Dreaming of a Packers-Bears showdown
January, 11, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesAn NFC North showdown for the right to advance to Super Bowl XLV? It will happen if the Bears and Packers take care of business this weekend.If you're a Minnesota Vikings fan, now might be a good time to turn away.
If you follow the Detroit Lions, you might want to gather amongst yourselves.
I can't stop thinking about it.
And judging from your mailbag comments, Twitter missives and Facebook offerings, neither can you.
If all goes well, Soldier Field will the epicenter of all humanity on Jan. 23.
Green Bay Packers.
The oldest rivalry in the NFL would shift to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in history.
Winner goes to Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas.
"Would be epic!" tweeted @Dluebke316.
"They gonna have to shut down wisconsin/illinois border for that," added @lucasjayz.
I realize there is a certain order to things, especially in the routine of an NFL week. By NFL convention, we should be focusing on the Packers' admittedly difficult divisional playoff game at the Atlanta Falcons. And we shouldn't look past the Bears' matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, no matter what the Seahawks' regular-season record was. (Trust me, we'll hit both games often this week.)
But history tells us these opportunities don't come along very often. Do you realize that in the 89-year history of the rivalry, the Bears and Packers have played exactly one playoff game against each other? In fact, as the chart at the bottom of this post illustrates, there have been only four occasions when both teams have made the playoffs in the same season.
Even that one head-to-head matchup was played only because the Packers and Bears finished tied atop the Western Division in (yes) 1941. They had split their regular-season games, each accounting for the other's only loss that season, and thus were scheduled for a one-game playoff to determine who advanced to the NFL Championship Game.
The teams got together at Wrigley Field on Dec. 14, 1941. It was 16 degrees at kickoff, according to the Packers' media guide. The Packers grabbed an early lead on Clarke Hinkle's 1-yard touchdown run, but the Bears went on to score 24 points in the second quarter on the way to a 33-14 victory. If you had Norm Standlee on your fantasy team, you were in good shape; he scored two of the Bears' four touchdowns.
AP Photo/NFL PhotosThe last time Green Bay and Chicago met in the playoffs, Clarke Hinkle and the Packers lost to the Bears 33-14 in the 1941 Western Division Championship Game.
In the 70 years that have followed, including 40 that have included some version of a wild-card playoff position, the Packers and Bears have been the proverbial ships passing in the night.
So we haven't had many opportunities for this kind of excitement. But what makes this year's scenario so appealing is that it seems so, well, likely.
The Bears are 9.5-point favorites against a Seahawks team that finished 7-9 during the regular season and 2-6 on the road. It's true that one of those two road victories came at Soldier Field, but I think we can all agree that the Bears have moved to a much different place since that game.
And as my NFC West colleague Mike Sando pointed out, history isn't on the Seahawks' side. They have won only one road playoff game in their history, a 27-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins in 1983. Sando also noted the Seahawks are 7-24 over the past eight years in non-division road games that start at 1 p.m. ET. (Those West Coast boys don't like waking up early, apparently.)
You can throw many statistics out the window when it comes to the playoffs, but those figures are long-term trends that have spanned generations of Seahawks teams.
As for the Packers, you'll recall they matched up well against the Falcons in Week 12 and lost only when Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining. A missed fourth-down call, an Aaron Rodgers fumble on the goal line and a key penalty on a late kickoff return were really all that separated the two teams.
"We felt like we left some football out there on the field," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. "This time that won't happen."
The Packers are by no means a lock to beat the Falcons in the rematch, but they sure seem to have a better chance than most No. 6 seeds would when traveling to play a No. 1 seed. The oddsmakers tend to agree, and as of now the Falcons are favored by only one point on their home field.
This kind of thinking is spreading in both Green Bay and Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, fans are already selling their tickets for Sunday's game against the Seahawks to put themselves in financial position to buy a ticket for the championship game and a presumed showdown with the Packers.
Who wouldn't want to be at the epicenter of humanity?
Don't blame me for looking ahead.
Players and coaches are the ones who must stay focused on the task at hand, blah, blah, blah.
We're the ones who get to dream.
So let's do this thing.