There are questions that must be answered every weekend. We asked our experts for their opinions on the five Burning Questions following wild-card weekend.
1. How short a leash will Lovie Smith have for Rex Grossman?
Eric Allen: I think Rex Grossman has a half to assert himself and prove he deserves to be on the field, and that's it. It has to be a half, because once you make the change you have to stick with it in the playoffs. They can't get a 1.3 or 0.0 quarterback rating from him and win. They are playing a far better team this week than the ones they've been able to beat while Grossman has been in his slump.
Merril Hoge: Grossman has two quarters to get things rolling or he's done and will be watching the game from the bench. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bears give Griese some work with the first team this week.
Mark Schlereth: He's not going to have much of a leash. But the problem is, if you go away from Grossman, you've made your decision for next year also. You can't replace this kid in the playoffs and then bring him back next season.
2. Can Seattle beat Chicago?
Allen: Yes. The Seahawks can beat Chicago because the Bears have to run the ball to slow the pace of the game down and rely on their defense. That wouldn't have been a problem four or five weeks ago, but the Bears' defense has changed a great deal in the past four or five weeks. Since then, they lost one of the best defensive tackles in the game (Tommie Harris), and when you combine that with the loss of safety Mike Brown earlier in the season, it's easy to see how difficult a job they will have.
Hoge: Yes. When the Bears beat Seattle earlier in the season, they had Harris in there destroying the Seahawks' offensive line. They were able to get quick penetration up the middle, and that won't happen this week.
Schlereth: The Seahawks can definitely defeat the Bears, even in Chicago. Seattle is starting to come together as a team, and we're seeing the offensive cohesion that helped lead them to the Super Bowl a year ago. They'll be able to exploit the Bears up the middle of the field, and that's going to be the key to the game.
3. How will Chargers QB Philip Rivers perform as a first-time starter in the playoffs?
Allen: Philip Rivers is going to struggle mightily against the Patriots' defense, which has traditionally tortured young quarterbacks. The Chargers will have to continue to rely on RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates to be successful. This could easily turn into a replay of the Chargers' regular-season game against Seattle, when Rivers played terribly for a couple of quarters before getting comfortable in the fourth and leading his team to victory.
Hoge: He'll do well because the Chargers aren't reliant upon him to be successful as a team. They have many different ways to beat teams and he's not one of the primary ones.
Schlereth: Is there a worse team to play when you're starting your first game in the playoffs? The Patriots have made a living off of making quarterbacks' lives miserable, so this doesn't bode well for Rivers at all. He will have to play within himself, get rid of the ball quickly and take what the defense gives him.
4. Was the Colts' defense a mirage Saturday, or is it better than most people think?
Allen: I thought the Colts benefited from a Chiefs coaching staff that didn't stick with the run despite being down only 6-0. The Chiefs seemed to panic a little bit when they got down and forgot they had Larry Johnson, one of the best running backs in the league, on their team.
Hoge: It wasn't a mirage, because the Colts' defense over the past four weeks has gotten better. It's an opportunistic defense that has started to create turnovers. But because of its awful performance earlier in the season, the stats will never back it up.
Schlereth: I don't think it was a mirage as much as a result of a poor coaching effort on the Chiefs' side of the ball. If you'd told me before the game that Larry Johnson would only have 13 carries, I would've thought you were crazy. But that's what happened, and that's why the Chiefs lost.
5. What was the biggest surprise of wild-card weekend?
Allen: The biggest surprise was that the Cowboys lost in the manner they did. I'm not talking about the botched field-goal attempt, because even if they'd made that field goal Seattle had shown an ability to quickly score, so the game wasn't over. I'm talking about the fact that the Cowboys weren't able to dominate in the passing game despite having three premier receivers. It's simply ridiculous that they didn't exploit Seattle's secondary.
Hoge: The biggest surprise was Larry Johnson's inability to make things happen against the Colts' defense. While the Colts have gotten better defensively, the Chiefs should've been able to make something happen on the ground with Johnson. It's abysmal to see one of the best backs in football held to a mere 13 carries.
Schlereth: The biggest surprise has to be the poor game plan by the Chiefs. They not only planned poorly but also did a terrible job of making adjustments, which are an integral part of the game of football. Someone one should tell that to the Chiefs staff.