Push For Postseason
Schedule works in Bears' favor
This is where the "if" factor in sports comes into play.
As in "if everything goes right," the Chicago Bears will make the playoffs. As in "if everything goes according to plan," there's no reason the Bears won't be in the playoffs. As in "if nothing else bad happens" ... you get the picture.
Looking at the Bears' very favorable schedule the rest of the way, if all else goes right (even with Charles Tillman out), they should win the next five games. All five remaining opponents have a record either at or below .500. Baltimore (4-5) is beatable, St. Louis (4-6) is beatable, Minnesota (2-7) is beatable, Dallas (5-5) on Monday night in the cold at Soldier Field is very beatable and Cleveland (4-5) is beatable. That means the Bears should be 10-4 going into Week 16. That should be one of the top eight records in the NFC.
The last two games will be a toss-up. Depending on how the Philadelphia Eagles are playing at the time and depending on whether Aaron Rodgers is back for the Green Bay Packers, the Bears have a strong opportunity to split those last two games.
If all goes well (and by then Lance Briggs should be back in full swing), they'll finish with at least an 11-5 record and should realistically be in line for a game in Week 18.
The Bears look like they will be one of six teams in the NFC (along with Seattle, New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, Carolina; no disrespect to Arizona, St. Louis or any team in the NFC East) to have double-digit wins. The playoffs are still a legit and strong possibility for the Bears.
If they don't find a way to screw it up.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com
Defense will keep Bears out
It's hard to envision the Chicago Bears reaching the playoffs for one simple reason: injuries.
On offense, the team looks to be in capable hands with Josh McCown stepping in at quarterback until Jay Cutler returns from a high-ankle sprain, but McCown can't continue this torrid pace forever. As much as I appreciate and respect what McCown has accomplished, he will eventually take a turn for the worse. That is inevitable.
McCown's highest quarterback rating before 2013 was 74.9 in 2005.
Again, McCown has been terrific in three appearances this season for the Bears, but as more teams start to study him on film, they will find weaknesses. They always do.
But there is far greater concern on defense in the wake of Charles Tillman landing on injured reserve with the designation to return due to a torn right triceps muscle. Even before Tillman went down for the rest of the regular season, the Bears were having a miserable year on defense, ranking No. 26 overall heading into their game against the Detroit Lions.
Remove Tillman -- arguably the greatest defensive back in Bears history -- from the equation, along with Lance Briggs, who is still recovering from a fractured shoulder, and who exactly is providing the leadership on defense?
Better yet, who is punching the ball out? Who is going to cover the opposition's No. 1 wide receiver on a weekly basis?
Fellow Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings is a bulldog and perfect fit for the Cover 2 style zone defense, but Tillman has the necessary size and strength to be an effective man coverage cornerback. His replacement, Zack Bowman, is also blessed with certain traits, but it's nearly impossible for any player coming off the bench to replicate what Tillman has accomplished in his storied 11-year career, despite the fact he's dealt with a knee issue for much of the season.
The Bears are in serious trouble on defense. And if the offense levels off some as expected, qualifying for the postseason is going to be tough. With one of the NFC wild cards assured to come out of the NFC West, and the Bears now effectively two games behind Detroit after being swept in the season series, the Bears are in a serious hole.
The smart money says the Bears don't dig themselves out of it.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.