Sunday’s help bestowed by the rest of the NFL upon the Bears within the NFC North in the form of losses for Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit can actually mean something.
All the negative talk about looking ahead to next year’s draft to see which quarterback the Bears will fail on next, or about which useless free agent to lay $33 million on need not occur yet.
Just because the Bears enter Week 12 of the NFL season with a 5-5 record and currently out of a playoff position doesn’t mean they need to quit on the season.
In fact, the odds say a team at 5-5 has a 29% chance of making the playoffs. That’s pretty disappointing considering they had an 85% chance when they were 5-1 but the good news for the Bears is the number of 5-5 teams in recent years who have gone on to the playoffs.
In the last five years 14 teams made the playoffs after splitting their first 10 games at 5-5. Some have even been worse and made it, like the 2018 Eagles team Nick Foles quarterbacked past the Bears (4-6) or the 2016 Packers, who were 4-6. Or the 2015 Washington Redskins, who were 5-7 after 12 games and made it, although that was in the NFC East where teams with .500 records are gods.
These 14 teams made the playoffs and it wasn’t even an expanded format like this year.
The point is at 5-5, the Bears still have their fate before them. Green Bay’s loss to the Colts left them two games behind in the division and with two games yet to play against the Packers it means the Bears actually do still control their own fate in their division. It would mean beating the Packers twice, which last happened in 2007. Heck, the Bears haven’t even won a game the week after their bye since Marc Trestman’s first season, 2013.
So again, we’re saying there’s a chance, but wow, what it requires is a bit like counting on a win in the lottery to supply cash for next month’s mortgage payment.
The Bears are 5-3 within the conference, which could ultimately lead to a decent tiebreaker edge in a wild-card chase.
The Buccaneers are 7-3 on the year and the Bears own a tiebreaker edge on them, but after Tampa Bay plays the Rams Monday night, the Chiefs and then the Vikings in successive weeks, they finish with a schedule straight out of the beginning of this Bears season—Atlanta, Detroit and Atlanta. Good luck finding an upset of Tom Brady there.
So finishing ahead of Tampa Bay could require the Bears to win out.
The Cardinals are the real fly in the Bears’ ointment because they should be 5-5 and tied for the final playoff spot with the Bears, but a Hail Mary TD pass against Buffalo leaves them a game ahead of the Bears for the final wild-card spot.
Among Arizona’s final six games are games at New England, two with the Rams, one each with the 49ers and Eagles and also the resurgent Giants. In the NFC East, resurgency consists of one win in succession.
So the wild-card chase seems to revolve around whether the Bears can keep winning and hope for Arizona losses.
The Arizona part can’t be controlled, but it seems much more likely than the latter.
Those 14 teams who negotiated themselves into playoff spots after being 5-5 did not have to wear four-game losing streaks into their turnaround runs to the postseason.
For the Bears, this is the most difficult challenge of all.
Barring continued COVID-19 problems and the addition of an eighth playoff team in each conference if the league has to add another week to the regular season, the Bears’ only shot is to become a hot team again.
It’s a bit like trying to light a fire using coals burnt a week earlier.
Getting help Sunday in the NFC North was fun for the Bears Sunday, but the only way they’re getting into the playoffs is by helping themselves.
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