Once a lock for the postseason, the Chicago Bears are now going to have to fight for their playoff lives.
It won't be easy either. Chicago was beaten 21-14 by division rival Minnesota in Week 14 and quarterback Jay Cutler was injured in the process.
Cutler's neck injury is not considered severe, but the Bears have seen what happens when he is removed from the lineup and will have to tread carefully regarding his health.
So, with a loss to the Vikings and an 8-5 record, how exactly do the Bears' playoff prospects look right now?
In one word: gloomy.
Green Bay beat the Bears to the tune of a 23-10 final score in Week 2 while Chicago beat Detroit 13-7 in Week 7.
Games within the NFC North division are always tough battles regardless of record, but the Bears do at least have the added benefit of a one-game cushion over the surging Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys in the wild-card race, both of whom are 7-6.
Washington QB Robert Griffin III was injured this week, but he himself stated that he does not believe any part of his leg is seriously damaged. Assuming he is healthy moving forward, Washington will be favored in their next two meetings with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
Cleveland has been surging of late, but playing the Browns is still a much more encouraging prospect than meeting the Packers.
While this schedule may be the most daunting of the bunch, Washington and Dallas have something that Chicago is desperate for: momentum.
The Redskins and Cowboys are each riding winning streaks while the Bears have dropped four of their last five games. The return of Alshon Jeffery and Devin Hester was a nice boost to the passing attack against the Vikings, but Chicago is too inconsistent offensively right now to make a playoff push.
The Bears have not had a 100-yard rusher since Week 9 and Jay Cutler has not thrown for 300 yards since the first week of the season.
If the Bears lose to the Packers next week (a likely scenario) will all hope be lost? Does this team have the mental fortitude to overcome all of these losses and rebound in time to be a relevant postseason threat?
It is hard to believe in such a scenario based off of the Bears' recent play. However, the pieces are in place and when this team is firing on all cylinders it is a legitimate force.
Finding out if the Bears remember how to play to the best of their ability will be an interesting storyline down the stretch.
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