What a sick set of playoff games we got going here, folks. The Seahawks shocked the world in the first round by knocking off the champs. Then they got beaten up in frosty Chicago. Atlanta was 13-3, but they had no answer for the red-hot Packers and their deadly QB. The Ravens stuck it to the Chiefs, but couldn’t stop Pittsburgh from coming back to secure their third straight playoff victory against Baltimore.

Then there’s the Jets. Everyone loved ‘em, then turned on them, and now all the love is back. If the Pats win, Rex Ryan is a pompous fool whose shit-talking ways could not match the evil composure of New England. But the Pats lost, so Ryan’s bluster is a strength once again.

The Jets have every right to be all proud and swaggery. They shut down the Colts at home. They neutered New England in Foxborough. They were motivated by so many factors: beatdown redemption, fetish jokes, hell, they were even fighting for Dennis Byrd, who overcame a gruesome neck injury in 1992 and beat paralysis so he could inspire future Jets players to stick it to the Patriots.

So many story lines. So much drama. And now we’re down to the final four. With three more meaningful football games left, let’s take a look at who we think will make it to the big dance.

Green Bay -3.5 At Chicago

It had to be this way. What a classic NFC matchup. These two teams have such a storied, historic rivalry, but they met in the playoffs only once (back in 1941). Seventy years is long time to wait for a postseason rematch, but these teams know each other well, and they’ve been preparing for this moment for some time.

Road to the NFC Championship

When he was hired back in 2004, Chicago head coach Lovie Smith laid out his strategy for success: 1) Beat the Packers. 2) Win the division. 3) Win the Super Bowl.

The following year in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers was brought in to make everyone forget about Favre. He sat in the shadows, growing his beard for a handful of seasons before Green Bay finally pulled the trigger and sent Favre packing. Rodgers has developed into a top-tier quarterback, something the Bears lacked desperately.

Fast forward to 2009. Chicago brings in sleepy face all-star Jay Cutler to run the offense. Things didn’t work out that well last season (or during the first half of this year), but with the o-line coming together and Mike Martz making his celebrated in-season strategy adjustment after the bye week, the Bears offense is finally working.

Now on paper, Chicago’s had the easiest road to the Super Bowl in the history of the NFL. They got to host the worst playoff team in NFL history, and they follow that up with a visit from the No.6 seed in the NFC. The Packers aren’t your typical six seed, and the Seahawks earned some respect by taking out the Saints. Still, the Bears are just one home win away from their second Super Bowl appearance in five years.

The Packers have had their back against the wall since Week 16 of the regular season. To get into the tournament, Green Bay needed victories in two must-win regular season games against the Giants and the Bears. The Packers took care of business. They followed that up by taking out an Eagles team that was favored to win. They were dogs in Atlanta and they dismantled that team. The Packers have been in playoff mode for more than a month. The Falcons and Pats showed this weekend that momentum is a huge factor in the postseason. Like the Steelers in ‘05, the Giants in ‘07 and the Cardinals in ’08, teams that peak at the right time can do serious damage in the playoffs.

The Matchup

Chicago matches up well against the Packers. The Bears won the first regular season meeting in Soldier Field by a field goal, and with nothing for the Bears to play for, the Packers beat the Bears in Lambeau by a score in the final game of the regular season. Field conditions won’t be an issue for either team. These teams compete in the coldest division in football. They’re both used to playing in shit conditions.

So the real question is, which Cutler will we see this weekend? The confident, attacking, even-I-can’t-believe-I-ran-for-two-scores warrior that we saw for most of the Seattle game? Or the guy who too often targets the wrong color jersey (like he did on that one, unthinkable goal line pass this past Sunday).

Cutler’s a question mark, but Rodgers isn’t. The guy’s on a different level right now. In two playoff games, he’s completed 49 passes on 63 attempts for 546 yards, 6 TDs and no picks. Completing 77.8 percent of your playoff passes is pretty ridiculous. He’s obviously getting great protection, but even when the pocket collapses, Rodgers has been able to create opportunities. His QB rating this postseason is 134.5.

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