There is one player that can impact this weekend's NFC Championship game more than anyone else.
It isn't one of the game's two great sack masters, Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews.
It isn't one of the game's two outstanding quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers.
It isn't one of the game's special receivers, Johnny Knox and Greg Jennings.
And it isn't one of the unique playmakers on both defenses, Brian Urlacher and Charles Woodson.
The key to Sunday's game is Bears running back Matt Forte.
The impact Forte can have on this game cannot be stated strongly enough.
First, the Bears are a better team when Forte handles the ball. Chicago was 5-1 in the six games in which Forte ran for at least 90 yards, only losing the debacle in Week 17 in Green Bay.
Forte is the best non-quarterback on the offensive side of the ball this weekend. In the NFC, only three players had more yards from scrimmage this year than Forte's 1,616, and all three of them will be watching the game from a bar just like you and me. He's a versatile receiver out of the backfield and showed signs of the special running back we saw in his rookie season this year when, after the bye week, Mike Martz remembered he was in uniform.
Secondly, Forte being involved in the game plan forces the Packers defense to pay attention. Green Bay is at their best when they can sick the dogs on opposing quarterbacks; the best remedy for that is an active and effective running back.
When Matthews comes flying off the edge, the best way to make him think twice about getting deep into the backfield is a screen behind him. When Woodson comes off the corner, the best way to give him a moment of pause is Forte in the flat.
Simply put, what Forte brings to the table is the perfect antidote to the things that make Green Bay's defense good.
Thirdly, and most importantly, a strong performance from Forte is how the Bears can control the clock. The time difference between the Bears and Seahawks was enormous, which not only helped the Bears defense stay fresh, but also kept Seattle's playmakers off the field.
Seattle has one player, Marshawn Lynch, that would start in Green Bay. There is no comparing what the guys in teal do for Pete Carroll and what the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers can do. Just ask the NFC's top seeded Atlanta Falcons.
Not only are the Bears better when Forte handles the ball, but keeping the Packers offense off the field is also crucial if the Bears hope to play in Dallas.
If the Bears want to make a run to the Super Bowl this year, Forte needs to come up big.