NFL Fact or Fiction: Chicago Bears Are Super Bowl Contenders
The Chicago Bears have had their share of ups and downs in the 2011 NFL regular season, but it's still possible for the team to string together enough wins not only to earn a postseason spot but also contend for the Super Bowl.
Plenty has to go right for the Bears, but the ball is in their hands. They have control of their own destiny.
It doesn't help that the Bears are in one of the toughest, if not the hardest, divisions in football. But it's still very possible for Chicago to execute the last nine games and tally double-digit wins.
Last Year's Record Means Nothing
The Bears may have won the NFC North division last year with an 11-5 record, but the ball certainly bounced Chicago's way a few times throughout the course of the 2010-11 season.
In Week 1, the Bears escaped with a win against the Detroit Lions after a controversial call reversing a Calvin Johnson TD with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. The Bears won that game 19-14, however, Johnson's TD would've made it 21-19 in favor of the Lions.
In Week 2, the Bears had what was considered a "big win" against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas finished with a 6-10 record in 2010, so, in hindsight, that win wasn't as big as many people perceived it to be.
Four out of the Bears' final eight wins of the regular season came against backup quarterbacks who had to start for the opposing team, including a 24-20 Week 13 win over Drew Stanton, the third-string QB, and the Detroit Lions.
Chicago had its fair share of good fortunes throughout the 2010 regular season that definitely helped with the team's 11-5 record.
Will the Detroit Lions Fall Apart?
No, that's not a typo—the Detroit Lions are 6-2.
The Lions are a huge factor in whether or not the Bears are Super Bowl contenders. If Detroit continues to play the way they have been, it's going to be difficult for the Bears to keep pace and earn a playoff spot.
Detroit has a Week 9, then the team has to travel to Soldier Field for a very important meeting against the Bears. That game can go either way, but i'll give the Bears home-field advantage and say Chicago will get the win.
Detroit hosts the Carolina Panthers in Week 10. The Lions should win that game.
Green Bay travels to Detroit in Week 11. Being that the Packers are the best team in the NFL, I'm going to say the Pack get the win over the Lions.
The Lions have to travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in Week 13. The Saints have had their ups and downs this season, but New Orleans will leave Week 13 with a win in front of the home crowd over the Lions.
Detroit should gets wins week 14, 15 and 16 against the Vikings, at the Oakland Raiders, and at home against the San Diego Chargers. Although anything can happen against the two AFC West opponents. San Diego is capable of beating anyone, and you never know what kind of spark Carson Palmer could bring to the Raiders offense.
Week 17, Detroit has to travel to Lambeau Field to play the Packers for the second time this season. The Pack will win this one at home.
Based off those predictions, the Lions will finish the season with a 10-6 record. The Bears would need a lot of help around the NFC to earn a second wild card spot, and Chicago is going to have to do their own job week after week to keep up with Detroit this season.
Will Both NFC Wild Card Spots Come from the North?
The Detroit Lions have had quite the success so far in 2011, and they have a great chance to earn one of the two NFC wild card spots for the playoffs. Based on the thought that Green Bay will take the NFC North, the only way for the Bears to make the playoffs would be to earn the second NFC wild card spot.
That would mean three teams from the North would make the playoffs, and every other NFC division would be represented by just the division winners.
The Bears are currently sitting in third place of the NFC North with a 4-3 record. Chicago's current record is pretty respectable considering to whom the team has lost and against whom their wins are. But the Bears have to pull their weight going forward if they have aspirations of going to the playoffs again this year.
It's definitely possible for the Lions and the Bears to claim the two wild card spots, but these two teams are going to need some help from the other NFC squads.
The NFC East is going to have to beat up on each other, just like they've been known to do in the past, and the Lions and Bears will have to earn the expected wins and then some.
The NFC West is the worst division in the NFL, and there won't be a wild card coming out of there.
Don't consider this an invalid option. It's very possible that Chicago and Detroit are the NFC's wild card teams.
The Effect of Forte's MVP-Caliber Season
Much of the Bears' success this year has been because of the play of RB Matt Forte.
He is the team's leading rusher and receiver with 1091 total yards in offense. Not only is Forte playing for a new contract, but he's also playing for the NFL's MVP award given at the end of the season.
If Forte can continue to play at the level he has been thus far in 2011, he can put the team on his back and win games by himself.
That will definitely help the team earn a playoff spot for the second consecutive year.
Strength of Remaining Schedule
Coming off the team's Week 8 bye, the Bears have to travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in Week 9. Chicago is going to have to contain Mike Vick, just like they did last year, and LeSean McCoy. Julius Peppers and the Bears' run and pass rush defense have the ability to do that.
The Bears will get the win in Philly.
Chicago hosts the Lions in Week 10 in a must-win matchup. Home-field advantage will be a huge factor in this game, and the Bears will beat Detroit.
Weeks 11, 12, 13 and 14, the Bears play the four AFC West teams which include hosting San Diego, at Oakland, hosting the Kansas City Chiefs, and travel to the Denver Broncos. There's no reason Chicago should lose to any of those four teams.
A six-game win streak seems tough to imagine, but I'm sticking with my gut feeling.
The Bears then host the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15, and there shouldn't be any problems beating Seattle at home.
Green Bay plays host to the Bears in Week 16, and Chicago will most likely lose that game at Lambeau Field.
To close out the season, the Bears have to travel to Minnesota and take on the Christian Ponder-led Vikings. Chicago should be able to beat Minnesota as well.
Based on those predictions, the Bears will finish with a record of 12-4, and would most likely claim one of the two NFC wild card spots.
Any team is considered a Super Bowl contender with a 12-4 record.