Posted by Matt Clapp | 12/18/2012 06:52:00 PM | Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Lovie Smith, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFC, Playoffs, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins
“Realize what the score is, we lost to them (the Green Bay Packers) again, but for us, yesterday’s game was a must game for the NFC North championship. But besides that it wasn’t a must game as far as what can happen with our season. This week we’re to that must game, I mean the tournament has begun for us, so it’s about Arizona as soon as the players get a chance to watch the video we have to find a way to get to 10-6 and see what happens.”
- Bears head coach Lovie Smith on Monday (Quote via @BradBiggs)
I get what Lovie Smith was trying to say with that quote, but saying the Packers game was not a "must game" was a poor choice of words that the media, and fans calling for Lovie's firing (note that I'm still on the fence), have predictably eaten up.
Technically, the point he's trying to make is correct, in that the Bears can still get in the playoffs by beating the Cardinals in Arizona and Lions in Detroit. However, even if they win those two games, they're also depending on other teams to help them out in order to make the playoffs. After starting 7-1, they (incredibly and sadly) no longer control their own destiny. So, it may turn out in the end that beating the Packers was not needed for the Bears to make the playoffs, but it certainly would've made the Bears' playoff chances much better.
As it stands with the NFC playoff picture, the Bears are on the outside looking in as we head into the week 16 games. Along with winning their next two games, what else would have to happen for the Bears to get a Wild Card spot?
Below are the scenarios, via ChicagoTribune.Com.
If the Bears finish 10-6, they will make the playoffs if any of the following happen:
A Vikings loss and a Giants loss.
A Vikings loss and two Seahawks losses.
A Giants loss and two Seahawks losses.
A Vikings loss and neither the Redskins nor Cowboys win out.
Two Seahawks losses and neither the Redskins nor Cowboys win out.
If the Bears finish 9-7, they can still get in, but it would take...
Two losses by the Vikings, Giants and Cowboys.
Two losses by the Vikings, Giants and Redskins.
If the Vikings lose twice and the Cowboys finish second in the East after tiebreakers (there are numerous scenarios).
And here's the remaining schedules for each team alive in the NFC Wild Card race:
Bears (8-6): at Cardinals (5-9), at Lions (4-10).
Seahawks (9-5): vs. 49ers (10-3-1), vs. Rams (6-7-1).
Vikings (8-6): at Texans (12-2), vs. Packers (10-4).
Giants (8-6): at Ravens (9-5), vs. Eagles (4-10).
Redskins (8-6): at Eagles (4-10), vs. Cowboys (8-6).
Cowboys (8-6): vs. Saints (6-8), at Redskins (8-6).
The Bears have two very winnable games against the Cardinals and Lions, but it's never easy on the road in the NFL. And it's not like the Bears are playing well enough of late to make you feel comfortable about their chances against any opponent right now. Add in the ridiculous amount of injuries they're dealing with, and winning these last two games definitely will be a big challenge.
But, let's say the Bears do win out to finish 10-6. What's the likelihood of the other teams getting to 10 wins?
The Seahawks are red-hot and undefeated at home. They should beat the Rams, and can absolutely beat the 49ers there. 10 or 11 wins seems likely for the Seahawks.
Even with how unreal Adrian Peterson is right now, it's hard to see the Vikings winning at the Texans, and the Packers will be favored in the week 17 game at Minnesota too. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has already said that he won't rest players over the final two games, and why would he? The Packers still have a great shot to get a top-two seed which would give them the all-important round one bye. Eight or nine wins seems likely for the Vikings.
The Giants are coming off a 34-0 loss at the Falcons, and have lost four of their last six games. However, we know the defending champs are capable of playing much better football, and they've certainly been in these situations before. You can pretty much mark down a win over the Eagles already, but the Ravens game in Baltimore will be a very tough one. The Ravens are also struggling lately, losing their last three games (although all three against quality opponents: Redskins, Steelers, and Broncos). Baltimore is still trying to win the AFC North, and like the Giants, are on a mission to get their team turned around. This will be a matchup of two struggling, but very talented teams, that will likely bring it all on Sunday. Consider that game a toss-up. Nine or 10 wins seems likely for the Giants.
Robert Griffin III's status is still in question after he suffered a sprained knee in week 14. But, fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins was able to lead the Redskins to a 38-21 victory over the Browns on Sunday. Even if RG3 can't go against the Eagles, you'd have to like the Redskins' chances against a disastrous Eagles team. The game against the Cowboys in week 17 is a pretty even matchup on paper, but I'd give the Redskins a slight edge at home. Also, I'll take RG3 (provided he's healthy by then) in a huge game over Tony Romo. Nine or 10 wins seems likely for the Redskins.
Along with the week 17 game in Washington, the Cowboys face the Saints in week 16 at home. You never know what Saints team you're getting, but they're obviously capable of beating anybody when they're on. And no doubt they were on in week 15, destroying the Buccaneers 41-0. The Cowboys could definitely lose both games, and they could definitely win both games. Anywhere from eight to 10 wins for the Cowboys.
Given the scenarios and remaining schedules for each team, it would appear the Bears' most realistic chance to get a playoff spot would be to win out (obviously), have the Vikings lose a game (very likely), and have the Ravens beat the Giants (flip a coin).
Another possibility that isn't too far-fetched, would be to win out, have the Vikings lose, have the Saints beat the Cowboys, and then the Cowboys beat the Redskins in DC.
Whatever the case, the Bears can't blame anybody but themselves for being in this position, and now can only worry about winning these next two games. But, Bears fans should also pay close attention to the games that the other NFC Wild Card contenders are playing, particularly the Giants-Ravens game... which will be on at the same time (4:25 PM ET) as the Bears-Cardinals game. So, that will likely be a very stressful three hours on Sunday.
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