Chicago is the original home of The Second City, which has launched the careers of some of the best comedians ever (John Belushi, Steve Carell, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and on and on and on). It's my favorite thing to do when I'm in Chicago.
Why am I telling you this?
Because the best Second City alums have always been masters of improvisation, and the Panthers will have to do exactly the same thing in Chicago Sunday to come away with an upset victory.
There will be a moment or two that all hinges on improv -- what Cam Newton while being chased on the full run by Julius Peppers, or what Jay Cutler does when he sees a small window that might open for a 50-yard pass or might close for an interception.
I think these teams have similar talent levels, so a couple of snap decisions will make the difference.
-- The Panthers got creamed by Bears running back Matt Forte a year ago, as he had touchdown runs of 18 and 68 yards in the game's first eight minutes. The Bears throw the ball to Forte a lot, too. I think containing him is even more important that containing Cutler.
-- Bears coach Lovie Smith can try to spin this decision all he wants to, but Chicago letting a talent like Greg Olsen go to Carolina for a third-round pick was quite a mistake. I don't care what offensive system you are playing. You don't let a guy who can catch the ball like that get away.
-- It's fitting that Steve Smith should surpass Muhsin Muhammad Sunday as Carolina's all-time leader in receiving yards. The best game I've ever seen Smith play came in Chicago in the 2005 playoffs, when he decimated the Bears with a 218-yard receiving game. Afterward, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher called Smith the NFL's best offensive player.
-- I'm 15-3 over the last 18 games picking the Panthers' outcome, and today I'm going out on a limb. I think the Panthers will improvise just well enough to win: Carolina 24, Chicago 22.