CHICAGO IL - DECEMBER 12: Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears looks to the sideline in between plays against the New England Patriots at Soldier Field on December 12 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Patriots beat the Bears 36-7. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
It can be a struggle at times for fans to look past a devastating loss at home and look at the bigger picture. Let us not kid ourselves, that's exactly what the loss to the Patriots was. Devastating. It's tough to see your team outplayed on offense. It's tough to see your team outplayed on defense. However, we were outplayed in both phases which caused the acceptable special teams play to be less of a bright spot, and more salt in the wound due to the good returns that were wasted. Then to add some spice to this warm batch of disappointment, I need only remind you that this was a home game that we were embarrassed in.
It's always darkest before the dawn, true believers, and there is a silver lining coming out of Week 14. The Chicago Bears now completely control their own playoff destiny. Follow me below the fold where we will look at the playoff implications of the next three weeks, and some of the more likely scenarios.
So, we need to establish some things as facts. For visitors from outside the friendly confines, you may not appreciate the bluntness, but both the Vikings and the Lions have no chance of winning the NFC North at this time. The best the Vikings could hope for is 8-8, which just isn't good enough against our worst case scenario 9-7. With that out of the way, let's settle down for another round of that epic struggle between good and evil, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers rivalry.
15 Dec 20 CHI @ MIN Mall of America Field 8:30 PM 16 Dec 26 NYJ @ CHI Soldier Field 1:00 PM 17 Jan 02 CHI @ GB Lambeau Field 1:00 PM
First up on the hit parade is this coming Monday Night versus the Minnesota Vikings. To say this game is important would be an understatement of Ditka-like proportions. Winning this game gives us incontestable control of the tie-breakers against Green Bay, as even with a loss to Green Bay we would have a one game lead in the division with a tied head to head record. Simply put, if we win Monday Night, Green Bay has to win out with the Bears dropping their final two games to take the division.
The second game on the list is the New York Jets, a beatable team with a lackluster offense. This game is truly only important if we win the game against the Vikings in Week 15. Why? A win against the Jets does nothing for us in regards to division rankings as they are an AFC team, while a loss against the Vikings gives the Packers a chance to tie us up in the final game not just in head to head/overall standings, but also divisional rankings and conference rankings, and it's entirely possible depending on the games won and lost that the tie-breakers could continue down to places like strength of victory which would spell disaster for our playoff hopes.
The final game is the firewall keeping the Packers at bay. It's a very simple example a worst case scenario of win in, or lose and go home. Even if the Bears were to lose their Week 15/16 match to drop to 9-6, and the Packers somehow managed to win their next two tough games against the Patriots and Giants, it would leave the final showdown at Lambeau Field as the ultimate decider as a Bears win would tie up the overall records, and the first tie-breaker is the head-to-head, so the sweep would sweep us right into the NFC North crown. If we can't break the Packers spirit before we meet, then we will just have to crush their dreams face to face on the frozen tundra.
So a quick round up of the most likely scenarios.
1. Bears beat the Packers in Week 17 = Bears win the NFC North
One win and we're in, but I'd love to have it locked up before this, as much as this would be a rivalry game to end all rivalry games.
2. Bears beat the Vikings and the Jets in Week 15-16 = Bears win the NFC North
Two wins, and it doesn't matter what the Packers do. The crown is ours.
3. Bears beat the Vikings and the Packers lose any one game = Bears win the NFC North
This is the one that I hate to include because it relies on another team, but with Rodgers possibly being bench ridden against the Packers it's incredibly possible that the Packers drop the game to NE and we win the game against the Vikings and this is all wrapped up this week.
The Chicago Bears alone will be responsible for their entry into the playoffs, or watching it from their televisions at home. We've got a lot of veterans on this team that would love their first shot, or even a single shot at a Super Bowl ring, so I suggest they get their heads on straight and use the defeat to fuel this final drive towards the promised land.