The rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears has been around for nearly a century, but this Sunday, the stakes are a whole lot larger.
The two teams have met in the postseason just once before, a 33-14 Chicago win back on December 14, 1941. Never have the Packers and Bears matched up in the NFC Championship Game.
This weekend's battle at Soldier Field will determine which NFC North club will represent the conference in North Texas this February at Super Bowl XLV: the No. 6-seeded Green Bay Packers or the No. 2-seeded Chicago Bears.
No disrespect to the Bears, but this guy likes Green Bay to defeat Chicago on Sunday in the 182nd meeting between the bitter rivals. Here are 10 reasons why that might just happen.
Ever since Week 16, the Green Bay Packers have been playing "must win" football. Green Bay finished the regular season with home wins over the New York Giants and, you guessed it, the Chicago Bears just to make the playoffs as the sixth and final seed in the NFC.
By the time the Packers' Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles had arrived, they already had two "playoff" games under their belts.
Green Bay would go on to beat Philadelphia and Atlanta in consecutive weeks, running its winning streak to four games and earning a spot in the NFC Championship Game.
During the Packers' current streak they have outscored their opponents 124-57, including 28- and 27-point victories over the Giants and Falcons, respectively. The Bears are coming off a big win of their own at home in the Divisional Round; however, it doesn't come close to what the Packers have done for the past month.
In the Packers' Week 3 loss at Chicago's Soldier Field on Monday night, Green Bay managed to get penalized 18 times for a total of 152 yards. Green Bay only saw four yellow flags thrown its way in a Week 17 win over the Bears at Lambeau Field.
One would likely expect an effort closer to that of Green Bay's Week 17 performance regarding penalty flags as opposed to the Week 3 debacle on Monday night.
It may not seem like that big of a deal, but those who watched the Week 3 matchup saw the Packers beat themselves time and time again with personal foul penalties that extended Chicago drives and false start penalties that killed Green Bay's.
Aaron Rodgers is just 2-1 in his short postseason career. However, his performances in those three games have never been done before and likely will never be duplicated.
Rodgers has a ridiculous 134.5 quarterback rating this 2010 postseason, as well as six touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 77.8 completion percentage in just two games.
If Green Bay's throttling of Atlanta this past weekend taught the average NFL fan anything, it's that Rodgers has a plethora of talent to throw the ball to.
If it isn't veteran Donald Driver or Rodgers' No. 1 guy Greg Jennings catching a pass, it could be any one of Green Bay's gifted wideouts. Names like James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Andrew Quarless have been made famous via the Packers' exceptional offensive execution.
Superstar tight end Jermichael Finley was lost for the season back in Week 5; otherwise the Packers would be bringing a gun to a knife fight this Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
Green Bay is slowly earning the title of "NFC road warriors."
The Packers managed just three road wins all of the 2010 regular season. However, Green Bay is 2-0 on the road this postseason—first beating MVP candidate Michael Vick and the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and then disposing of the No. 1 overall seed Falcons in the Georgia Dome, where Atlanta was 7-1 in 2010.
The Packers certainly have confidence that they can win anywhere after the past two weeks and will most likely have no trouble making themselves right at home at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Green Bay's James Starks has been a huge lift to a team predicated on the pass. Starks is this postseason's leading rusher with 189 yards in two games.
Though Starks doesn't have any explosive touchdown runs under his belt, his steady 3.9 yards per carry on 48 playoff carries has brought much-needed balance to the Packers offense.
Starks also has eight first-down runs this postseason. Though this statistic is often overlooked, Green Bay's rushing success has taken an incredible amount of pressure off Aaron Rodgers on third down. Not only is the run threat present, but Rodgers and the receivers are facing much more positive situations (3rd-and-5 rather than 3rd-and-10).
If there is one chink in the armor of Chicago's vaunted defense, it's how it defends the pass.
The Bears ranked just 20th in the NFL this season, allowing over 224 yards through the air on average. If the Green Bay Packers are strong in any particular area at the moment, it would be passing offense. I think you see what I'm getting at.
The Bears have shut down the Packers' aerial assault before. As a matter of fact, in both meetings this season, Rodgers struggled to get in a groove with his receivers. However, it would seem as if the Bears are facing Rodgers at the worst possible time. Not only is he the leading passer in the playoffs, but he has also played virtually flawlessly in the Packers' last four games.
Chicago's defense will be tough, but look for Rodgers to pick his spots as the game goes on, especially in the slot, where he can pick on linebackers mismatched with guys like Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson.
The Green Bay Packers have one of the league's fastest and most opportunistic defenses. Led by veteran Charles Woodson at corner, the Packers have shut down the opposition's passing attack in 2010.
Linebacker Clay Matthews' brilliant rush off the edge has been the primary concern of guys like Michael Vick and Matt Ryan. Matthews has three sacks this postseason already.
Green Bay's pass defense ranks fifth in the league, allowing just 194 passing yards per contest. They have allowed just 420 yards through the air this entire postseason, just 16 yards more per game than their regular season average.
The Packers' run defense was middle of the pack this season, ranking 18th, allowing nearly 115 yards per game on the ground. This postseason, however, has been a different story. Green Bay has allowed just 126 rushing yards total in two playoff games, holding its opponents to just 63 yards on the ground per 60 minutes and shutting down names like Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and Michael Turner.
Not to mention Chicago's Matt Forte only managed 80 yards on 25 carries against Seattle last weekend.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is undefeated in the playoffs. He has played just one game. But in that game Cutler was phenomenal, throwing for 274 yards and two touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 111.3.
Take that performance with a grain of salt, though. It was the 8-9 Seattle Seahawks, and his team was leading 21-0 at halftime in large part due to Seattle's offensive struggles.
This Sunday's opponent hasn't exactly been torn apart by Cutler, either.
In two meetings with the Packers this season, Cutler has thrown just one touchdown compared to three interceptions. His average passer rating against Green Bay was just 63.0. That's certainly not the Jay Cutler we saw in Chicago's Divisional Round win over Seattle this past weekend.
There is no question that Cutler will play better than in past battles with Green Bay, but it's not realistic to expect another flawless performance from Cutler, either.
It seems as if Sunday's NFC Championship Game will be a close matchup decided in the game's final moments. However, there is always a possibility of a blowout, and in such case one would have to favor the Green Bay Packers.
After routing the conference's No. 1 overall seed on the road, anything seems possible for the Packers. Also, the Bears lack the weapons and offensive consistency to blow out a team like Green Bay.
Sure, Devin Hester is the most dangerous return man in NFL history, but there are only so many special teams opportunities over the course of a game.
The bottom line is Chicago's offense strikes fear into no one. Its best playmaker is arguably tight end Greg Olsen, and its No. 1 receiver, Devin Hester, isn't a natural wideout (though his play would have you believe otherwise).
The Bears rank a lowly 28th in the league in passing offense, racking up a tad over 188 passing yards per game. Even on the ground the Bears have struggled this season. Chicago ranked just 22nd in 2010 in rushing offense with only 101 rushing yards per contest. That's right—Chicago averages less than 300 yards per game on offense, thus placing an unfair amount of pressure on its defense.
The Bears offense will determine whether or not this is a Packers blowout victory on Sunday or a close game.
The Green Bay Packers have never trailed by more than a touchdown this season and postseason. Green Bay lost six games during the regular season. All six were decided by four points or less, four were decided by three points and two were decided by a field goal in overtime.
The Packers' last loss was in Week 15, when they fell to the New England Patriots on the road without starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In that game, which the Packers led for most of the time, Green Bay scored 27 points with backup quarterback Matt Flynn filling in admirably for Rodgers. Since this game, Green Bay is 4-0.
Even against the Atlanta Falcons last weekend, the Packers rallied. After giving up the game's first touchdown, Green Bay tied the game with a long TD drive. Then after an Atlanta kick return touchdown that stole back momentum and gave the Falcons their second seven-point lead of the game, Green Bay drove the length of the field for a game-tying touchdown.
Green Bay's team consistency and tough-minded spirit have kept them in every game this season regardless of who and where they are playing. Count on the Packers to continue this tradition with an excellent effort on Sunday.
Patrick Clarke is a student at Towson University and a writing intern for Bleacher Report.