As soon as the New England Patriots dismantled the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, the stampede to declare New England the inevitable victor this Sunday against the Bears began. It's understandable; the Pats are 10-2, and they sure do look shiny in the bright lights of national television.
But the Bears are a pretty fair team themselves, and the proud owners of first place in the NFC North. Only the Pats and the Atlanta Falcons have better records. And the Bears have a weapon that no other team in professional football can boast; Soldier Field's turf.
That's right, the slippery, slipshod sod of Soldier Field, is Chicago's very own '12th Man'. And just like Seattle's crowd noise, it has to be experienced to be understood. So even though Patriot's coach Bill Belichick may be the best prepared man in NFL history, there's not much he can do to keep his players on their feet Sunday.
The Eagles' Michael Vick had a long interception-free streak, coming into his game in Chicago, just like Tom Brady. What do you bet that one of Tom's receivers slip this Sunday, and the Bear covering him does not?
The Chicago Park District spent a couple of days putting fresh sod down over the hard, frozen, late November/early December ground in Soldier Field. Veteran Bears fans know what this means: divots, chunks of earth stuck to helmets and cleats and uncertain footing that gets even worse later in games.
The Patriots are tough to beat, no one can question that. They are a team that executes brilliantly. Everyone seems to know their assignment, and rarely miscues. The best recipe for beating a squad that efficient is to take away their comfort zone, introduce an element of uncertainty.
Soldier Field's turf is ground zero for uncertainty. And the Chicago Bears defense, is easily one of the most disruptive groups in football. Sunday will not be a glamorous affair. Uniforms will get dirty, chunks of earth will need to be picked from facemasks.
It's going to be the kind of game the Bears were built to play.
Welcome to Chicago, Tom Brady.