NFC North: Screech

Wow. If nothing else, this week's "Have at It" produced a preview of the, er, heightened tensions we could face in two weeks if the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears meet in the NFC Championship Game. We started by discussing options for the Bears' divisional playoff matchup, but 650-plus comments later, you were cyber-bashing each other over the heads with 2-by-4s.

Based on this weekend's results, the Bears will host either the Philadelphia Eagles, the New Orleans Saints or the Seattle Seahawks. Erhancoc quipped: "This is like asking if I'd rather fight Brian Urlacher, Ray Lewis, or Dustin Diamond."

(Be careful, erhancoc. Didn't you see Screech beat the living daylights out of Horshack in Celebrity Boxing a few years ago?)

Anyhoo....

I was surprised at how many of you preferred a matchup with the Saints. (Maybe you were just sabotaging Packers fans in disguise. I don't know.) It's true that the Saints have lost their past three games at Soldier Field, having last won there in 2000, but they still are the defending Super Bowl champion and finished this season with seven victories in their final nine games.

But MIBearfan1 was among many who suggested that Soldier Field's grass playing surface -- the "cow pasture," as TDBuddah put it -- would neutralize the Saints' speed-based team.

"They are a dome team," wrote MIBearfan1. "And they don't do well outside in December."

Wrote kevin_gilmartin: "The Sean Payton Saints have never won at Soldier Field and it would be great to have a reminder of the 2006 season, when the Bears beat the Saints in the NFC championship game."

Most of you presumed the 7-9 Seahawks have no realistic chance of beating the Saints, even though the game will be played at Qwest Field. (Interestingly, the Saints are 6-2 on the road this season.)

The Seahawks would be "obviously the best match-up" for the Bears, wrote xpaul12001, one of many who doubt the Seahawks could win at Soldier Field for the second time this year. "I doubt the Seahawks advance," wrote natesweet72. "Not really much point in hoping for them."

Tearloch wasn't so sure: "I think the SeaChickens may actually give NO a run this weekend. The west coast games are always tough for east coast teams. Qwest is a pretty loud stadium, and the SeaChickens may get overlooked."

That brings us to the Eagles, whom the Bears defeated 31-26 in Week 12. NuttBoxer watched the Eagles' sputtering finish to the regular season and wrote: "I became Philly's biggest fan when they lost to the Vikings, and that will continue. I'd MUCH rather take our chances with Andy Reid and the Eagles than face the defending SB champs."

(As an aside, I'm always amused by discussions about Reid and his teams' playoff performances. Since 1999, the Eagles are 10-7 in the playoffs.)

The Eagles would have to defeat the Packers to play next week at Soldier Field, a formula that was good enough for tmonson78: "Bring on the Eagles."

Vikes_Mike suggested that the Bears' long-term interests are best served by the Eagles eliminating the Packers: "If I'm a Bears fan, I really don't want to face the Packers in the playoffs if I can help it. (I'm sure many Bears fans would disagree, but few teams are going to be built for the cold of Soldier Field like the Packers, and they've already seen you twice this season, so they will have a very good idea of your capabilities.)"

My take? I have a strange feeling about that Seahawks-Saints game. I'm no expert on the situation in Seattle, but my NFC West colleague Mike Sando is. And if you've read his blog this week, you saw more than a few indications the stars are aligning for an upset.

Still, I see the core of this argument revolving around the Packers-Eagles game.

Do the Bears have a better chance to get to the Super Bowl with this path: Eagles-Falcons/Saints/Seahawks?

Or Seahawks/Saints-Packers/Falcons?

That's a tough one.

The Eagles didn't finish particularly strong, but a win over the Packers would suggest they are back on track. So if I'm the Bears, I prefer to see the Eagles eliminated and take my chances against either the Seahawks or a Saints team that wouldn't have proved much by winning in Seattle. (Like how I have it both ways there?)

I would know full well that the Packers are capable of winning in Atlanta -- they nearly did so in the regular season -- but would more than welcome the tradeoff of playing them in the NFC Championship Game if it meant staying at Soldier Field another week. And if the Packers beat the Eagles and then lose to the Falcons, sending the title game to the Georgia Dome? I think the Bears have a better chance of beating the Seahawks or Saints than a presumably rejuvenated Eagles team. It won't matter who or where they might play the NFC Championship Game if they don't get out of the division round. Thanks for playing this week.

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