Last One Standing?
Chicago poised for sweep of Packers
The Chicago Bears (8-6) are now in control of their own playoff destiny after the Detroit Lions' (7-7) predictable home loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night. If the Bears win the final two games remaining on their schedule they will qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2010.
That we know for certain. Everything else is pure speculation.
However, the most likely scenario, in my opinion, calls for the Bears and Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) to meet Dec. 29 at Soldier Field in Week 17 with the NFC North title on the line. And I expect the Bears to win that game and host a playoff game in Chicago the following week.
How did I get there? Simple.
I can easily envision the Bears losing Sunday night in Philadelphia to an Eagles team (8-6) that has won five of their past six and leads the NFL in rushing yards per game at 152.9.
The odds are also favorable that Green Bay will knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8) at Lambeau Field and that Detroit will find a way to recover and squeak past the miserable Giants (5-9) at Ford Field.
But in Week 17, I give the Bears a great shot of sweeping the season series against the Packers, especially if quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains sidelined due to a fractured collarbone. Rodgers is the key. If he plays, which sounds more and more doubtful with each passing day, the Bears might be in trouble. But they can hold a Matt Flynn-led Green Bay offense in check.
Of course, Jay Cutler has struggled against the Packers throughout the course of his career. That remains a concern. But with the game in Chicago, I expect the Bears will be able to do just enough to finish off their divisional foe.
As for the Lions, do you actually trust Detroit enough to beat the still-motivated Minnesota Vikings in the final game ever in the Metrodome with the postseason on the line?
When all you're accustomed to is losing, it's hard to win when it really matters. That's why I doubt Detroit will be the last team standing in the NFC North.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
Dream matchup wouldn't end well
Chicago Bears fans have to rely on faith right now, and that might not be a bad thing. The stars have aligned for Chicago to make the playoffs, even if that alignment took a circuitous path.
Who would've imagined that after this team lost to Washington, losing Cutler, Briggs and Charles Tillman to injury in the process?
Destiny is a funny word to use, because the Bears needed a long injury to Aaron Rodgers (thanks to Shea McClellin in their Nov. 4 game) and an epic collapse by the Detroit Lions (thanks to the Lions) to make it happen.
So with that in mind, let's imagine the Bears win at Philadelphia this Sunday evening -- hey, Briggs should be back and the Bears are money in prime time -- then it's up to them beating Green Bay at home in the season finale.
That is a storyline out of a columnist's dream.
But as mediocre as Green Bay has been, the Packers have had Cutler's number in his Bears career. He's won only one game against Green Bay, a home victory in 2010, which preceded a road loss and that painful home playoff defeat. That's one fewer victory against Green Bay than Josh McCown has had in two starts as a Bear.
Green Bay's defense rivals the Bears' defense in mediocrity, but Dom Capers' 3-4 has given Cutler fits. While Cutler led the Bears to a second-half comeback against Cleveland, you can bet his very presence will give Packers defenders some confidence. Remember what Tashaun Gipson said last week before picking off Cutler twice: Cutler will give you chances.
Of course, Green Bay would need to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday and would need Rodgers to return this week or next to have a real chance. The Packers have yet to announce his viability for this weekend, but you can bet he'll be cleared for next week.
Everything feels too good to be true for this Bears team. Green Bay knocking them out of the playoffs in the last week of the season? Well, I hate to say it, but that feels right.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.