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Pre-Gamer: Patriots vs. Bears

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A winter storm warning is in effect Sunday as Chicagoland braces for blizzard-like conditions.

    The 10-2 New England Patriots come into blizzard like conditions at Soldier Field today to face the 9-3 Bears.

    The Pats are three-point favorites in a game that has huge implications for both teams' potential playoff run. What do you need to know for this game?
     
    The Windy City: The biggest factor in this game will not be Tom Brady's throwing arm, Bill Belichick's scheming or Devin Hester's ability to return a kick. It will be the weather. With the triple threat of heavy snow, high winds and low temperatures, the team who survives Bear weather better will have the edge.

    Take that ball away: The Patriots don't give up the ball very often. They only have nine turnovers this season, while the Bears are among the league's best at forcing fumbles and interceptions. If the Bears D can create opportunities to score, the offense has to take advantage.

    Second to none: The Bears secondary will be tested by the Patriots corp of receivers, and let's face it, the Bears secondary is hit or miss. They can be the team who picked off Michael Vick for the first time in years, or they can be the team who let the Lions third-string quarterback get a 102.4 QB rating. D.J. Moore, Peanut Tillman, Chris Harris, Danieal Manning and the rest of the secondary will need to be on point for the Bears to have a chance.

    The offensive line's time: The running game becomes more important on bad weather days, so the spotlight will be on Matt Forte and his blockers. The O-line has improved as the season has worn on, but Forte will be fighting the weather, bad field conditions and the Patriots. The more the holes his line can open up the better.

    Here's the kicker: The bad weather could mean that the game will come down to special teams. Robbie Gould is not just an accurate kicker, he also understands the weather at Soldier Field like few others. The Patriots, on the other hand, have a back-up kicker in Shayne Graham who has only kicked five field goals this season.

    Record watch: Devin Hester remains on the brink of history. If he busts out a return touchdown today, he will be the NFL's all-time return TD king.

    History lesson: The Patriots lead the all-time series 3-7, but never forget that the Bears hold one important victory over the Patriots: Super Bowl XX.