Well, well, well.
If it isn't the proverbial "Matchup of the Century."
Mike Martz vs. Dom Capers
It'll be interesting to see if Martz tries stretching the field with Greg Olsen for a second straight game and if Capers calls for safety help over the top. Assuming the Packers have access to game film, they'll have this package accounted for.
That being the case, it's more than likely Hester, Forte or Bennett will have room to rack up the YAC on catches over the middle if the Bears go back to the well on this type of play.
In the Week 17 matchup, the Bears had some success avoiding the blitz with check-downs to Forte and Olsen; it wouldn't be surprising to see them counter the various pressure packages found in the Packers' 3-4 defense with short passes. That is, if Jay Cutler is willing to throw short passes. It would seem to be more fun than getting lit up by Clay Matthews, but hey, we'll just have to let Jay come to his own conclusions.
James Starks vs. The Bears Front Seven
During the playoffs, the Packers have discovered something of a rushing attack thanks to their young seventh-string running back, James Starks. Even though he rushed for 123 yards in the Wild Card round against the Eagles, there's really no reason to game plan for a guy who is going to be out of a job once the great Ryan Grant returns from IR. Instead, the Bears should implement some sort of defensive version of play action.
When Aaron Rodgers looks like he's about to hand the ball to Starks, Brian Urlacher should yell a codeword that sounds like he's instructing the rest of the defense to commit to the run. Something like "GROUND!" or "FEET! or "NO SERIOUSLY, EVERYONE GET UP ON THE LINE AND TACKLE THAT SIXTH-ROUND PICK!" Once the Packer offense has been lulled into a false sense of security, they'll commit to the play-action pass and Bears linebackers can drop into coverage in anticipation.
Jay Cutler vs. Aaron Rodgers
Let's just cut right through the bull here and point out that there's only one stat that counts when it comes to quarterbacking.
Does anybody care that Joe Namath is in the hall of fame with these numbers?*
Does anyone remember that the Seahawks almost beat the Steelers in Super Bowl Extra Large (XL) despite the fact that Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible game (9/21 for 123 yards and 2 INT)?
So what's the only stat that counts?
That's right: sexual assault.
The quarterback with the most attempts at forced sex at the end of this contest is the only thing that . . .
Wait, that's not right. There's nothing right about that.
Wins! There we go.
Speaking of wins, you wouldn't know it by the national coverage, but Jay Cutler has exactly one fewer playoff victory than Aaron Rodgers. Interesting.
Devin Hester vs. Green Bay Special Teams
Wikileaks recently posted the transcript of a wiretapped phone conversation between Bears special teams coach Dave Toub and Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum. Here's an excerpt.
Toub: Dude, I triple dog dare you.
Slocum: Your mom wears combat cleats.
Toub: BAWK, BAWK, BAWK, BAWK!
Bears Fans vs. An Onslaught of Hype
It's been be a long week.
Every divided family, rivalrous neighbor and Man on the Street in a Great Lakes state has been interviewed.
SportsCenter has fondled Aaron Rodgers so much he has blue balls.
The flexibility of Mike Martz to change the Bears' offensive strategy or not return to the team after the bye week has been adequately flogged.
Here's one thing to remember, though: Both of these teams are utterly beatable.
And even if the Bears win, there is no way this game can live up to expectations. Because in the end, they are still the Bears.
* Wow! Seriously? Almost 50 more interceptions than touchdowns?
Andrew Golden brings you the Blue Report every week; Carl Mohrbacher brings you the Orange. They welcome your comments.More from Beachwood Sports »