After Seattle’s stunning win over the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round, the Seahawks now travel to Chicago for the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Seahawks look to ride their winning streak all the way to the Super Bowl, but will have to go through two more tough NFC teams.
The Chicago Bears earned the No. 2 seed in this year’s playoffs by going 11-5 and winning the NFC North. The Bears shocked many people by doing so well this season after a dismal 2009 campaign.
Chicago has one of the best defenses in the league to go along with the best special teams. Their offense must stay consistent for them to have a shot.
Seattle won the matchup between the two teams on October 17th in Chicago. The Bears were 4-1 at the time, and predicted by many to win the game. But Seattle used a balanced offensive attack to shock the Bears at Soldier Field. Seattle’s defense put Chicago out of rhythm by pressuring Jay Cutler and forcing him to throw the ball 39 times.
Sunday’s game will be a big test for both teams. Chicago can’t overlook the Seahawks, even with their 7-9 record.
Hasselbeck might just be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league. While his stats aren’t the best in the league, he’s a smart quarterback that always seems to exploit weaknesses in the defense.
Hasselbeck has playoff experience and knows what it takes to win.
In Seattle’s first meeting with the Bears, Hasselbeck managed the game well and didn’t make the mistakes to cost his team. His favorite target was rejuvenated wide receiver Mike Williams, as the two connected for 10 completions and 120 yards. On the day, Hasselbeck threw for 242 yards and a touchdown.
If the Bears want to win this game, pressure on Hasselbeck will be key. The Bears front four can’t let Hasselbeck sit there and pick them apart.
Forte has been one of the most productive running backs in the NFL this season. Not only is he a threat in the ground game, but Forte can beat you in the receiving game as well. He finished with 1,069 yards on the ground to go along with his 547 receiving yards this season.
A valuable check-down option for Cutler at times, Forte can haul in the deep throws as well. Whenever you have a running back that can run routes as well as Forte, you are bound for success.
Forte was held in check in the two teams’ meeting this season. He only had eight rushing attempts for 11 yards, and that includes a six-yard touchdown run.
The Bears will need to utilize Forte to their full advantage, and keep Seattle”s defense off balance.
Mike Williams has seen a revamped career since joining the Seahawks this season.
After failing in Detroit, Oakland and Tennessee, Williams has been key for the Seahawks. The game against the Bears really marked his start on the comeback trail this season.
In that game, Williams caught 10 passes for 120 yards against a pretty good Bears defense. He was giving the Bears fits all game long and made several key receptions.
This one is pretty much obvious. Devin Hester is a game changer any time he steps onto the field.
If opposing teams kick to him, he’s always a threat to return it all the way. If not, it sets up the Bears with great field position.
In 2010, Hester tied and broke Brian Mitchell’s record for most combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns of all time. The Bears special teams with Hester will be key.
If they can set up Jay Cutler and the offense with good field position, it will be a huge advantage for Chicago.
Lynch has been an excellent pickup for the Seahawks all season long and gives them a solid ground attack. Last week he had one of the best runs in NFL postseason history to seal the deal for the Seahawks.
Going against the Bears’ third-ranked rushing defense will be a test for Lynch and the Seattle run game, and Justin Forsett will spell Lynch to try and provide that one-two punch.
I don’t expect Lynch to run all over the Bears, which he didn’t do earlier in the season, but he should be productive enough to keep Seattle in the game.
Julius Peppers the offseason’s prized free-agent, has played up to expectations.
The Bears will now rely on Peppers to lead their pass rush Sunday and force Matt Hasselbeck into bad decisions. Peppers has been solid for the Bears all season long, so playing that way again will be key for a deep playoff run by the Bears.
With playoff experience, I expect Peppers to have a huge game. Against the Seahawks earlier in the year, Peppers was non-existent. But judging by Peppers’ tone to the media today, he’s ready to play Sunday.
Hawthorne has been one of the unsung heroes for the Seahawks this season.
He’s had a solid and productive year with 74 tackles and an interception. He didn’t play in the game between the two teams earlier in the year, so the Bears are unfamiliar to him.
If Hawthorne can provide pressure on blitz packages, the Seahawks can be successful. His coverage skills are a little above average, so look for him to make plays there as well.
Urlacher is having a phenomenal year for the Bears this season, and with playoff experience already under his belt, I expect Urlacher to play big Sunday. Urlacher has 97 tackles on the season, but more importantly he’s the anchor to the Bears defense.
If Urlacher doesn’t play well, the Bears are in trouble.
He’s the biggest key to a Bears defense making a run to the Super Bowl. Urlacher will be assigned to cover Jon Carlson and Marshawn Lynch at times. As a very good cover linebacker, Urlacher takes a part away from the Seahawks in the passing game.
Urlacher’s presence on blitz calls will be key, too. If he can get pressure on Hasselbeck, it could lead to big things for the Bears defense.
Leon Washington is a presence felt on special teams for the Seattle Seahawks. With the ability to take it the distanceevery time, the Bears will need to be great on kickoff coverage. Washington can be a gamebreaker, as he already has three returns for touchdowns on the season.
Washington is explosive and fast. If Washington gets into the open field it will be tough to catch him. The Bears did a great job of limiting Washington’s returns in their first meeting. They will need to do the same on Sunday.
Williams will be a key factor in protecting Jay Cutler on Sunday, which is the key for Bears success.
If the Seahawks can rough up Cutler, they will have a good shot to win this game. Williams was moved to left guard this season to help solidify a struggling offensive line.
So far, the move has worked out well for the Bears. After the October 17th game, Williams has made strides in becoming a valuable player. Early in his three year career, Williams showed signs of being a bust.
Williams will have to win the battle against the Seahawks front four—not an easy task, but one that is crucial for the Bears.