They're calling the NFC championship game the Blue Collar Bowl because of the down-and-dirty way the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams play football.

It's a multipurpose nickname. These teams could have themselves a whale of a bar fight if they tried.

All week, the favored Bears (16-1) have shouted various charges and predictions at the Rams (12-5).

Today, the Rams gave them a backroom shove and started defending themselves two days before Sunday's 12:30 p.m. kickoff at Soldier Field.

Perhaps the most startling comments came from Chicago's defensive guru, Buddy Ryan, who predicted Rams running back Eric Dickerson would fumble two or three times against the Bears.

"Buddy Ryan must know something I don't know," said Dickerson, smiling, who gained a playoff-record 248 yards in the Rams' 20-0 victory over Dallas last week.

"Buddy Ryan must have been sneaking into our camp, watching us practice, watching me drop the ball a couple times . . . I know Chicago is probably gonna try to come out and intimidate me and our offense, but that's gonna be hard to do because, if it's a clean football game, I know I won't be intimidated and I know my offensive line will not be intimidated," he said.

The Rams, who began the season 7-0, as did the Bears, are used to being treated like the guest who wore jeans to a black-tie dinner.

"A lot of things have been said by Chicago, a lot of things were said by San Francisco (before the Rams upset them, 27-20, in Week 14)," said Dickerson. "The 49ers said we could mail in our loss . . . We're a professional football team, not a bunch of children. We'll show it Sunday."

The Bears said they will show the world the best way to stop Dickerson Sunday, too.

Rams Coach John Robinson said the respect his team fails to get is a result of the squad "confusing" observers.

"I think we won in a manner where people would rather we would have done it differently," he said. "We played good defense all year . . . we are, I think, the best special teams in the league, but, for some reason, Eric Dickerson didn't have the .400 batting average that people expected, and (quarterback) Dieter Brock was scrutinized very carefully."

But he doesn't rank the Bears above his team, the way most of the National Football League does.

"I think the Bears have a chance to develop into a great football team, but they're not now," Robinson said. "They are an up-and-coming football team, like us."

Robinson seems to constantly be responding to the Bears. On special teams, Chicago is making a change, putting former sprinter Willie Gault on kickoff coverage to try to chase down Ron Brown, another world-class runner.

"I hope (Gault) catches him after about 70 or 80 yards," Robinson said. "We're tricky, too. We might not ever give Ron the ball and have Ron block Willie.

"The big question is, will Willie tackle? He might just race Ron to the goal line."

Temperatures Sunday are expected to be in the upper 30s or low 40s. Everyone is talking about the mild weather, Robinson and Bears Coach Mike Ditka included.

The Rams figure it helps them. Dickerson said he plans to wear scuba gloves and scuba sleeves to keep warm, but the rest of the foul-weather gear will sit in his locker.

Ditka countered: "We played here in September and it was just about 90 degrees. If it's hot, we'll play okay . . . January is still Bear weather."

Chicago defensive end Richard Dent, who had 3 1/2 sacks last week against the New York Giants, has been offered a new contract worth approximately $1.1 million over three years, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Everett Glenn, Dent's agent, said last week that he could not guarantee Dent would play in the Super Bowl -- if the Bears beat the Rams -- because of stalled contract negotiations. Dent, in his third pro season, made $90,000 this season.

Because of the offer, Glenn now says Dent should be expected to play in the Super Bowl if the Bears win Sunday.