By Shawn Muller–
I am not sure what is going to be worse this week as we prepare for the showdown in the NFC Championship game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers: the anticipation that, at times, will be too much to bear (no pun intended). Or having to hear about how great the Packers are all of a sudden.
Seventy years have passed since fans of these two heated rivals have seen their teams meet in the playoffs, but I am not to sure that this week won’t feel just as long. With all the build up and hype surrounding the game, kickoff can’t come soon enough for anyone that is emotionally invested to either team.
For Chicago, however, a win on Sunday will prove to be another feather in their caps, during a season in which they have needed to prove that they belong week after week.
When training camp began before the 2010 season officially got underway, no one thought the Bears would pose much of a threat in the NFC North. Unless you are one of those absolute fanatics—the type that believes the Bears will be good every year– everyone, including myself, thought the NFC North Division would be a two horse race between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. And why wouldn’t we? Last season, the Vikings were a couple a Brett Favre mistakes away from the Super Bowl and the Packers returned basically the same team that made the playoffs as well.
Apparently, the Chicago Bears never got the memo.
There is just something special about this year’s Bears team. It is almost like they are a team of destiny. The team started the season 3-0, with impressive wins over the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. After dropping three of their next four games, the Bears sat at 4-3 overall, and many people thought that Chicago was finally coming back down to reality. After all, the Bears weren’t supposed to be any good, remember? No, the fast start was a nice little story, but the “real” Chicago was about to show itself at any moment.
That moment never came.
The Bears responded to their critics by ripping off five straight wins for the first time since the Super Bowl season of 2006. The only explanation anyone had for the Bears winning five straight was because the teams they had beaten during the streak—outside of the Philadelphia Eagles anyway—were, for a lack of a better word, weak. Here was Chicago, sitting atop the NFC North Division with a 9-3 record, and still, nobody wanted to give them any credit or acknowledge that, perhaps, they might actually be a good football team. No, the next four games against the Patriots, Vikings, Jets, and Packers, would tell us if these Chicago Bears were for real or not.
The team went 2-2 in those four games, and in the process, went ahead and stuck it to their detractors by clinching the NFC North Title.
Now they were for real, right?
No. We were all wrong.
This was the 2010 Chicago Bears, remember?
They don’t get off that easily.
How else do you explain why, after winning the NFC North already and dominating the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional round yesterday, that the Chicago Bears opened up as a three point underdog—at home in Soldier Field—against the arch-nemesis Green Bay Packers?
No respect, that’s why? It is the story of the Bears’ lives this season.
Yes, I know that Green Bay was impressive at Lincoln Financial Stadium in the Wild Card Round, during their 21-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, and again, in the NFC Divisional round on Saturday when they thumped the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons 48-21 in the Georgia Dome. After winning two tough playoff games–on the road nonetheless–it is easy to see why many people around the country are on the Green Bay bandwagon. But to say that Chicago isn’t viewed as the favorite against the Packers is ridiculous at best.
I have a feeling though, that Lovie Smith and company, wouldn’t have it any other way. This team has thrived on the negativity all season long and there is no reason to believe this won’t be the case on Sunday.
They love being viewed as the underdog.
They thrive on the negativity.
They thrive on all the doubters.
Regardless of the outcome of the game on Sunday, the Chicago Bears have shown that they are one of the best teams in the NFL this season. Beating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday–to clinch a birth in their second Super Bowl in the last five years–would just be icing on the cake.
It has worked well up to this point in the season, so there is no reason to change now, is there?
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.