Despite loss, Bears in control of division*


Well then. Count me as surprised -- not so much that the Chicago Bears lost Sunday to the New England Patriots, but that they got trounced by a team that appeared much more comfortable with snowy conditions than they did. I won't shy away from it; I wrote Friday that I expected at least a close game.

Still, from an NFC North perspective, the Bears' loss to the Patriots wasn't nearly as damaging as the Green Bay Packers' loss to the Detroit Lions. Based on my read of the NFL's tiebreaker system, the Packers no longer control their ability to win the NFC North and ensure a spot in the 2010 postseason -- even if they win their final three games and finish 11-5.

Here's how I read it:

Because of the division-record tiebreaker, the Bears could clinch the division before the teams' Week 17 showdown at Lambeau Field by winning their next two games regardless of what the Packers do. *Update: Or, as adambballn points out, the Bears could also clinch by winning in Week 15 against the Minnesota Vikings and the Packers losing to the Patriots. If either of those scenarios occurs, the Bears would have a better division record than the Packers no matter what happens in that final game. That would be the applicable tiebreaker.

In other words, the Packers need the Bears to lose two of their final three games -- while winning the final three of their own -- to win the title.

As far as wild-card chances go, I'll refer you to ESPN.com's automated playoff standings chart. As of this evening, the Packers are chasing three other teams for the NFC's two wild-card spots.

Sunday started with a collapsed stadium roof in Minnesota. It ends with the Bears, despite an ugly loss, in the NFC North driver's seat.