UPDATE: With the Vikings pulling off an upset over the Texans on Sunday, and The Ravens beating the Giants, including a Bears' victory over the Cardinals, Chicago now needs to win in Detroit in Week-17 and have the Packers defeat the Vikings in order to secure a spot in the playoffs.
The Redskins and Cowboys remain in contention for the NFC East division title. The Vikings, Bears, Giants, Seahawks and Redskins remain in contention for a Wild Card berth.
Originally published on December 21, 2012:
We are nearly done with the 2012 NFL regular season as we move in to Week-16. After 14 games, the Bears’ entire season has been put on the line based on the outcome of these final two games. The first of the two is in Glendale, Arizona against the 5-9 Cardinals. The second is in the Motor City against the—currently—4-10 Detroit Lions.
Even with the way the Bears have been struggling, these are two very winnable games.
The Bears, after playing their way to a first half record of 7-1, now find themselves lumped in with all the other Wild Card teams on the fringe. At 8-6, Chicago is no longer looking from the inside out, but is chasing the current sixth seeded Minnesota Vikings (also at 8-6). It’s dire straits as the Bears’ season has unraveled and exposed an overachieving team and coaching staff.
This one has the classic feel of a collapsing season in which players start to lose their temperaments and attack the very conduit that has pushed them forward all season. It’s shed new light on the obvious flaws with Lovie Smith's decision making when it comes to his offense. It has made apparent the gaps of inconsistent play due to any lack of consistent play calling.
But forget all that for now; let's talk scenarios . . .
First off, let's look at the NFC East which currently has three teams in contention for the fourth and sixth playoff spots. Currently, the Washington Redskins hold the best record in that division at 8-6 and are in the fourth seeded team. The Redskins have the Eagles and Cowboys left which could help the Bears considering both teams are in the hunt at 8-6.
Next, the defending champion New York Giants (8-6) end the season on the road at Baltimore (9-5). They then get the Eagles (4-10) at home.
If the Redskins win-out they would win the NFC East and earn the fourth seed. If not, Giants or the Cowboys would take it. The Bears fortunately have the tie breaker over Dallas after that Week-3 thrashing.
The Giants can win the sixth seed with two wins and actually jump the Vikings, but New York is still in contention for the division title and possibly the third seed (barring a Packers loss), as are the Redskins and Cowboys.
As for the Vikings, at 8-6 it will take help from the Giants’ and Redskins’ opponents, but they would essentially have to win out. The Vikings by far have the toughest remaining schedule with an away game in Houston, and then back home for Week-17 against the Packers. If the Vikings win both, they would have the better divisional record over the Bears and be awarded a playoff spot with the afore mentioned help.
For the Bears it’s simple; win your final two games and do not worry about the external factors. It’s the only mindset to have. Chicago comes into this final stretch with the easiest schedule of the teams in contention. The Lions’ and Cardinals’ combined record is 9-19, and before last week when they faced each other, both came in with extended losing streaks.
Both games are on the road, but the difficulty of the match-ups might somehow take this disaster of a season and give this team another shot at redemption. Lovie Smith is basically fighting for his job, and loss here might end his long and somewhat confusing career with the Bears. And if the last couple of seasons tell us anything it’s that anything is possible in December.
Just get into the dance and see what happens.
(P.S. ~ I will be at the game this weekend in Arizona, so give me a shout on Twitter and let me know if you will be there.)