T Minus 48 Hours and 52 Minutes

Well, this is it. The final Friday before the Chicago Bears embark on this year’s NFL playoffs as the number 1 seed in the NFC. Or, as I like to think of it, “Unrealized Expectations, 2006-7 Edition”.

I heard on the radio this morning that they have not won a home playoff game in over 20 years. Which, to me, indicates you have to go all the way back to the 1985 season, when they won the Super Bowl after pounding first the New York Giants, and then the L.A. Rams, and then the New England Patriots, into the ground, by a combined score of 91-10.

Yes, this year they have shown flashes of competence and even brilliance. And yes, they did annihilate their opponent this Sunday, the Seahawks, 37-6. But that was Oct. 1st, back when Rex Grossman was re-defining himself as an amazing undiscovered quality quarterback, instead of the hit-or-miss source of constant frustration he has proven himself to be over the subsequent 10 weeks.

Supposedly the Bears have had a good week of practice, putting the pads back on for the first time since before the season started. Let’s hope so. Because there is a lot of credibility at stake now: Rex Grossman, Lovie Smith, Brian Urlacher, the entire Bears’ defense, and in fact, the Chicago Bears’ reputation itself. Like Al Davis said: just win, baby!

The Bears showed how good they could be early this season, when their defense was pressuring the QB with just the four down linemen, and their offense was clicking with the downfield passing game (even though they didn’t run for squat in those early games). Then the defense was hurt badly by the injuries to Mike Brown, SS (Safety Savant) and one of the keys to their entire defense, and then to DT Tommie Harris, who was so good early in the season he drew constant double teams the rest of the year, which allowed the line in general to still get good pressure on the QB. Since then, not so much. With frightening regularity now, they’ve given up 350 yards a game, and long drives when the opponent needs them most. Not a recipe for success in the playoffs. However, to be fair, they have had other injuries (now healed) to important defensive players, like Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher and Todd Johnson, so with these players back in the mix, they might have enough to get it done.

Special teams’ play, by all accounts, has been excellent all season, and will have to continue to be excellent, in order to avoid the kind of mistakes that have killed both the Bengals and the Cowboys in recent weeks. They also need Devin Hester’s amazing ability to make everybody miss, resulting in kicks run back for touchdowns.

So nobody knows which team is going to show up Sunday. Sports talk radio is on effin’ fire. Will the defense be able to stop anybody? Will Rex throw more picks than completions again? Even if they beat the barely better than average Seahawks, will they beat either the Saints or Eagles in the NFC Championship? And will Bears Fan Nation survivie it all?

Bears fans take this shit seriously. Me, I learned my lesson a long time ago to not get all emotionally wrapped up in the outcome of sporting events, even when they involve my teams. If you’re good enough, you win, if you’re not, you don’t, and the rest is all a bunch of pointless whining and moaning. Get better next year, and prove it on the field, like the ’84 Bears did after getting their asses kicked in the NFC Championship by the 49ers, who laughed at them and said “next time, bring an offense”. So they did. Few teams are good enough to rise to all the challenges inherent in winning championships, but those who do are a sight to behold. The Bulls of the 90s, the 85 Bears, these were teams worthy of our adoration. Quality like that doesn’t often this way come.

As for me, put me down for Bears making it to the Super Bowl — unless they don’t — but losing to either the Ravens or Chargers. The truth is, the NFC in general is just lousy, and it won’t take a great team to survive all the way to the Super Bowl. In fact, the team that makes the fewest turnovers this weekend should probably be considered the “best” team in the NFC right now, purely based on that one stat. Then, whoever that is, can show up at the Super Bowl and get introduced to either the Baltimore Ravens’ defense, or the running and touchdowns of Mr. LT, and resolve to be better next year.

UPDATE:

Colts 15, Ravens 6
Saints 27, Eagles 24
Bears 27, Seahawks 24
Patriots 24, Chargers 21

OK, so I’m a dumbass. Both my AFC picks lost, so I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. But the Bears struggled to beat the Seahawks, and continue to have problems defensively with stopping the run, forcing turnovers, and pressuring the QB. And now they play New Orleans, which has a potent running game and a savvy quarterback in Drew Brees. If the Bears (at home) are favored by more than 1 and 1/2 I’ll be surprised, and if they win I’ll be even more surprised.   But then, I’m a dumbass.

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