NFL Championship picks: Bears and Steelers will advance to Super Bowl

January 19, 2011

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

The football gods have cooperated, and the stars have all aligned—it’s happened for only the second time in the history of the National Football League. The Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers will square off for the NFC Championship.

It’s Wednesday. We are now just about halfway through the week leading up to the biggest Bears vs. Packers game in more than 60 years. If you haven’t had enough of the smack talk yet, just hold on, it will only get more intense over the next few days, and I’m sure it’ll continue all the way up to kickoff time and throughout the entire game.

The Bears-Packers rivalry doesn’t really need any extra fuel on its already brightly-burning inferno. But that is precisely the case this week. The winner of this game earns the right to represent the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl and at the same time, and possibly more importantly in this area, they also earn bragging rights among all of the Chicago and Green Bay fans.

This will be the third time this season these two long-time rivals will face one another. They split the first two games. Chicago won in Green Bay, and then the Packers won in Chicago in the final game of the regular season.

That win propelled them into the playoffs as the wild card and started the speculation that the two teams could meet for the NFC Championship. The hype leading up to this game may only be equaled by the two weeks’ worth of hype that usually accompanies the actual Super Bowl. For football fans in this area, this IS the Super Bowl.

The Bears are fresh off a lopsided win over the Seahawks. Green Bay had to beat both the Eagles and the Falcons on the road to get to this game. When I look at this game absent my Bears fan bias, I know either team is capable of winning.

Both teams have talented quarterbacks and running backs. Both teams possess a bevy of receivers able to change the momentum of the game with one spectacular catch. When those offensive attributes are combined with the equally talented defenses on both teams, they are pretty evenly matched.

I’m predicting Chicago will win this crucial game. I’m basing that prediction on the one thing I think will tip the scales in favor of the Bears: special teams. I truly believe the Bears have the edge when it comes to their special teams. Devin Hester is unequaled anywhere in the league when it comes to punt and kickoff returns. His league-leading 17 yards-per-return average has been key to establishing great field position for the Bears this season.

Robbie Gould is more accurate than most when it comes to kicking field goals and extra points in the difficult weather conditions that are often present in Soldier Field in Chicago.

I think this will be a close game with the outcome possibly coming down to the final possession. I’m predicting a 24-21 Chicago win.

That should set up a meeting between the Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

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