Mike Ditka praises Chicago Bears

Mike Ditka said the Chicago Bears aren't the same team they were earlier in the season, and despite the Green Bay Packers' impressive march to the NFC championship game, Ditka said the Bears shouldn't be discounted when the teams meet Sunday at Soldier Field.

"As good as the Packers played, and as good as the Packers are, don't pooh-pooh the Bears right now," Ditka said Monday on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on ESPN Radio. "Because they are playing great team football, and Lovie [Smith] has done an outstanding job with this football team.

'You watch their progression from eight weeks ago, 10 weeks ago ... look at the game when they played Seattle in Chicago in the sixth week of the season, [Jay Cutler] was sacked six times, he was hit 10 times. They looked horrible in pass protection. Whatever they've done with [offensive coordinator] Mike Martz and [offensive line coach] Mike Tice, they've done it a lot better. They're pretty good at what they're doing right now."

Ditka, a former Bears head coach and current ESPN analyst, lauded Bears' return specialist Devin Hester and Cutler, who threw touchdown passes and ran for two scores in a 35-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

"Cutler is playing good football right now," Ditka said. "Nobody has ever questioned his ability to throw the football. He played outstanding football in this game."

"Defensively, they'll stand up with anybody in football, and special teams you know what they've got there. You can't even believe how a guy like Hester changes the field. He tilts the field the other way, because you don't want to kick it to him, and when you don't kick it to him, you end up kicking it badly sometimes and give them great field position. And then when you do kick it to him, you have to hold your breath that he doesn't run it down your throat."