East Rutherford, N.J. This should be smash-mouth football at its best.
Neither team has a gambling, high-scoring offense. Neither tea has a strong-armed, first-rate quarterback who can dominate a game. But they have similar philosophies, employing run-oriented, ball-control offenses combined with relentless defenses.
"There's no question it will be a head-knocker with lots of slobbe flying around out there," said Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton, who is retiring at the end of the season. "The last man standing will probably win it."
Giants coach Bill Parcells said: "These are teams built wit something in mind. You get a philosophy, and you try to be consistent with it and not deviate. That's one of the common denominators with successful teams."
Successful and somewhat predictable. The Giants know exactly what they will see from the Bears today on offense. Halfback Neal Anderson (1,078 yards rushing) right, Anderson left, Anderson up the middle. When Anderson gets tired, it's Brad Muster (664) up the middle (Muster is a little too slow to get outside).
At least the Giants will have a minor element of surprise. Yes, they're going to run the ball. It's just that Parcells won't say who is starting at running back.
The likely choices are top draft pick Rodney Hampton (455) an Ottis Anderson (784). But, at times this season, Parcells has used Lewis Tillman, Maurice Carthon and Dave Meggett.
"In a high-pressure game, sometimes you play the more experienced guy to start the game, especially if the elements are not good," said Parcells, whose team averaged 128.1 yards rushing. "That's common sense. If the field condition is good and the field position is good, possibly I'll go with Rodney."
Either way, the Bears are prepared.
"Both [Hampton and Anderson] are good," said Bears coach Mike Ditka. "One is young, the other is older, but I don't see that much of a difference. Ottis is still playing like in his heyday in St. Louis, and the young kid is a great talent."
Whichever team can't run will have trouble, because both go int the game with backup quarterbacks, Mike Tomczak for the Bears and Jeff Hostetler for the Giants.
The Giants split their final six games after a 10-0 start. The Bears lost four of their last six before a 16-6 win over the New Orleans Saints in the playoff opener last week.
"Both teams have had their peaks and valleys," said Giant center Bart Oates. "But that's the beauty of the playoffs. If you hit your prime at the right time, then it's all the way to the Super Bowl."
But first, Oates and Co. must pave a way through Chicago' defense, one that has allowed 280.8 yards per game, 98.3 rushing. Even though the Bears aren't as dominating as they were when they won the Super Bowl in the 1985 season, they still play ruggedly, led by Hampton, middle linebacker Mike Singletary and defensive linemen William "The Refrigerator" Perry and Richard Dent.
The Giants, who have allowed 91.2 rushing and 171.7 passing yards, counter with linebackers Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor and defensive lineman Leonard Marshall.