It's absolutely unbelievable how the football gods can shine upon a season, every now and again.
With a potential work stoppage looming in the very near future for the NFL, and players sitting at odds with owners about who should get more of the financial pie, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers still managed to deliver, and set themselves up for one of the most epic showdowns in football history.
Ninety years. One hundred and eighty-two matchups. The first NFC Championship Game between the Bears and the Packers.
It's time for Warren's Word.
Warren's Word: Consistency
In their first two meetings this season, the Bears and the Packers both looked like teams destined for nothing special.
Chicago managed to squeak out a victory in the first meeting, scraping by the Pack by a score of 20-17. In hindsight, the Packers offense was just a little bit better, but the Bears defense managed to secure the victory.
In the second meeting, Green Bay ended up on top, 10-3, but again, neither team inspired any kind of confidence for their postseason hopes. Chicago played as if they couldn't care less about the game, and they lacked motivation, with no chance left to attain the No. 1 playoff seed.
Who was been more pivotal to their team's success?
Enter the playoffs.
Jay Cutler looked a lot more like the quarterback that Chicago dreams he can be, throwing for 274 yards, two touchdowns and running for two more, making him only the second QB in league history to do so.
The Bears didn't show much of any rust despite their week off, as Matt Forte picked up 80 hard-earned rushing yards, the defense did just enough against a suddenly dangerous Matt Hasselbeck, and Chicago punched its ticket into the NFC Championship Game.
Green Bay has worked its green and gold behind off to get where it is, and has done it in convincing fashion: a narrow victory over the dangerous Eagles, and then an absolute beating of the No. 1-seeded Falcons, who fell a couple games short of their expectations.
Aaron Rodgers has looked like an absolute world-beater (and that is really saying something,) throwing for six touchdowns, no interceptions and 546 yards. If he keeps up that pace, he could end up heading into the Super Bowl with nine touchdowns, no interceptions and almost 800 yards.
If he can beat the Bears to get there.
One thing that any common fan of either team can admit is that in both regular season games this year, their teams played like they wanted nothing to do with the postseason. Now that they're in it, Chicago and Green Bay are playing with fire in their eyes, and both are playing well enough to deserve a spot in the big game.
Unfortunately, only one team can make it to the Super Bowl, and it comes down to consistency.
These teams each managed to play down to the other's level in their first two meetings. Now, each has to continue to play up to the level that they've established.
Keys to the Game
Chicago will need to keep the ball on the ground to win. The tried and true method worked again for the Bears on Sunday, as Matt Forte ran the ball 25 times. In each of the Bears wins this year, Chicago ran the ball at least 20 times, and if the numbers don't lie, it'll spell offensive success and consistency.
Jay Cutler, as good as he was on Sunday, will have to fix one thing. In the red zone, he once again tried to force a pass that he had no business throwing, and was left with plenty of time left to find another option. That one throw could cost the Bears the game.
Green Bay needs to establish their passing game early, so they can wear out the Chicago defense as quick as possible. Aaron Rodgers knows how to beat a Cover 2 defense, and taking the ball out of his hands would be a big mistake for the Packers.
One big concern for Green Bay is that their running game is still only starting to come around. Aaron Rodgers might be good, but if the Packers running game can't find a way to get established as well, it may cause Green Bay to become one-dimensional, which is just what the Bears want.
Can Green Bay stay on fire, keep up their deadly attack and stifle the Bears? Can Chicago keep its offense clicking, put a stop to Aaron Rodgers and overcome a strong Packers defense?
It all comes down to consistency, for both teams. Whichever team can keep up their winning ways from the previous game will be hoisting the George Halas Trophy, this coming Sunday.
The Packers have looked amazing this postseason, but the fire has to die sooner or later. That will happen in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, when Green Bay falls just short of the Super Bowl, losing to Chicago by a close score of 31-28.
Verdict aside, football fans, get ready for one of the best football games you've ever seen, and a true piece of NFL history.