If the Chicago Bears plan on going to the playoffs this year they had better plan on winning this Sunday or you can forget it. Coming up on the midway point fo the season the playoff picture is starting to take form and if you look at our schedule moving forward it is not going to get any easier than how it started. Granted we did have alot of road games to start the season, but a 4-4 record halfway through just wont cut it for a team with playoff aspirations. That Browns games to me was as irrelevant last Monday as it is this Monday. Time for everyone, players, coaches, management, and fans to move forward from this game.
The NFC North- With the Vikings crushing the hopes and dreams of Green Bay fans with their sweep of the helpless and OLineless Packers this last weekend, that leaves the Bears as the only team left to even compete for the division. And as much as I think that the Bears will never win the division this year, you just cant leave it out of the realm of possibility with 2 games still to play against each other and all the other variables that can go into the rest of the season, injuries etc. But the Packers still have an eye at the wild card, but we will touch on that later. Keeping up with Minnesota before we play them will not be an easy task after their bye week they play 3 straight home games against the worthless Detroit Lions and then against the underacheiving and injury plagued Seattle Seahawks before we come to town.
The Bears on the other hand have a season changing game on the horizon going up against the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals at home, a team that just got whipped by the Carolina Panthers and will surely be coming in with a bad taste in their mouths and a mindset to get back to form. This will be a true test to see if the Coaches and Players learned anything from the dismantling defeat they took at the hands of Carson Palmer and the Bengals. Lets just hope for rain, snow, anything that can hinder their nasty recievers from having a huge game. Hopefully they arent prepared for our crappy playing surface much like the Saints of years past and fall coming out of their cuts. After watching the Panthers-Cardinals game this past weekend I will tell you that the key to keeping up with Arizonas potent offense, who will put points on the board, is to forcing them into mistakes with pressure on the QB. The Panthers forced 6 Turnovers including 5 interceptions, so Im thinking that Lovie needs to dial up some exotic blitz packages that we havent seen yet to keep Warner making bad decisions.
And on offense it is obvious what the Bears need to do to win this game and that is execute in the red zone. For some reason this has been a problem this year between the play calling and the run game. And no Im still not convinced we have gotten the run game going yet even after Fortes 2 TD performance. But a week ago I would have been spelling gloom and doom for the run game going up against Arizona who had the top run defense in football, but after giving up 270 yards rushing this past week, hopefully Carolina exposed them of some deficiancies in that area. But by in large the Bears offense, even with an inept running game, has had no problem moving down the field so regardless of how it happens they need to find ways of putting the ball in the end zone if they plan on winning and moving 2 games back of Minnesota at 5-3 with two to play against them still.
THE WILD CARD PICTURE: This is the more attainable goals for the Bears this year with the Vikings on pace to be at 9-1 before we play them on MY BIRTHDAY November 29th. The Good News: The nice thing about the rest of our schedule is that we control our own destiny on getting a wild card berth. We play the Cardinals, 49ers, Eagles (all consecutively I might add) and the Packers in December at our house, all teams that will be in the Wild Card hunt, we HAVE to get these wins to hold tiebreakers over them. The Bad News: We have already played 2 teams in the Wild Card Hunt and lost, the Atlanta Falcons and the Packers opening day. Those losses put us in a hole because now we HAVE to beat the Packers come December and we dont have another game against Atlanta who will almost certainly be running for a Wild Card spot with New Orleans seemingly unstoppable. Tonight will give a more clear picture of the South, my bet is the Saints win and Atlanta will be looking at the Wild Card.
The Packers are officially on Wild Card watch after being swept by the Vikings this year. The Giants arent helping their chances at wininng the Division after losing 3 straight games. And the Front runner of the East will be determined next week when the Cowboys and Eagles meet up on Sunday Night Football.
Right now the Division Leaders are the Vikings at 7-1 atop the North, The Saints at 6-0 controlling the South, The Cardinals lead by 1 game on the 49ers at 4-3 and the Cowboys and Eagles are tied at 5-2 so the wild card looks like this.
Cowboys/Eagles 5-2 (Play each other next week)
New York Giants 5-3 (Play San Diego next week)
Atlanta Falcons 4-2 (Play tonight against undefeated Saints)
G.B. Packers 4-3 (Play Tampa Bay next week)
Chicago Bears 4-3 (Play Arizona next week)
S.F. 49ers 3-4 (Play Tennessee next week)
Car. Panthers 3-4 (Play New Orleans next week)
So as you can see the East is going to give us the biggest problems on attaining a Wild Card spot, we need them to kick the crap out of each other for the rest of the year so one of those 3 teams fall off. Atlanta scares me cause we have already lost to them and they dont look like they are going to fall apart even if they lose to the Saints tonight. And Green Bay will be right there. The 49ers and Carolina have to win next week to prove they are serious contenders for a Wild Card spot.
Our Schedule: Just take a look at our remaining schedule. And you can break down what has to happen for the Bears to make the playoffs.
Wk 9- Cardinals
Wk 10- @49ers (Thursday Night Football)
Wk 11- Eagles (Sunday Night Football)
Wk 12- @Vikings
Wk 13- Rams
Wk 14- Packers
Wk15 - @Ravens
Wk16- Vikings (Monday Night Football)
The Bears HAVE to win against the teams with losing records left on their schedule (49ers, Rams, Lions) and then with the rest of their schedule to make the playoffs we have to at least go 3-3 or 4-2 against the teams with winning records to make the playoffs. To me 9-7 will give us the same fate as last year, no playoff berth, so it is imperative to at least split against the better teams.