The day is finally upon us.
A week after clinching their first winning season since 2012, the Chicago Bears defeated the Green Bay Packers 24-17 at Soldier Field to capture their first NFC North title in eight seasons.
With a 10-4 overall record and the division locked up, Bears fans can collectively exhale a sigh of relief.
In the words of head coach Matt Nagy, “there is still work to be done”. And in fact, there is. A division title is great, and truly puts Chicago’s improvements in perspective. However, any Bears fan would be lying if they told you they would be content with losing from here on out.
Given the dominance displayed by the 2018 Bears, a wildcard-round exit in the playoffs would be disappointing, regardless of how much Chicago has improved since last season’s 5-11 finish.
The Bears are capable of doing some serious damage in the playoffs. With that being said, Chicago’s potential road to the Superbowl is still unknown.
In addition to the Bears’ potential postseason opponents, Chicago’s seed in the playoffs is still up in the air.
Since the Cowboys lost and fell to 8-6 overall, the Bears are essentially guaranteed at least a three seed.
The Rams’ unexpected primetime defeat at the hands of Philadelphia brings Chicago within one game of Los Angeles. As a result, though still unlikely, the Bears could potentially sneak into the playoffs with the second overall seed in the NFC.
If that were the case, Chicago would earn a first-round bye and a home divisional-round matchup. Let’s take a look at the Bears’ early-playoff scenarios if they were to earn a two, or three seed.
Second seed (bye to divisional round).
LA’s loss to the Eagles makes this a theoretical worth talking about. However, a lot needs to go right for the Bears in order for this to happen.
Chicago needs to win its two remaining games to earn the NFC’s second seed. Additionally, the Rams need to lose at least one of their final two regular season games.
Winning in San Francisco and then defeating the Vikings for the second time this season are far from givens for the Bears. Although, doing so is more likely than not. Earning the second seed is a stretch because of LA’s remaining schedule.
The Rams play the 3-11 Arizona Cardinals on the road this week before coming home to face the 4-10 49ers. With something to play for, it is difficult to imagine LA losing either of its two upcoming games against lowly opponents.
Regardless, upsets happen every week in the NFL. And it is worth noting that the Rams have looked like a different team the past two weeks after a dominant first 12 games.
Starting quarterback Jared Goff has thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions over LA’s current two-game skid. Chicago is hoping these struggles continue for at least one more week.
If the Bears end up taking the two seed, their chances of making it to the promised land increase heavily.
Since the NFL Playoff Bracket rearranges its seeds each round, Chicago would play the best remaining team from the wildcard round with a two seed, and bye to the divisional round.
I see the Rams beating whichever team it plays in the wildcard round. Whether its Minnesota, Seattle, or even Philly, I don’t see LA losing at home to begin the playoffs.
If the Rams win the first round as the three seed, Chicago would face LA at home in the divisional round. This obviously wouldn’t be a great matchup.
However, having the game played at Soldier Field, most likely in frigid conditions, gives the Bears an identical advantage to the one they held over the Rams in the regular season matchup.
Third seed (no bye, home game in wildcard round).
Though earning the second seed is the less-likely scenario, it is a little more cut-and-dry as to who the Bears will face compared to the three seed. If Chicago gets the two seed and LA wins, it plays LA.
There is actually a great chance the Bears face LA even with a three seed, but in different circumstances. If Chicago earns the three seed and wins at Soldier Field, advancing to the divisional round, it will play the Rams.
But, instead of playing the Rams at home, the Bears will have to travel to Los Angeles, where the Rams play much better football.
The difference between a two and three seed is significant. Also, obviously, Chicago has to play an extra game if it finishes as the third-best team in the NFC.
Since this is the likely case, let’s forget about playing the Rams for a minute and focus on who the Bears would have to play in the first round of the playoffs.
The three seed faces the lesser of the two wildcard teams in the opening round of the playoffs. If the current NFC standings hold, Chicago would play the Vikings at home in the first round of the playoffs.
That matchup makes me a little nervous. It isn’t that I don’t think the Bears are better than Minnesota. But, it’s the fact that playing the Vikings in the playoffs would be the third matchup between the division foes this season.
The Vikings would be extremely experienced and aware of how the 2018 Bears operate if the teams face each other for a third time. In my eyes, that gives either team a likely chance of winning. Especially since both defenses are dominant.
A Bears-Vikings playoff game would almost certainly go down to the wire.
Being tasked with this can be avoided though. Depending on what happens this week, Chicago may have an opportunity to knock Minnesota out of the playoffs in week 17 when the two teams meet.
If not Minnesota, the Bears would either face Seattle, Philadelphia, or Washington in the first round. Playing the Seahawks is more probable than either NFC East team.
The 8-6 Seahawks would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, while the 7-7 Eagles and Redskins are on the outside looking in.
However, in order for Chicago to face Seattle in the first round, Minnesota would need to leap-frog the Seahawks in the standings. The Vikings are currently 0.5 games behind Seattle overall.
The Bears beat Seattle 24-17 back in week two at home. While Chicago is a much better team than it was early on, so are the Seahawks.
Seattle has won four of its last four games since beginning the season 4-5. Last week’s stunning upset in San Francisco proved Pete Carroll’s bunch is still vulnerable. Still, Seattle is evidently a dangerous team right now.
The Seahawks could give the Bears some trouble if their defense is playing at its best. Chicago’s D shouldn’t have any trouble feasting on Seattle’s 19th-best offense at home though.
Anyway, I believe the best possible outcome for the Bears would be to play the quarterback-less Redskins or inconsistent Eagles in the wildcard round. Odds are stacked against either of those happening.
While some possible circumstances give Chicago a more likely chance to win than others, I’d put my money on the Bears against any possible first-round opponents.
The Bears are 7-1 at home. I don’t see any of the previously-mentioned teams finding a way to get the best of Chicago and its inspired defense in the hostile environment Soldier Field provides.
- Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Eddie Herz is a senior journalism major at Colorado State University. He has been a beat reporter for CSU's newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, since he was a freshman. Eddie has also contributed to the BTPowerhouse.com, a sister website of SBnation. Eddie will be the CSU Football beat reporter for the Rocky Mountain Collegian this coming Fall.
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