NFL Conference Championships: Are the Chicago Bears Really the Outsiders?
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Take a casual stroll through the murky backwaters of the betting exchanges and you'll discover one surprising fact about this weekend's Conference Championships.
Just about everyone—and I mean just about everyone—now make the Chicago Bears the outsiders for the Super Bowl this year.
That's right. The No. 2 team in the NFC, the side that is facing the No. 6 team, is expected to lose on Sunday, and if not this Sunday, then on February 6th instead.
When was the last time a side who finished the regular season ranked so highly was left so far out of the betting?
You could argue that so far, as this game is concerned, the salient factor is not that they are a bad side, but that they are playing the Packers, a side who didn't just beat the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, they destroyed them.
This, though, is to ignore two important facts. The first is that comparing the Bears defense to the Falcons' is like comparing Vince Lombardi to Charlie Brown. In two meetings already this season, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for two touchdowns. He simply isn't going to get the time and space that the Falcons gave him.
In the second of those games, which the Packers won 10-3 to secure their playoff place, they were up against a Bears side already assured of the No. 2 seeding and playing with nothing like the intensity that they showed against Seattle last weekend. Despite this, the Green Bay tackles (and especially rookie right tackle Brian Bulaga) were still minced by the Chicago D.
Just imagine what Julius Peppers, Tommie Harris, Israel Idonije and the much underrated Henry Melton could do when they are really trying?
Second, saying that the win over Atlanta makes Green Bay automatic favourites ignores both Atlanta having a quarterback who has never won a postseason game and the fact that Chicago easily beat the Seattle side who beat the reigning Super Bowl champs on Wild Card Weekend.
Again, it just isn't a sensible comparison to try and make.
Come the weekend, expect Green Bay to have a very much rougher time of things indeed. Chicago will be playing at Soldier Field (although this is, admittedly, less of an advantage against another 'cold weather' side) against a team with limited receiving options and who only installed a running game a fortnight ago.
Yes, they may be the first team ever to reach a conference championship without an offensive line, but at the same time they have managed to win 75 percent of their games this season despite not having one, so this only becomes an issue if Jay Cutler takes one too many tumbles onto Illinois turf.
The Bears are the outsiders for the Superbowl? They shouldn't even be the outsiders for Sunday.
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