The Chicago Bears are trying to win, but can they make the playoffs in 2017?
The Chicago Bears are 3-4, which isn’t particularly an amazing record. But after last season’s 3-13 debacle and 2015’s 1-4 finish, it certainly has been awhile since the Bears have even approached a .500 record.
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If the Bears finish 8-8 this season, it will be quite an accomplishment, but let’s take it a step further, could this team actually make the playoffs? It’s not as far-fetched as one might think. If the Bears continue to play at the level they have the last few weeks, and if the passing game improves, this team will be competitive with everyone. It’s always dangerous to play the schedule game, but when you look at the Bears schedule, they could absolutely have a big second half run.
To be even more conservative with this playoff push, let’s say the Bears lose this weekend to the New Orleans Saints. If they do, they’ll drop to a 3-5 record, but they won’t be out of it.
Coming out of the bye, the Bears’ have two home games against the Packers and Lions. With Aaron Rodgers out, the Packers are a very beatable team, and with a home game, the Bears could absolutely beat the Lions. That puts them at 5-5.
The Bears have a tough game following that one with the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, but follow that up with what should be a pretty winnable game at home against the San Francisco 49ers. That makes them 6-6.
Following that up, the Bears have two road games against Detroit and the Cincinnati Bengals. Road games are never easy, however, both the Lions and Bengals are beatable teams. If the Bears can win in Baltimore, they could win in either of those locations. Let’s be reasonable and call it another split- 7-7.
The Bears finish with a home game against the Cleveland Browns that could push their record to 8-7. The Minnesota Vikings game to finish the year is on the road and won’t be easy, but the Vikings may not have much to play for if the division is wrapped up. If the Bears can beat the Vikings in week 17 (or upset in one of the other road games for one additional win) that puts their record at 9-7.
Is 9-7 good enough? If the Bears were to make the playoffs, it would need to be, because 10-6 is almost certainly out of reach. When looking at the NFC, the Bears tiebreaker situation isn’t going to be great. They are going to have 3 or 4 of their wins against the AFC North, which means their conference record won’t be great, so they are going to have to squeak into the playoffs based on their head to head wins against the Panthers (and perhaps the Saints).
If the Eagles, L.A. Rams and Seattle Seahawks are all set for the playoffs and the Vikings win the division, that’s four of the six playoff spots. The NFC South division will make the playoffs and that means there is one wild card spot remaining.
The remaining teams fighting for that spot will be the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and the two remaining teams in the NFC South race (between the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Saints).
The best thing to happen for the Bears is if they can somehow knock off the Saints and the Falcons can rise up and win the division. If that happens, the Bears will have tiebreakers over both the Falcons and Saints, and both (based on record and current playing level) will be hard pressed to win 10 games.
That would mean they would only have to worry about Washington and Dallas. Washington has several tough games remaining, and seem to scream out as an 8-8 team. Dallas, of course, is a talented team that could make a run and emerge as a 10-6 or even 11-5 team. Their play has been inconsistent but that is going to be the biggest thorn in the side of the Bears’ playoff chances.
For the sake of argument, I played the schedule game with two football insiders (non Chicago), both of them had the Bears finishing 8-8. That shows you that 9-7 isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The question is, can they get the tiebreakers they need if they finish 9-7? The odds at this point are definitely against it. If that’s the case, to make the playoffs, the team has to finish 10-6, which means the game against the Saints is a must win.
It’s a long shot, but if the Bears are 6-6 after 12 games, or even 7-7 after 14, they will be in the discussion to make the playoffs, which will be a nice change of pace after the last couple seasons. It’s good to see things finally moving in the right direction.