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Thoughts on the NFC Playoff Picture With Four Games Remaining

| December 5th, 2018


It’s been a long time. A long, long time. In 2013 the Bears had a chance to make the playoffs over the final month but they were 6-6 at this stage and a definitive mediocrity.  Per Football Outsiders, the Bears have an 85.1% chance to win the NFC North and a 96.3% chance of making the postseason. This is the kind of piece I’ve wanted to write for a long, long, long time.


NFC NORTH

Where Things Stand

Bears (8-4) are home to the Rams and Packers, followed by at Niners and Vikings.

Vikings (6-5-1) are at Seahawks, home to the Dolphins, at Lions, home to the Bears.

Notes

  • Any analysis of the remaining schedule has to begin with a basic fact: the Vikings haven’t been good. To expect them now to win their final four games is a bit of a stretch. But their contest in Seattle Monday night will set the tone for the rest of their season. It’s not a “must win” when it comes to making the postseason but it may be when it comes to challenging for the NFC North, especially if the Bears beat the Rams Sunday night.
  • Bears are 5-1 at home and their five wins have been by 7, 38, 14, 12 and 5. They have been great at Soldier Field. If they finish the season 6-2 at home, splitting their next two games, they’ll only need a win in San Francisco to host a playoff game in January.

WILDCARD

Where Things Stand

*Note: If the Bears are competing for a wildcard spot, one must assume the Vikings have won the NFC North. So we can leave them out of this equation.*

Bears (8-4, 6-2 conference)

Cowboys (7-5, 6-2 conference) are home to the Eagles, at Colts, home to the Bucs, at Giants.

Seahawks (7-5, 6-2 conference) are home to the Vikings, at 49ers, home to the Chiefs, home to the Cardinals.

Panthers (6-6, 4-5 conference) are at Browns, home to the Saints and Falcons, at Saints.

Eagles (6-6, 4-5 conference) are at Cowboys and Rams, home to the Texans, at Redskins.

Notes

  • First, we can rule out the NFC East teams. Why?
    • If Dallas beats Philly Sunday, the division is over. And at 6-7, Philly isn’t winning more than 8 games. They’d be underdogs in two of their final three.
    • If Philly wins Sunday, it’s a bit more complicated. They’re still probably maxing out at 9 wins and will have at least 6 conference losses. They’re not breaking a tie with the Bears.
  • If the Seahawks win Monday night, they’re likely getting to 10 wins. And if the Bears and Seahawks are both sitting on 10, the Bears advance because of their September victory. But 10 should be enough for Seattle.
  • Carolina’s collapse is one of the most surprising developments of the 2018 season. A little more than a month ago, the Panthers were viewed as one of the best teams in football. Then they went to Pittsburgh on a Thursday night, got annihilated, and began a free fall. Now Ron Rivera is firing assistant coaches and taking over defensive play-calling.
  • The Bears would need an epic December collapse to miss the postseason.

Prediction

  • Cowboys beat Philly Sunday and coast to NFC East division title.
  • Seahawks win their 10.
  • Bears win 2 of their next 3 and are 10-5 heading into Week 17.
  • Vikings lose Monday night but win the following two, getting them to 8-6-1 before Week 17.
  • Bears gift the Vikings the six seed by starting their backups in Minneapolis the final week of the season, possibly setting up a Vikings at Bears wildcard game.

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