Climb down off that ledge Chicago Bears fans. Just climb down and we can talk about this logically and intelligently. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know this much about me, I am far from a glass half full, Bears Kool Aide swilling fan. I will tell it to you straight. The 2011 season is far from over.
I can’t remember a victory Monday in Chicago filled with as much doom and gloom as today. There’s no denying that losing Cutler for “significant time” after the Bears’ 31-20 win over the Chargers is a blow, but let’s not rip up our playoff tickets just yet. The road to the playoffs became a little more difficult, but it can still be navigated with Caleb Hanie at the helm.
Let’s all take a deep breath and look at the final six games on the Bears’ regular season schedule and decide if the Bears can make the playoffs.
November 27th, at Oakland (Loss)
The 6-4 Raiders are the class of the ugly AFC West and Oakland is known as a pretty hostile place to play, so it’s not the ideal place for Caleb Hanie to make his 2011 regular season debut. The Raiders boast a pretty stout running game and Carson Palmer is leading a resurgent passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders allow an average of 131.6 yards per game, 8th worst in the league, so there will be opportunities for Matt Forte, Marion Barber and the Bears ground attack to make some plays.
I had this as a potential speed bump even with Jay Cutler and with little time to prepare, I don’t think Hanie can pull it off.
Record after game: 7-4
December 3rd, Kansas City (Win)
We’ll get a preview of the post-Matt Cassel Chiefs on Monday Night Football tonight, but Tyler Palko doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of Bears’ defenders. The Chiefs have had an up-and-down season and it’s trending down. They lost Jamaal Charles to a season-ending injury earlier this year and they’ve been trying to get their legs under them since. The Chiefs give up even more rushing yardage than the Raiders, so look for Matt Forte and Marion Barber to have a strong performance. I like the Bears at home.
Record after game: 8-4
December 10th, at Denver (Win)
I have to laugh at Bronco fans who bought tickets just to go to this game to boo Jay Cutler. If given the choice between Hanie and Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, I’ll take Hanie any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The real story for the Broncos and their wins under Tebow has been their defense, which has been surging. This one is a tough one, but I have to believe that Hanie and Bears can out-Tebow Tebow. Bears defense and special teams come up big. Bears win!
Record after game: 9-4
December 17th, Seattle (Win)
The Bears finish up their AFC West stretch and get a re-match of their opening playoff game as a reward. The Seahawks are not very good offensively but do boast a pretty stout run defense. By this point, Hanie should have his sea legs under him and have decent command of the offense. If this game were on the road, I might have a different take, but at home, how can you pick against the Bears?
Record after game: 10-4
December 25th, at Green Bay (Loss)
My Christmas wish is granted. Jay Cutler returns early from his injury to lead the Bears past the Packer and ruin their undefeated season all in one fell swoop. OK, I just nodded off at the keyboard and must have been dreaming.
This is another tough one that I had in doubt, even with Cutler. The Bears defense seems to match up well with Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense. The big question mark is whether the Packers have anything to play for by Week 16. If the Niners stumble and the Pack have home field locked up, they might cash it in for the Holiday. I’m not counting on it. Bears lose.
Record after game: 10-5
January 1st, at Minnesota (Win)
If we are to believe Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler should be ready to return by Week 17. The fact is, it shouldn’t matter. The Vikings are bad and they could all be hung over after Jared Allen’s New Years Eve bash. The Vikings could be without Adrian Peterson, a blow that is more significant to the Vikes than the loss of Cutler to the Bears. With or without Cutler, the Bears should win this one, regardless of who is under center.
Record after game: 11-5
What do you think? How many wins can the Bears get in their final 6 games, assuming Cutler is out for the rest of the regular season?