Chicago's chance at a playoff birth is truly in their hands
After two straight disappointing losses for the Bears and with the heart of their schedule coming up, it appears their chances of playoff glory are slimming.
But really when you sit back and think about it, are the playoffs slipping away?
Well, yes. But then again, not quite.
When you sit down and break down the remainder of the Bears' schedule, our destiny of playoff glory truly lies in our hands. I'll take a look at the remainder of the Bears' schedule and give a brief breakdown of every game, and determine what kind of chance the Bears really have of making the postseason.
Week Eight: Cleveland
It's the perfect "bounce-back" game after getting bounced around in Cincinnati. Chicago is expected to win, so when you think about it, a win wouldn't be of much significance. But a loss could be devastating.
So what does a win over Cleveland really mean? More than you might think. It would bring us to 4-3, and—pending the result of the Green Bay-Minnesota game—could put us back into the division hunt. If Minnesota wins, Green Bay would fall to 5-3, Minnesota advances to 7-1, and we would pick up a game in the wild-card.
If Green Bay wins, they'll go to 6-2, which makes them even with Minnesota and we would sit two games behind in the NFC North. But at this point, it's the wild-card I'm concerned about, because the division is getting out of reach.
Chances of a Bears win: 95 percent
Week Nine: Arizona
This, in my opinion, will be Chicago's biggest test all season. Will Charles Tillman and those defensive backs be able to keep up with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? I suspect not.
And with the way our offensive line has been playing, the likes of Darnell Dockett and that Arizona defensive line will be in Cutler's face all day long. The run game will in fact not be cured (surprise, surprise), even after Forte runs wild on Cleveland. Arizona's constant pressure will keep the run game in check.
And even if Cutler decides to throw, he's going to have to contend with the Arizona secondary...this game is not going to be pretty, my friends. But if by some miracle Chicago wins, I'm marking it down as a playoff berth.
Chances of a Bears win: 30 percent
Week 10: @ San Francisco
This game truly is a toss-up. Mike Singletary will get an opportunity to coach against the very team he played for, the same team that wouldn't offer him a coaching gig so he instead went to San Francisco.
Uh oh! You think Samurai Mike wants to make a statement? I think so. But when it comes down to it, there's one key to victory, and that's stop Frank Gore (if he's back in time). Or get ahead early. San Francisco has no wins this season when trailing by 17 or more points. This could finally be the week that Matt Forte gets going.
Chances of a Bears win: 55 percent
Week 11: Philadelphia
I'm not sure what to think about this Eagles team. They've shown flashes of returning to the team they were last season, but when you sit back and think about it they haven't beaten any team of importance. They've beaten Carolina, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Washington, but had brutal losses to Oakland and that 48-22 drubbing against New Orleans.
My assessment is they're really not that good. And by the way, Chicago owns Philadelphia lately. Keep McNabb and Westbrook (if he's playing) in check, and I think we see the Bears get a narrow victory.
Chances of a Bears win: 65 percent
Week 12: @ Minnesota
Here we go. Let me just make it plain and simple. Jared Allen and the Williams wall against our battered offensive line? And this one is in Minnesota? Enough said.
Chances of a Bears win: 20 percent
Week 13: St. Louis
You get a potential 0-16 team that plays in a dome come into your house when the weather forecasts will probably be something in the neighborhood of 15 degrees with a chance of snow...smells like a formula for a Bears blowout.
Much like the Cleveland game, if the Bears find a way to lose Lovie Smith MUST be fired.
Chances of a Bears win: 99 perecent
Week 14: Green Bay
This game is extremely interesting to me. According to my predictions, by the time we play this game Chicago will be 7-5 and Green Bay will be 8-4. It's obvious that playoffs are on the line for both teams.
I think this game will be just as close, if not closer to than their Week One meeting. I can't recall a time when Lovie Smith's Bears lost twice in a season to the Packers (excluding those few bad years in 2003 and 2004), and I don't think it's about to change.
Chances of a Bears win: 70 percent
Week 15: @ Baltimore
It just doesn't get easy, does it? After going to Minnesota, home against St. Louis and Green Bay, and now on the road to Baltimore, it's evident that the "NFL's easiest schedule" certainly is not that easy. Much like the Minnesota game, I'm going to keep this simple; defense, defense, defense. And I see Baltimore's defense being better today.
Chances of a Bears win: 35 percent
Week 16: Minnesota
Now I said we only have a 20 percent chance of beating the Vikings in Minnesota, but the football gods are speaking to me, and they tell me the Bears may win this game.
Don't get too amped up, I said may win. Here's why: Much like Green Bay, Lovie Smith has never been swept by the Vikings. And by this time, the Bears should be 8-6 and the Vikings 11-3. By all accounts, they should have sealed the NFC North title by then and would strictly be playing for bragging rights... just how the Bears want them.
A domed team comes into a frozen Soldier Field (at night too, when it's even colder), Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson may in fact be benched to be saved until January. If Chicago has any dreams of playoffs, they MUST beat the Vikings at least once, and I sense that this is that one. I just can't see them going into the Metrodome beating the Vikings in midseason form, whereas a Vikings team coming into a cold Chicago with a division title locked up?
Chances of a Bears win: 51 percent
Week 17: @ Detroit
How about this for drama? Chicago battles back from a 3-3 start get to 9-6 and travel to Detroit where a win means a wild-card berth and a loss means going home for another January. Sound familiar? Maybe not precisely, but close enough to last season.
I really do think the Bears' playoff chances will come down to the Week 17 matchup in Detroit. 10-6 should be enough to snag a wild-card berth, as Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Arizona, and Green Bay all seem vulnerable. But can the Bears pull it off?
Let alone, can they pull off a 9-6 record up to Week 17?
Let's say they do, and this game determines the Bears' playoff chances. First off, Detroit is a better football team. According to my predictions, they should be sitting at 4-11 by Week 17. In their first meeting, Chicago won 48-24 in what looked to be a close game early until Jonny Knox and Matt Forte came alive. But that was in Soldier Field, and remember Calvin Johnson wasn't around in the second half and Matthew Stafford was playing hurt.
But let's be serious; Detroit's pass rush won't be able to get to Cutler even with our horrid offensive line. Cutler will be able to throw all over Detroit and make this another high-scoring contest. I say high-scoring because if Detroit can put up 24 points in under three quarters with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, they'll be in this game. But don't be fooled: if it means knocking a division rival out of the playoffs, Detroit will play with passion.
Chances of a Bears win: 70 percent
The Final Verdict
With the team we've been seeing lately, I say the best possible record out of the Bears this season is 10-6. Realistically? I'm going with 9-7. As much as I'd love to say it (and I sort of did), I can't really see the Bears beating Minnesota at all (hence the 51 percent chance of winning. It's in our favor, but the favorite doesn't always win).
Will 9-7 be enough for a wild-card slot? No.
Will 10-6? Yes.
That's the difference, my friends. One game. One game between watching the Bears in the NFL playoffs, or not.