The item last week examining the Seattle Seahawks' chances against New Orleans generated quite a discussion. Let's count the factors that could help them defeat the Chicago Bears for Seattle's second playoff upset in as many weeks:
Seattle is now playoff tested. The Seahawks needed to beat St. Louis in Week 17 for a shot at the playoffs. That was a regular-season game in name only. Seattle has basically played two playoff games, all while the Bears were idle. Were the Bears reliable enough during the regular season to show up in playoff mode after losing in Week 17 and taking the next week off?
The Seahawks have a hot QB. Matt Hasselbeck tends to be at his best attacking defenses he knows inside and out, particularly when those defenses play the same way consistently. Why should the Bears change up what they do defensively? They've been strong on that side of the ball all season. Yet, if they do what Hasselbeck thinks they are going to do, they had better do it extremely well. Otherwise, Hasselbeck could get hot. Make that stay hot.
The underdog factor. The Seahawks are double-digit underdogs for the second week in a row. Coach Pete Carroll doesn't like to use outside factors for motivation, so he isn't emphasizing the point spread. Then again, he doesn't have to emphasize it. His players already know. The Bears' players know.
Care-free Carroll. The Seahawks are loose. Few expected them to be in this position. Carroll is loose, anyway. It's tough to envision the Bears feeling this loose going into a game they must win against an opponent with a losing record.
The Martz/Cutler factor. These two haven't been the most consistent performers over the course of their careers. Martz hasn't won a playoff game since his days coaching the St. Louis Rams. Cutler, up and down to this point in his career, is making his postseason debut. Even die-hard Bears fans must be a little nervous about what might happen under pressure. Martz seemed to make no in-game adjustments when Seattle kept sacking Cutler in Week 6.
This is a new Seattle team. The Bears were better than Seattle over the course of the regular season. The Seahawks might have something special going at the moment, however. That is hard to describe and impossible to quantify. Marshawn Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run against the Saints punctuated an experience that can bring a team together. It's an upset if Seattle plays poorly this week.
The offensive line is better. The Seattle running game has improved over the last two games. Center Chris Spencer is playing better. Right guard Mike Gibson, also new to the lineup since these teams played in Week 6, has made a few key blocks. Tyler Polumbus has provided fresher and healthier legs at left guard, where Chester Pitts had been gutting it out on a bum ankle and surgically repaired knee.
The confidence factor. The Seahawks have already won at Soldier Field this season. They return knowing they can win there.
OK, what have I left off the list? If and when we're analyzing another Seahawks upset Monday, what will the storyline likely be?
Note: The planets apparently were not aligning for this blog entry. It disappeared from the blog this afternoon, but has been restored. I'm pretty sure this was user error on my part. Once I hit "schedule" on the Final Word item I was preparing for 4 p.m. ET, this item vanished. I was able to find the html for this item in a series of "drafts" that had been saved in relation to the Final Word item. My bad, in other words.