Seahawks on offense: Matt Hasselbeck gets at least one more game to lead the Seattle offense. The 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound former Boston College quarterback has good size and smarts. He is a studious player who reads defenses quickly and will spread the wealth. He had a reputation for locking onto targets, but has learned to become more of a distributor. He’s solid on short and medium routes, but the deep ball is not his specialty. Mike Williams is the top receiving threat. Williams is explosive and physical and has enjoyed a renaissance since reuniting with coach Pete Carroll. Tight end John Carlson is a beast over the middle with good speed and good hands. Marshawn Lynch proved last week he has plenty left in the tank. The rugged and powerful tailback has good vision and a solid stiff arm. Justin Forsett is an excellent change-of-pace back.
Bears on defense: Chicago has a lot of playmakers here, led by dynamic linebackers Brian Urlacher (125 tackles) and Lance Briggs (89). Urlacher has uncanny instincts and is the rare player who excels at stuffing the run (he’ll rip your lungs out, Jim) and in coverage (10 passes defended). Briggs is quick and makes plays from sideline to sideline. Defensive backs Charles Tillman and Chris Harris are ballhawks (5 INTs each).
Bears on offense: Tailback Matt Forte is one of the most productive players in the NFL. The 6-2, 218-pounder is a solid runner, receiver, and blocker. Forte (who has to run behind a woeful offensive line) quickly locates creases (and cutback lanes) and will burst through them. He keeps his powerful legs churning and will break through arm tacklers. He’s also a demon on screen passes. Quarterback Jay Cutler has one of the most impressive arms in the league. He can make all the throws, and his spirals are to die for. His leadership skills are suspect, though, as he tends to pout when things don’t go his way, and those negative vibes often can affect his teammates. The man from Santa Claus, Ind., has taken a beating this year (52 sacks), and he often pulls the trigger quicker than he wants (16 INTs). Johnny Knox (18.8 yards per catch) has an explosive first step and impressive after-the-catch acceleration.
Seahawks on defense: In-your-face linebacker David Hawthorne is an instinctive player and powerful tackler. What Hawthorne (6-0, 246) lacks in size, he more than makes up for in heart. It’s a huge blow if emotional/instinctive linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) can’t go. Edge rusher Chris Clemons (11 sacks) has tremendous first-step quickness and a bevy of moves.
Special teams: The Bears have the most exciting returner in the game in Devin Hester. The 5-11, 190-pounder puts the special in special teams. He owns the NFL mark with 14 career kickoff/punt-return TDs . . . Hester has exceptional vision and rare burst. He’s a threat to score 6 from anywhere on the field . . . Chicago kicker Robbie Gould is exceptional. He nailed 25 of 30 field goal attempts this season (including 3 of 4 from 50 yards plus), with a long of 54 . . . Punter Brad Maynard (35.2-yard net average) has landed 24 punts inside the 20 . . . Seattle kick returner Leon Washington averages 25.6 yards per attempt and has taken three back for touchdowns this season . . . The Seahawks’ Olindo Mare hit 25 of 30 field goal attempts on the season, but kicking in Chicago in January is a tad different than kicking in Seattle.
Miscellany: These franchises meet in the postseason for the second time; the Bears won a divisional-round game, 27-24, in OT Jan. 14, 2007 . . . Seahawks beat Bears, 23-20, at Soldier Field in Week 6 . . . Hasselbeck has thrown at least one TD pass in nine straight playoff games . . . Urlacher has 100-plus tackles for the 10th time in 11-year career . . . Forte has 1,616 yards from scrimmage . . . Bears are second in NFC with 35 takeaways.