Friday, January 14, 2011

Bears' 2010 luck stretches into 2011

Tyler Thigpen. Drew Stanton. Joe Webb. A schedule that looked difficult prior to the season but turned out to be softer than Puffs Plus when patsies like Carolina and Buffalo helped the Bears crank up the Win Machine 11 times in the regular season.

And now this. An 8-9 team coming to Soldier Field with a trip to the NFC Championship on the line. Really? Is this really happening? Why do I feel like any moment now I'm going to be telling my friends about this dream I had in which the Bears were playing the Seahawks in the second round of the playoffs? ("The Seahawks? And you believed that? Even for a dream, that's weird, dude ...")

Who is the Greek god of football anyway, whom we must thank? Wait, there IS no Greek god of football? That's ridiculous. There's a goddess of water-meadows. There's a god of forethought, for god's sake. There MUST be a god of football. After all, how could it be possible for the Bears to face a team that still hasn't won as many games as it's lost this season without the benevolent assistance of a merciful god of football?

But just to be clear, this isn't to say the Bears aren't a good team. Luck and talent aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, when it comes to sports, talent is best served with a nice hearty side of luck. The Bears have had their share this year, but they've also taken advantage of it.

In honor of the aforementioned god of forethought, let's think a bit more about this upcoming game. We'd be wise to remember that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL playoffs, as the Saints could attest. In fact, the Bears already lost to the Seahawks earlier this season, 23-20, in what turned out to be one of just two road wins for Seattle all year. Plus, if you weren't aware, this will also be Cutler's playoff debut. But there's good news. Here are a few of the very fixable things that went wrong on October 17:
  • Cutler got sacked six times. While the offensive line still has its share of problems (the Packers got him six times in Week 17 as well), it has definitely improved since then. Cutler was sacked five times combined against New England, Minnesota and the Jets.
  • As was common early in the season, the play calling was extremely unbalanced: 45 passes and 14 runs. Seattle's run defense is below average and the Bears committed to the run game in the second half of the season. Expect a very different offensive approach Sunday compared to what we saw in Week 6.
  • The Bears were a horrific, pathetic 0-for-12 on third down and still lost by just three. Such an extreme lack of success on third down would be hard to replicate even if the Bears tried.
  • Lance Briggs missed the game, but he'll be on the field Sunday.
While we certainly can't take anything for granted, the Bears will have the clear talent advantage this weekend and face a team that was 2-6 on the road this season. In their last three road games, the Seahawks lost by 15, 19 and 23. So while the Falcons worked hard to secure the #1 seed, they now face the red-hot Packers while the Bears get quite possibly the worst team ever to have made the playoffs.

Lastly, I am required by law to provide a prediction remix, wherein we find that I may or may not have analogized the Seahawks to an unhygienic, rather freakish girl who embarrasses herself in a beauty pageant by injuring herself after falling off the stage. I was just kidding, Seahawks! You took that seriously? Noooo, I was totally kidding. Toooootally kidding.

Prediction: The Seahawks are forced to rely on the pass while the Bears' balanced attack enables them to pull away. Bears by 13.

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