After their overtime loss to the Vikings in Week 13 it looked like the Bears playoff chances were all but over. After all the Bears were sitting at 6-6, while the Detroit Lions were at 7-5 after beating the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. Though only one game separated them in the win-loss column, it was a two game deficit for the Bears since the Lions had already swept them this season. The Bears had to have a better record than the Lions if they wanted to win the division, and with four games left it seemed tough to pick up a one game lead on the Lions.
The Bears had just lost back-to-back games to the Rams and Vikings, two weaker teams with some big question marks surrounding them. How could they hope to essentially sweep the rest of their games? Josh McCown would need to remain at quarterback for at least one more week, and while he played well he obviously wasn’t the first choice for this team to go on a run with. McCown did his part though, coming up with his best game of the year against the Dallas Cowboys for a crucial win last Monday night. Cutler came back this past week, and though he started out shaky on the road versus the Browns, he came up big with two 4th quarter TD’s to lead the Bears to victory.
The Lions have been on the opposite track than the Bears since Thanksgiving weekend, though really their issues started before then. Since they picked up their 2nd win over the Bears in week 10, the Lions are just 1-4, with their lone victory coming on Thanksgiving over the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers. The Lions have dropped back-to-back games to the Eagles on the road and the Ravens at home. The Eagles game was played in tough snowy conditions, but the Lions held a lead in that game and they couldn’t capitalize, letting LeSean McCoy run wild at the end. Last night against the Ravens the Lions couldn’t blame the weather for their failures or turnovers as they lost to the Ravens 18-16, falling to 6 Justin Tucker field goals, including a 61 yarder to take the lead under a minute remaining. The Lions offense could only muster two TD’s and a field goal (and failed on the two point conversion), which is just unacceptable for that team, especially at home.
With the Lions back-to-back losses and the Bears wins, Chicago is now in control of their own destiny (The Packers actually are as well since they face the Bears week 17) and the Lions are on the outside looking in for the playoffs. The Bears still probably need to win these final two games, but now they really have something to play for. This week could be their toughest test as they head on the road to face a strong Philadelphia team. The Eagles did just collapse against a Vikings team missing Adrian Peterson, but the Eagles have shown themselves to be dangerous this year, and they will be at home. The Bears are 3-4 on the road this year, but really need to get to .500 away from Chicago to keep their playoff hopes strong.
Chicago’s final game will be a showdown with the Packers, but the good news is Chicago will be at home in that game. Also, it’s unclear if Green Bay will be playing Aaron Rodgers that week. Even if Rodgers does play, he probably won’t be 100% and Chicago could take advantage of that. If Rodgers doesn’t play then Chicago should be in a real strong situation, as Matt Flynn is definitely beatable.
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It’s been an up-and-down first year of the Mark Trestman era, but Chicago still has a good chance for the Playoffs despite a series of big injuries (particularly on defense) and that is pretty special. Even if Chicago falls short of the playoffs, this has been a positive season for the Bears with how they have weathered these injuries and are still playing meaningful games till the end of the season.