Here is where we learn if, in the immortal words of Dennis Green, "the Bears are who we thought they were." Are they the championship team of destiny? Or are they mere pretenders, helped along by a series of flukes?
The Packers are a very good team. Many predicted they would be here. When last year ended, they got 12:1 odds to win Super Bowl XLV. The Bears could only muster 35:1 -- the same chance assigned to the Texans and Cardinals. Yet here they are, both teams one step away from the big game.
I'm afraid it's midnight for Cinderella. The Bears are going to lose Sunday.
All year long, the Bears benefited from a string of incredible flukes. From the first game, when Calvin Johnson landed in the end zone with the ball in his hands, to last week, when the Bears got to host a team with a losing record in a playoff game. All along the way, angels have been tilting the games to favor the Bears. It cannot continue forever.
No significant injuries all year. Facing dysfunctional team after dysfunctional team. Getting a bye week exactly in the middle of the season. No team is this lucky.
Let's break down Sunday's matchup.
QB: Aaron Rodgers is playing smart and accurate. He's not afraid to run. He doesn't have a track record of sending his fans over the railing in despair. Cutler had a nice year, but he's also made his share of boneheaded plays. Advantage: Packers
RB: The Packers lost their go-to back early in the year. Rookie James Starks appeared to be a godsend during the Eagles game, but he disappeared against Atlanta. Meanwhile, Matt Forte has been a reliable workhorse for the Bears. He rarely blows a game open, but he can carry a heavy load. Only question is whether Mike Martz will abandon the run or not. Advantage: Bears
WR/TE: The Packers receiving corps is stacked. Fast Greg Jennings, reliable Donald Driver, erratic but talented James Jones and Jordy Nelson round out the crew. For the Bears, there is no go-to receiver. Who do you throw to when the game is on the line? Knox? Olsen? Advantage: Packers
O Line: The Bears looked like mules on roller skates to begin the year. But things have solidified. Still, the Bears allowed 56 sacks this year. The Packers only allowed 38. Advantage: Packers
D Line: The Packers change personnel, depending on their opponent. The Bears have the incredible Julius Peppers causing headaches. It's tough to run against the Bears - they finished second in the league in that category. Advantage: Bears
Linebackers: It's youth versus experience here. The Packers ride with young stud Clay Matthews. The Bears rely on old heroes Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Ultimately, this is a strength for both teams. Advantage: Push
Secondary: The Packers have a swarming, ball-hawking crew back there, led by veteran Charles Woodson and young beast Tramon Williams. While the Packers finished the year with the 5th ranked pass defense, the Bears finished 20th. Advantage: Packers
Special Teams: Devin Hester. End of story. Advantage: Bears.
Surely, a team is more than the sum of its parts. There are other intangibles, like Lovie Smith's playoff experience and the Bears' home field advantage. And as previously mentioned, the Bears have had a bag of pixie dust in the huddle all year. It is possible the ball continues to bounce the Bears' way.
But I'm not buying it. I think this is the end of the road for the Bears. I hope I'm wrong. But it feels like this is the part of the "Scooby-Doo" episode where the cops pull the mask off the monster, only to learn it's Old Man Withers from down at the amusement park.
Also, I bet Rob Elgas $20 the Packers would win.
Final score: 34-20, Packers.