There are some Chicago Bears fans that will start rooting for our opponents on Sundays because they are desperate to see turnover at the general manager and head coach positions. In recent years I have castigated such behavior as at-best shameful and at-worst un-American. Fans believe their championship answers rest in the roster decisions of Bill Parcells - who has never won a Super Bowl as a GM - and the coaching prowess of Bill Cowher - whose 2-4 record in AFC Championship Games isn't exactly making him a first ballot Hall of Famer.
I don't root for the Bears to lose. Ever. I don't care if a Week 17 win is the difference between the top pick in the draft and the eighth pick, I don't do it. I live by the mantra that we're only granted, at least for the next year, sixteen opportunities to watch our beloved ball club play. And I want the Bears to win every one of them.
That being said, I decided to spend some time proving to myself that the Bears have no chance to reach the postseason this year. As a desperate act, a defense mechanism, an attempt to spare myself the Lovie letdowns of the next two months. Turns out it is much, much, much harder than I thought it would be.
Here are the schedules:
Bears. @ Bills, Vikings, @ Dolphins, Eagles, @ Lions, Patriots, @ Vikings, Jets, @ Packers.
Vikings. @ Patriots, Cardinals, @ Bears, Packers, @ Redskins, Bills, Giants, Bears, @ Eagles, @ Lions
Packers. @ Jets, Cowboys, @ Vikings, @ Falcons, 49ers, @ Lions, @ Patriots, Giants, Bears
The first thing I thought looking at those schedules was, "Wow. The Packers and Vikings are both going to lose this week." If the Vikes and Pack do lose (and they are six-point underdogs), the Bears will arrive in Toronto alone in first place. They will have lost two straight games at home, as favorites, and play their next game as lone division leaders. Don't say much for the North, does it? If they win that game, they will end the first half of their schedule at 5-3.
Objectively speaking, I think the Bears don't have a single guaranteed win over their final eight but they have several winnable games. I think the Vikings should not have much trouble with the Cardinals and Bills at home. I think the Packers should handle the 49ers easily at home as well. (I'm not quite ready to call their Cowboys game a guarantee.)
The conclusion? These schedules make it basically impossible for any of these teams to pull away. And contrary to my opinions a few weeks ago, it makes a 9-7 division champion a possibility. The NFC North will be decided by two Bears/Vikings games and most likely on the last afternoon of the season at Lambeau Field.
And wouldn't it be fitting for Lovie Smith, the man who proclaimed beating Green Bay as his primary goal the day he was hired, to have to defeat the Packers in order to have a shot to keep his job this postseason?