(WSCR) – The Chicago Bears had a shot at the top-seed in the NFC going into the last week of the season, but the Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers and will enter the playoffs as the conference’s favorite.

As good as they have been, should the Falcons make the Bears tremble? Not quite.

“We better be confident about it,” Tony Gonzalez said of the team’s challenge heading into the playoffs as the top-seed, “but we know it’s going to take a lot of hard work and we’re going to have to face some good teams that are going to try and get at us. I think if we can play like we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team.”

And any team can beat them, including the second-seeded Bears, a club that hasn’t gotten the attention its turnaround season deserves. Lovie Smith has done a masterful coaching job, with the defense, sparked by the return to health of Brian Urlacher, capable of shutting down just about anybody. The offense, particularly with running back Matt Forte breaking out in the second half of the schedule, can be efficient. Special teams, led by returner Devin Hester, are, well, special.

Chicago also is error-prone, especially when Jay Cutler is pressured. Nearly every potential NFC opponent is capable of doing so to the quarterback.

While the Bears had better focus on taking care of their second-round opponent, unlike the AFC, the NFC doesn’t have a run-away favorite like the New England Patriots.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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