While the Chicago Bears themselves might be out of playoff contention (sorry to break the news if you were not aware), that does not mean they can not have any impact on the upcoming postseason.
With two games left on the season, the Bears have a chance to play spoiler to both the Detroit Lions’ playoff chances and the Minnesota Vikings’ chance at the one seed. And while members of the organization and the fanbase would probably prefer more losses and a higher draft pick, it is still fun to think of how the Bears can ruin the days of two conference rivals.
Week 18: @ Detroit
Detroit Lions (7-8) | 2nd in NFC North | 9th in NFC
The Lions currently sit two seeds out of the last playoff berth; in between the Lions and seed seven sit the Seahawks, who have the same 7-8 record as the Lions but beat Detroit in their Oct. 2 matchup. The good news for the Lions, however, is that they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Washington (who hold the seventh seed) and the Giants (who hold the sixth seed). Detroit can also make the postseason by just winning more games than the three teams in front of them, as they can finish with more wins than any combination of Seattle (7-8), Washington (7-7-1), and the Giants (8-6-1).
So what damage can the Bears do tomorrow? The first step is, of course, a Bears win. This would knock the Lions to 7-9. At this point, they would not be able to catch the Giants, as New York can only finish with 8 losses at worst, guaranteeing a better record than the at best nine-loss Lions.
With a Lions loss in the books, Detroit can officially be eliminated if Washington then beats Cleveland. A Commanders’ win means 8-8-1 is the worst record Washington can finish with, putting them above an at best 8-9 Lions squad.
Now, if the Commanders lose, the Lions will be safe from elimination. So to sum it up, the Bears can eliminate the Lions from contention by 1.) winning, and 2.) relying on the Commanders to win.
Week 18: vs. Minnesota
Minnesota Vikings (12-3) | 1st in NFC North (CLINCHED) | 2nd in NFC
Unlike their Detroit counterpart, the Vikings have clinched their spot in the playoffs. Now they are just vying for seeding.
Now how exactly the Bears can impact the Vikings’ playoff appearance is a little murkier, as Minnesota (and all the teams around them in the standings) have a game to go between now and when they square off in Chicago.
Minnesota can finish as high as the one seed and get the sole first-round bye, or finish as low as seed three. To get the one seed, the Vikings need to win out (finishing 14-3) and for Philadelphia to drop their last two. This leads to the first way the Bears could impact the Vikings’ playoff spot, assuming Minnesota wins this weekend and the Eagles lose; if the Bears win week 18, Minnesota can not get that first-round bye, as the best record the Vikings can achieve is 13-4, at least tying Philly, who owns the head to head tiebreaker over Minnesota.
Now let’s say Minnesota loses this week at Green Bay (a very reasonable outcome with how well the Packers49ers have been playing lately). With a loss against the Packers in hand, another loss against the Bears risk sliding the Vikings to the third seed. All that needs to happen for that to occur is one win. That would tie San Francisco and Minnesota at 12 wins apiece, with the Niners holding the tiebreaker in conference record. If the 49ers win both of their last two games, they avoid the tiebreaker at all, jumping Minnesota for the second seed assuming Minnesota loses tomorrow and week 18.
So, to recap: if the Vikings win this week and the Eagles lose, a Bears win in week 18 would knock Minnesota out of contention for the first seed no matter what Philadelphia does. If the Vikings lose this week, a Bears win in the season finale could knock Minnesota down to the third seed if San Francisco can pick up one more win.