We're down to the elite eight in the NFL, and we have four very intriguing matchups ahead of us. A strong case can be made for any of these teams advancing on through to the Super Bowl. Here is the schedule for Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, January 11
Sunday, January 12
Whom will you be rooting for?
If you're looking for an ex-Chicago Bears connection to follow here are a few better known options.
Ron Rivera, former linebacker for the '85 Bears, and former defensive coordinator of the Bears, leads the Carolina Panthers. His staff includes a few with Chicago ties as well. Ricky Proehl, who spent a year as a wide out for the Bears, is Carolina's receivers coach. Mike Shula, who was tight ends coach for the Bears under Dave Wannstedt, runs the Panther offense.
That Panthers offense also features former Bear, tight end Greg Olsen, who had 73 receptions for them this season.
Jim Harbaugh, former Chicago QB, is the head coach for the 49ers. We all remember his and Mike Ditka's dust up from 1992, don't we?
The Patriots don't have an obvious Bears connection, but their defense does have the guy that Phil Emery could have drafted instead of Shea McClellin, defensive end Chandler Jones. How good was Jones this year? How about 11.5 sacks and 79 tackles...
The Colts offense is coordinated by former Bears QB coach Pep Hamilton.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton was a quarterback on the Spare Bears team in 1987. Josh McCown's brother Luke McCown, is the back up to Drew Brees. Everybody loves Josh, so we should probably cheer on Luke too!
The Seahawks have former Chicago TE Kellen Davis on their roster. Yes, that Kellen Davis. Seattle also has a brother angle as Michael Bennett -- big brother of Bears TE Martellus Bennett -- plays defensive end for the Seahawks. Martellus has said he plans to recruit his big bro to play for the Bears in 2014.
Michael is a free agent, and he racked up 8.5 sacks in a mostly situational role for the stacked Seattle D. He signed a 1 year, $4.8 million deal with Seattle last off season when the DE market was running slow. If the price is right, the 28 year old Bennett would be an asset to the Bears defense.