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Thursday, December 11, 2008
Black and Blue all over: Pressure-cooker

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

If you're like me and random theme songs pop in your head, you're hearing Europe's "Final Countdown" as Thursday night's showdown between Chicago and New Orleans approaches. (It's very possible that I'm the only one this happens to, but we'll leave it at that).

(By the way, have you ever actually read the exact lyrics of this song? I just looked at them here. Not what I thought. Probably better served for an Odyssey convention or something. Anyways).

Yes, the Bears are in a must-win situation against a team that has the capacity to steamroll them but rarely plays well away from home. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes that we'll find out if the Bears are the "Big Tease" or the "Big Payoff."

Haugh:

Is this going to be the season known for its near-misses or far-flung playoff scenarios coming true? Is this a season in which veteran millionaires failed the Bears or one that hungry rookies saved for them? Will this be the season that peaked in Week 1 with the only real surprise victory of the year over the Colts? Or can the Bears muster enough mental toughness Thursday night to beat a deeper and more talented New Orleans team to keep the pressure on the NFC North-leading Vikings?

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times looks at one of the key players in Thursday night's game, Bears nickel back Danieal Manning. A conversation between Bears safeties coach Gil Byrd helped level Manning's play this season, Biggs writes.

The Bears might spend time obsessing over the Saints' passing game, but they would be remiss to ignore a running game that includes Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.

We'll have more on this game as the day continues and will check in periodically Thursday night. Now, let's continue our morning ride through the division: