The Bears and The Playoffs: 4 Games Left Edition

The Chicago Bears are 9-3. Four games left. Jay Cutler has his first winning season since forever, and the Bears win finally and officially ruled out any chance that the Vikings could accidentally win the NFC North.

2 at home. 2 on the road. Not only is the NFC North Division Championship in play, but so is a #1 seed, and the home field advantage and bye week that comes with it. There are some good teams on the outside looking in right now, and the Bears play one of those teams in week 17.

It's playoff-level football in December...what could be better? Current NFC standings and schedule analysis after the jump.

National Football Conference - 2010 Regular Season
  NFC Team Div W L T  Pct PF PA Net Pts TD Home Road Div Pct Conf Pct Non-Conf Streak Last 5
1. Atlanta Falcons NCS 10 2 0 .833 304 233 71 33 6-0 4-2 3-0 1.000 7-1 .875 3-1 6W 5-0
2. Chicago Bears NCN 9 3 0 .750 246 192 54 27 4-2 5-1 4-0 1.000 7-3 .700 2-0 5W 5-0
3. Philadelphia Eagles NCE 8 4 0 .667 344 281 63 38 4-2 4-2 2-1 .667 5-3 .625 3-1 1W 4-1
4. St. Louis Rams NCW 6 6 0 .500 232 237 -5 23 4-2 2-4 2-2 .500 4-5 .444 2-1 2W 3-2
5. New Orleans Saints NCS 9 3 0 .750 299 227 72 34 4-2 5-1 3-1 .750 7-2 .778 2-1 5W 5-0
6. New York Giants NCE 8 4 0 .667 308 247 61 37 5-2 3-2 2-2 .500 6-2 .750 2-2 2W 3-2
7. Green Bay Packers NCN 8 4 0 .667 303 182 121 36 5-1 3-3 3-1 .750 6-3 .667 2-1 1W 4-1
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers NCS 7 5 0 .583 243 251 -8 29 3-3 4-2 2-3 .400 5-3 .625 2-2 2L 2-3
9. Seattle Seahawks NCW 6 6 0 .500 240 289 -49 25 4-2 2-4 3-1 .750 5-3 .625 1-3 1W 2-3
10. Minnesota Vikings NCN 5 7 0 .417 227 253 -26 27 4-2 1-5 1-3 .250 4-4 .500 1-3 2W 3-2
11. Washington Redskins NCE 5 7 0 .417 222 293 -71 23 2-4 3-3 2-2 .500 4-5 .444 1-2 2L 1-4

standings pulled from nfl.com-The Online Home of the National Football League

Atlanta Falcons-@CAR, @SEA, NO, CAR
Credit has to be given to the Falcons. They're absolutely dominant at home and find the ways to win the big games away (see: TB). They and their schedule are the biggest hindrances to the Bears ability to finagle their way into the #1 seed. They've got three division games over their last four, but two of those games are against the woeful Panthers, and one each against Seattle and New Orleans. Do not be surprised if the Falcons go 3-1, or possibly 4-0 over this last stretch. The late home game against New Orleans will be their toughest test, and New Orleans is going to be fighting for their postseason lives.

Chicago Bears-NE, @MIN, NYJ, @GB
Tough, Tough, Tough, Tough. New England and New York are going to settle up the NFC East pecking order this week. New England is particularly tough on teams the week after they lose, so keep that in mind. Minnesota may be a far different team than they were a few weeks ago, with Interim Head Coach Leslie Frazier, and the possibility that Capt. Wranglers may not be able to go. They put up big points on the Bills yesterday, and they're going to be seeking to play spoiler. The Jets are tough, but beatable, and I think you can still get in Sanchez's head. I would like nothing more than for the game against Green Bay to not mean anything, but it may likely be the decider to crown a NFC North champion. They are, however, in a situation that could possibly leave them looking back at New York, Washington, or Seattle and thinking "What If?"

Philadelphia Eagles-@DAL, @NYG, MIN, DAL
The Eagles have a tough road to keep their grip on the NFC North. The Cowboys aren't the team they were earlier this season, as a couple of recent wins, including the big one against the Colts last night, have shown. They're more balanced, and they're finding ways to make plays they just didn't make the first half of the season. Additionally, they have their game against the Giants, which could help even out the tiebreaker scenarios should the Giants win. They need to get the wins in Dallas to stay ahead of New York in the tie breaker scenarios. This one should be much more clear after week 15.

St. Louis Rams-@NO, KC, SF, @SEA
The Rams are fighting tooth and nail to keep themselves above the Seahawks right now, and a tough look stretch down the road may not help them. New Orleans and Kansas City are both legitimate teams, and San Francisco can always play someone hard. The Seahawks have a similar schedule, and may benefit from hosting the Rams in Week 17.

New Orleans Saints-STL, @BAL, @ATL, TB
The Saints hold their playoff destiny in their own hands. They'll likely look to be one of the higher five seed teams you've ever seen, but two big road games in Baltimore and Atlanta are going to be tough for them, and the game against Tampa Bay may be a spoiler game.

New York Giants-@MIN, PHI, @GB, @WAS
The Giants are in a dead race for the East, just like I mentioned above. They have what I would argue is a similar schedule to the Eagles down the line, though I'd give them the edge with playing Washington in Week 17--that team looks like it's punching timecards.

Green Bay Packers-@DET, @NE, NYG, CHI
Green Bay has shown they can be attacked, but they're still the best team on the outside looking in right now. They're looking at a not easy schedule down the stretch, but having two tough games at home is going to play into their advantage. If they get tripped up by New England or New York, the Bears may not have to worry about Week 17, provided they can get things done.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-@WAS, DET, SEA, @NO
Tampa Bay is, I think, going to get the short end of the stick from playing in the NFC South this year. With two or three teams in the conference already at nine wins or higher, the Bucs may well need to win out to have much chance of making it. They have a schedule that could help them out with some of that, though, in that Washington, Detroit, and Seattle are all definitely winnable games. If nothing else, keep an eye on this team next year--they should be able to build on what they have now to be formidable. (If we get football.)

Seattle Seahawks-@SF, ATL, @TB, STL
Seattle needs to win the San Fran game, and at least one of the other two, going into the game against the Rams. If they aren't two and one going into that last game, I don't think they've got much chance.

Minnesota Vikings-NYG, CHI, @PHI, @DET
Minnesota is going to play spoiler to someone's hopes and dreams. With an epic collapse by many teams, they could squeak in as a wild card, I think. (The number of extremely unlike scenarios that would have to occur was more research than I wanted to do.) However, they could upset the balance of the NFC East or North races with their next three games, and if T-Jack plays, they may very well keep someone out of their seed, or out of the playoffs entirely.

Washington Redskins-TB, @DAL, @JAC, NYG
I only put them because I'd feel bad if I didn't., as they have the same record as the Vikings. This team is clearly done.

 

Am I off? Wrong about something? A stupid idiot who doesn't know what they're talking about? Who are you predicting is in the top 6? Sound off now, and we'll update next Monday.

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