Loss to 49ers Does Not Crush Chicago Bears Playoff Hopes
Wow. None of us saw that coming. I know the Chicago Bears have come a long way in a year because I actually assumed the Bears were going to win on Sunday. The thought that they could lose to the dismal San Francisco 49ers didn’t actually enter my mind. I had already evened the Bears record up at 6-6 with the thought that another win this week against the Washington Redskins would put them at a winning record.
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But that’s why they play the games. It’s another frustrating loss for Bears’ fans, and I assume at this point, a lot of fans just assume a chance at the playoffs are shot, but truth be told, that’s not true at all. If you’ve read my analysis of the Bears’playoff hopes the last few weeks, there was one thing I always said, I never considered the Bears would go 10-6. I’ve always looked at the Bears if they could make the playoffs at 9-7. Yes, I figured the Bears would beat San Francisco and thought a loss would come at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, but with four games left, if the Bears run the table can they make the playoffs? That answer is yes.
How likely is it the Bears can put together four wins in a row? Let’s be honest, it’s not great, but with games against the Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Vikings and Detroit Lions, the Bears will definitely be favored in two games, potentially three, and by no means will they be a large underdog against Tampa. Yes, it’s a challenge but it’s definitely possible. The Bears came out flat against San Francisco, perhaps they started believing their press and a loss like that might serve as a wake-up call that keeps them playing hard like the team we watched the first eleven games of the season.
So while it will be difficult for Chicago to go 9-7, it’s not impossible. If they manage to pull it off, let me explain why it’s not possible, it’s likely that they will make the playoffs.
First, looking at the NFC East, after this week, it’s impossible that two of these teams will go 9-7. The Dallas Cowboys have already lost eight games, and if the Bears beat the Redskins, that’s their eighth loss. The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles play in week 17, guaranteeing a third team their eighth loss, so it is an impossibility that two teams can finish 9-7 if the Bears beat the Redskins. So that’s out.
Let’s look at the NFC West. The 49ers and St. Louis Rams already have eight losses so they are out. The Arizona Cardinals are a lock for the playoffs, and then there is the Seattle Seahawks. They are red-hot and originally I thought the Bears were going to battle Seattle for that last playoff spot, but there is zero chance the Bears can catch Seattle. They have lost the tiebreaker, so they are three games behind them with four to play. It’s safe to assume Seattle will take a wild card spot.
That leaves one more wild card with two divisions to go, let’s continue.
In the NFC South we know the Carolina Panthers are going to win the division and the New Orleans Saints have been eliminated from this conversation. Tampa is 6-6, so if the Bears beat them, that’s their seventh loss and the Bears will own the tiebreaker, so that’s another team we don’t have to worry about grabbing a wild card spot. The Atlanta Falcons are collapsing. They are 6-6 and have two games remaining with the Panthers. I’m going to write them off, if they make the playoffs, I’ll get a Falcons tattoo. It’s not happening.
That leaves our own division for the final wild card spot. The Lions have already secured eight losses, so let’s eliminate them, and we’re putting the Bears at 9-7. So there’s the Green Bay Packers and the Vikings. Both sit at 8-4, three games above Chicago. For the Bears to make the playoffs, one of them are going to have to collapse. Since the Vikings play the Packers in week 17 in Lambeau, let’s assume the Packers win at home. Green Bay has a home game with Dallas and a road game against the Oakland Raiders, so I think it’s a safe bet they win at least one more. That puts the Packers at 10 wins, so let’s focus on the Vikings.
The Vikings have a very hard game at Arizona on Thursday. They play at Lambeau to finish the year, and if the Bears can pull the upset off in week fifteen in Minnesota, that’s three losses. Even if the Vikings win their other game (NY Giants at home), that puts them at 9-7. Let’s go to the tiebreakers (it gets complicated so if you’re a geek like me, this is fun).
Nov 1, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) directs his team against the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
First one is head-to-head where the two teams will have split. The next tiebreaker is division record. The Vikings would drop their two final division games and the Bears would win their last two, which puts them both at 3-3, so we move to the third tiebreaker. That tiebreaker is common opponent record. Each team within their division play twelve common opponent games, the Bears and Vikings would be 6-6 in those games, so we move to the fourth tiebreaker- conference record. The Bears and Vikings would again tie with a 6-6 record, so we move to the fifth tiebreaker (still with me?). That tie breaker is strength of victory. Strength of victory is determined by adding up the total number of wins of the teams that each team defeated.
In this case, we can eliminate the teams that they both defeated, and we can eliminate the split they had against each other since they both finished 9-7. That leaves three victories that would impact the tiebreaker. The Vikings would have unique wins over the Lions (the Bears would have beaten them once, the Vikings twice, so you count those wins twice, if that makes sense, so only one of the Vikings wins against the Lions is eliminated), Giants and Falcons. The Bears would have unique wins over the Packers, Bucs, and Redskins. The Redskins and Giants will most likely have similar records and the Falcons and Bucs will most likely have similar records. However, the Bears would hold a win against the Packers, who will finish with a substantially better record than the Lions. Therefore, by strength of victory, the Bears would hold the tiebreaker (if you’re confused, trust me, it’s accurate).
So while the challenge has become that the Bears must win four straight games, the fact is, that if they do, there is an excellent chance that they will grab the sixth and final playoff spot (and most likely play the Packers in the Wild Card round). The opportunity is still there for Chicago. Despite being three games back of Minnesota, they have an excellent chance to catch them. Don’t give up, Bear faithful, there’s still hope. It’s week 14 of the NFL season and there’s still hope; as Bears fans, we couldn’t ask for more.