We spent much of this week discussing Saturday night's wild-card playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers -- for good reason. It will mark the second postseason matchup in the 51-year history of the rivalry.
In the still morn of the big game, however, let's circle back on our other big news story: The Chicago Bears' firing of coach Lovie Smith after a nine-season tenure ended with a 10-6 record in 2012.
At first glance, firing a coach after a 10-6 season seems harsh. The Bears were the NFL's only 10-6 team to miss the playoffs; they were done in by a one-game difference in their division record with the Minnesota Vikings.
In the big picture, however, the Bears missed out on the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. That trend, along with Smith's annually inconsistent offense, was enough to spur change by general manager Phil Emery.
And to be fair, the Bears compiled their 10-win season by feasting on inferior competition. Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information provided the chart that breaks down the Bears' wins and losses this season.
As you can see, they defeated only two teams that finished the season with a winning record (the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts). And their defense did all of its damage in terms of takeaways and touchdowns in the Bears' eight victories against teams with non-winning records.
To be clear, there are no asterisks next to wins and losses in the NFL. (Well, almost never.) But this breakdown is why NFL teams can't, and usually don't, make long-term decisions based simply on a one-season record. When you peel away the layers, you understand more about how a team got to its record and can make reasonable projections about its ability -- or lack thereof -- to sustain the pace.