Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Seahawks-Bears divisional game at Soldier Field:
Big favorites: The Chicago Bears are 9.5-point favorites to beat the Seattle Seahawks and advance to play for the right to go to the Super Bowl. We discussed some of the reasons during the week, and that coverage is all available through the "Bears and Hawks" filter. In the big picture, observers see a Seahawks team that is now 8-9, including 2-6 away from Qwest Field, and has only one road playoff victory in franchise history. Overall, the Bears are 11-7 in the playoffs at home. Stranger things have happened, but there aren't many people predicting a Bears loss this weekend.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will be making his first postseason start Sunday against Seattle.
Many knowledge nuggets: The Bears are in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, but their veteran roster nevertheless provides a wealth of playoff experience. A total of 27 Bears players have appeared in 114 playoff games over their careers. That number includes 17 starters when you count punter Brad Maynard and place-kicker Robbie Gould. Quarterback Jay Cutler is the notable exception. As we noted this week, Cutler hasn't played in a postseason game since his senior year of high school. Regardless, this is a team that should handle the emotional rigors of a playoff atmosphere.
Dollars and sense: A victory Sunday should lock up a contract extension for coach Lovie Smith, if that hasn't already happened. It's hard to imagine a coach who takes his team to the NFC Championship Game not having at least a few years added to his deal when in Smith's situation. Otherwise, Smith would enter 2011 in the final year of his contract. To the surprise of everyone, Smith guided his team to a legitimate accomplishment this year as NFC North champions. A playoff victory should be all it takes for the McCaskey family to break open their bank.