Realistically Breaking Down the Chicago Bears Playoff Chances


You woke up on Sunday morning. The sun was shining brightly. Life was good. You opened the closet, it was time to breakout the special threads. You dust off the Doug Plank jersey and pop it over the shoulders. You settle in on the sofa with your six-pack of Old Style. “Bear Down” is playing on a loop on your iPad. You watch the “Super Bowl Shuffle” on your phone. The day starts off perfectly. It’s a great day in Chicago. The Denver Broncos are in town and you are ready for your beloved Chicago Bears to even their record at 5-5 and begin their push for the playoffs.

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But then it all fell apart. Suddenly the Bears went from a lock to be 5-5 to a team that is 4-6. Your playoff aspirations were suddenly dashed. That Doug Plank jersey is still crumpled up on the floor in the corner and you haven’t even bothered to pick it up. You’ve been down, you haven’t shaved, you can barely get yourself to work in the morning. As far as you’re concerned, the Bears’ season has ended. Their playoff chances are  shot. Or are they? The last thing you want is to give up on the season that was so filled with hope just a few days ago. So can the Bears make a playoff run? Let’s take a realistic look at it.

First, let’s say the Bears finish 9-7. If they finish 8-8 it’s probably not going to cut it, and I’m going to say that the Bears are not going 10-6. If you want to read about how this team is suddenly going to become unstoppable and run the table, look elsewhere. I said realistically; I’m putting them at 5-1 down the stretch, I think that’s hot enough.

Nov 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6)throws against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Is 5-1 even possible? The Bears final six games are at the Green Bay Packers, home for the San Francisco 49ers, home for the Washington Redskins, at the Minnesota Vikings, at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, home for the Detroit Lions. First, all three of those home games are very winnable. The Bucs are playing well right now, but a playoff caliber team should be able to go into Tampa and beat Lovie Smith. That leaves the road games with Minnesota and Green Bay. Both very difficult games, but to reach 9-7, Chicago needs to split those games, which team they beat is largely irrelevant, but for fun, let’s say it’s the Packers (because it’s always fun to beat the Packers). So 9-7 is at least within reach. But will that be enough? Let’s take a look at the competition.

Let’s take out the garbage. The Lions are irrelevant, and the Niners are pathetic. The New Orleans Saints don’t have it going this year. They’re not going to cut it. The St Louis Rams looked poised to make a push, but that has quickly faded and the Bears beat them. The first tiebreaker is always head-to-head. If the Bears finish 9-7, are the Rams going 10-6? Nope, so let’s not worry about them. So what’s left?

Let’s look at the NFC North. The Bears are not going to have a tiebreaker against either the Vikings or the Packers. The Bears can’t finish better than 3-3 in the division and if they lose one of those two difficult road games they have left, they won’t be better than 2-4. After head to head, division record is the next tiebreaker, 2-4 is going to kill them in any tiebreaker with either team, which means both the Packers and Vikings will be in the playoffs ahead of them. The only way the Bears jump either team is if one collapses to 8-8. That’s not going to happen. Don’t tell me it might, it won’t. Don’t waste your time coming up with some cockamamie scenario.

Let’s break down the NFC East. I highly doubt two teams from the NFC East go 9-7, and at this point I’m not sure if even one will. Other than beating the Redskins, this is a division the Bears can ignore. The division winner (most likely the Giants) will advance and that’s it. Next.

The Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals have also punched their tickets to the postseason. They are the two best teams in the NFC. The Panthers are already at 10 wins and the Cardinals would have to drop six straight since they beat the Bears head-to-head. They’re in, so we’re down to one playoff spot remaining.

I really wanted to throw the Bucs in the trash heap too, but they’re 5-5 so they have to at least be considered. But good news, for the Bears to be in this conversation, it means they beat Tampa, that’s 6 losses for Lovie, one more and the Bears would hop past them on the tiebreaker. They still have to go on the road against the Colts and Panthers. I’ll take my chances that Lovie gets one more loss. Next.

Now we’ve reached the two mortal enemies of the Bears playoff chances- the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons.

Nov 22, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls (34) celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown reception against the San Francisco 49ers with tight end Luke Willson (82) at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated San Francisco, 29-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with the Seahawks and the first major problem- they beat the Bears. The Bears won’t have the tiebreaker here so they need the Seahawks to go 8-8. That’s not impossible. They’re currently 5-5 and have road games at the Vikings and at the Cardinals, two games you should expect them to lose this year, the rest of the schedule isn’t that difficult, which means Seattle is going to have to most likely drop a home game. Ordinarily I wouldn’t count on it, but this team is having one of those seasons, maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers take care of business this weekend and win in Seattle. It’s definitely possible, they finish 8 up and 8 down, but it’s a team Bears fans should start cheering against, and now. That means rooting for the Vikings against them in a couple weeks, swallow your pride and do it.

Finally, let’s look at the Falcons. The Falcons are 6-4, but have dropped four of their last five. They are really struggling right now and they have a difficult schedule remaining. They have the Panthers twice and home games with Minnesota and New Orleans. They also have road games against Tampa and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I could really see the bottom really dropping out on this team, but for argument’s sake, let’s say they finish 9-7 as well. Since the Falcons and Bears didn’t play, the tiebreaker will be their conference records. If the Bears finish 9-7, and since they finished 3-1 against the AFC West, we know they’ll be 6-6 against the NFC.

Nov 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a pass downfield against the Indianapolis Colts on the last drive of the game during the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Colts defeated the Falcons 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As for the Falcons, that remaining Jaguars game is interesting. If they go 9-7, but lose to the Jaguars, their conference record would be 7-5 and they would go to the playoffs. If they go 9-7 while beating the Jaguars, that means their conference record equals the Bears at 6-6 and we go deep into the tiebreakers.

Still with me? The next tiebreaker is common opponent. The Bears and Falcons will share 5 common opponents. They each will play the Redskins and Niners once, while Atlanta will play the Vikings once and Tampa twice, the Bears will play the Vikings twice and Tampa once. If the Bears take care of business, they would be 3-2, maybe even 4-1 in these common opponent games. Atlanta on the other hand has already lost to Tampa and San Francisco. If they fade to 9-7, odds are they will lose another common opponent game and the Bears, yes, the Bears will be headed to the post-season!

I know that’s a lot to digest, but that’s the way these postseason scenarios are. In short, the Bears need to get to 9-7, the Falcons need to be 9-7 (with a win against the Jaguars), and the Seahawks need to be no better than 8-8. If that happens, the Bears are playoff bound. It’s a lot to examine, and it may not happen. Let’s be honest, it probably won’t happen, but at least, there is hope. There is most certainly hope, and that’s all any Bears’ fan can ask for.