NFC North Playoff Odds: Bears still have a slim shot
Brian Fluharty - USA Today Sports

NFC North Playoff Odds: Bears still have a slim shot

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - December is always the time to start talking about the playoffs. With the season the Bears have had, some might think Chicago is already out of the playoff picture. However, that is not the case.

Coming into week 13, the Detroit Lions had a 97% chance of making the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers with a 51.7% chance, the Minnesota Vikings with a 49.4% chance, and the Bears with a 1% chance. One is greater than zero, so there is still a possible avenue to the playoffs for Chicago.

Honestly, the reason Chicago still has a chance despite how they have played this season is because the NFC is once again weaker than the AFC. Right now, two of the wild card teams are sitting at a 6-6 record, with the Seattle Seahawks losing to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football to start out week 13.

The division title seems out of reach for the Bears, with the Lions sitting at 8-3 after losing, once again, on Thanksgiving. Still, with Chicago four games behind them and only five games left, including a rematch against Detroit, it seems unlikely that the Lions will not win the division. One of the three wild card spots is already out of play, with the Cowboys sitting at 9-3 and Philadelphia Eagles at 10-1; one of those teams will win the division and the other will take a wild card spot. So, that leaves the sixth and seventh spots, currently being occupied by the Vikings and Seahawks.

There is a lot of competition for these spots, with three teams sitting at 5-6 and four teams with four wins. The only two teams in the conference to be eliminated from the playoffs are the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers. So, Chicago needs a lot of things to go their way to have a chance at the playoffs.

First, the Bears must win out. It has only happened twice in NFL history that a team made the playoffs with a losing record and both times, those were division winners. Thus, there has never been a wild card with a losing record. Given the competition for these two playoff spots, it seems highly unlikely a team with a losing record will make the playoffs. If Chicago loses one more game, they will have a losing record for the third year in a row and a non-winning record for the fifth year in a row.

Chicago is far from in control of their own destiny, as they need a lot of things to go their way. First, they would need only one team between the Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Vikings, and Packers to have a winning record. A tiebreaker between any of these teams and the Bears goes against Chicago. There is one scenario where the Bears could win a tiebreaker with the Rams, but they would have to beat the San Francisco 49ers for that option to even be in play.

There is one team where the Bears could win a tiebreaker, and that would be the Atlanta Falcons. That is because, assuming Chicago wins out, they would beat the Falcons and thus hold the tiebreaker. For this to come into play, the Falcons would have to be in contention for a wild card spot; thus, either the New Orleans Saints or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have to win the division. If the Falcons won the division, the Bears lose the tiebreaker between the Saints and Buccaneers, as they lost to both teams.

All in all, there is a very slim chance and a cascade of different events that would need to occur for this to even happen. It all starts with winning out, which is quite unlikely going against the Lions, who they blew a lead against earlier in the season, and the Cleveland Browns, who have one of the best defenses in the league.

This whole situation comes down to the blown leads the Bears have had. That would include against the Denver Broncos, Saints and Lions. While there are other games Chicago could have won, if they did not blow these three leads (which they did in historic fashion each time), they would be in control of their own destiny.

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