The Chicago Bears’ disappointing 2019 NFL season sitll can end with a playoff berth.
Following a breakout 2018 season, when they went 12-4 to win the NFC North, at 7-6 atter Thursday night’s 31-24 home win over the now 6- Cowboys, they still sit in third place in the division.
But the Bears are now only a game and a half out of the second wild-card position in the NFC playoff picture, held by the 8-4 Vikings, their second-place rivals from the NFC North. They are No. 8 in the conference, also a half-game behind the 7-5 Rams.
But with three games left to play, the Bears still have a chance to make up that ground and get redemption for all the frustrations they’ve had in coach Matt Nagy’s second year. The 9-3 Packers have put repeating in the division out of reach for Chicago, and either the 10-2 Seahawks or 10-2 49ers will get the No. 5 seed. Here’s what needs to happen for the Bears to sneak back into the playoff field at No. 6.
NFL POWER RANKINGS
Middling Bears enter Week 14 clinging to longshot playoff hopes
1. Bears need to win out
The Bears won’t be getting into the playoffs with nine wins. The Vikings are well positioned to hit 10 wins after the next two weeks with matchups against the Lions and Chargers. So the Bears need to finish 10-6.
They won as slight underdogs to the Cowboys at home, but it gets considerably tougher than that in Weeks 15 and 16. First comes facing the Packers at Lambeau Field, before hosting the 8-4 Chiefs in Soldier Field. But if Chicago can get through all those obstacles, it would get a head-to-head shot to try to sweep the season series from the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 17.
For what it’s worth, the Bears have won 4 of their past 5 games to have this longshot. Before the Cowboys, three of those wins came against the Lions (twice) and the Giants. quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the defense need to keep saving their best for last with the degree of difficulty raised for December.
The Bears started off well by winning in Week 14, now a game up plus a head-to-head tiebreaker on the Cowboys. The Eagles beat the Bears, but they already have seven losses going into Week 14. Chicago would then not worry about either Dallas or Philadelphia in the wild card, with those teams’ only playoff ticket being the NFC East title.
2. Bears need Rams to lose twice
The Bears finishing 10-6 would mean nothing to their playoff hopes unless the Rams struggle down the stretch. That’s because Chicago lost at Los Angeles in Week 11. The Bears have to be a game ahead of the Rams with the head-to-head tiebreaker out of their favor.
The Rams do have a tough schedule, starting with the Seahawks at home on Sunday night in Week 14. Then they need to travel to the Cowboys and 49ers in Weeks 15 and 16. Their surefire win looks like the Cardinals at home in Week 17, a team the Rams just throttled on the road in Week 13.
Between the Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco matchups, Los Angeles looks like it can drop two of three to hold down its end of the bargain for Chicago.
3. Bears need Vikings to lose once before Week 17
The Vikings are heavy favorites at home against the Lions and should have similar status in what will feel like an extra home game in Los Angeles against the reeling Chargers. The Bears can’t count on either of those teams for help.
But yes, that means the Bears, if they can win the next three, would need to root hard for their archival Packers to finish a sweep of the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 16. With the Rams likely stumbling enough, that would set up a winner-take-all wild-card play-in game between the Bears and Vikings in Minnesota.
The Bears are still more likely to be hibernating during the NFC playoffs, but stranger things have happened. Totally sleeping on Chicago would be a mistake, because it still is talented enough to make a final run.