‘Tis the Season for Bears Optimism
Despite last week’s woeful performance at arctic Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears have positioned themselves for a deep playoff run this season. Yes, Yes, you heard me…Da’ Bears and playoff run in the same sentence. If you would have told me before the season that a week before Christmas the Bears (9 – 4) would have a 1 game lead in the NFC North with only 3 games left I would have asked you how frosty hell was these days. Working here at Goldcoast Tickets has exposed me to some of the most pessimistic of Bears fans, often, for good reason. This time it’s different…this time there’s no proverbial coal in the stocking.
Let’s look at who the Bears have left on their schedule. The Bears play at the Vikings (game will played at frigid TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers), Jets, and Packers. Five weeks ago this looked like a brutal stretch that might reveal and expose some of the cracks in the Bears armor. Fast forward to today.
On Monday the Vikings will be starting 3rd string quarterback and rookie Joe Webb. Webb will be making his first start of his professional career in below zero temperatures, in an unfamiliar stadium, against the Bears tenacious pressure defense. The game will likely be played primarily on the ground where the Bears rank 2nd in the NFL, holding opponents to a meager 87.9 yards a game on the ground this season.
The Jets come to Chicago on December 26th. These aren’t the confident, boisterous Jets we watched on “Hard Knocks” and early on in the season. The swagger of the Jets is non-existent following a 45 -3 spanking at the hands of their division rival, the New England Patriots. Subsequently, the Jets were beaten by division foe Miami, a game which not only saw Mark Sanchez continue his futile struggles at quarterback, but also left a bad taste in all NFL fans mouths following Sal Alosis’ unsportsmanlike tripping play on the sideline of Sunday’s game. If the Jets weren’t under enough scrutiny right now, their coach Rex Ryan made the announcement this week that if Sanchez does not perform well on Sunday he may be benched. The Jets travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday, which even if they were performing well would be a challenge. By the time the Jets come to Chicago on December 26th they very well could be bloodied from the Steelers game and reeling from three straight loses.
The Bears finish up the season with a clash against Green Bay on Sunday, January 2nd. I’m being generous when I say the Packers are limping towards the end of the season. The Packers currently have 14 players on the injured reserve list, 7 of which were starters at the beginning of the season. Most importantly the Packers travel to New England this weekend and will likely have to start back-up quarterback Matt Flynn after Aaron Rodgers suffered his second concussion of the season in a 7 to 3 disaster loss in Detroit last Sunday. On the subject of injuries it should be noted that the attrition of the long NFL season has yet to really affect the Bears who for the most part have avoided the injury bug this year.
With three games to go in the season it would be extremely presumptuous to start spilling out what-if situations and spit balling tiebreaker scenarios between the Bears and Packers. Fortunately, as with anyone who thinks they understand sports, being presumptuous and making educated guesses is the name of the game. In doing research for this blog I couldn’t help but consider a few of the scenarios in which the Bears and Packers could be tied. What I found is that, barring a disaster finish by the Bears, they will be your 2010 NFC North Division Champions.
In order for the Bears and Packers to end with identical records the Bears would have to lose 2 of their last 3 games to be 10 wins and 6 loses. The Packers would have to win 2 of their final 3 games to be 10 wins and 6 loses. Of course, if the Bears win out they win the division and if the Packers win out and the Bears lose 2 out of their last 3 games, the Packers win the division. That’s no fun though, what’s the end of the NFL season without endless banter on ESPN about the various tie-breaker scenarios in the division and playoff races. Ultimately, what we need to know is the division tie-breaker procedure. (To check out tie-breaker procedures go to http://www.nfl.com/standings/tiebreakingprocedures)
2. Best Won-Lost in games in the division
3. Best Won-Lost in common games
4. Best Won-Lost in games played within the conference
Basically, based on these procedures, if both teams end with identical 10 – 6 records, if the Bears’ one win was either over the Vikings or the Packers they would win all tie-breakers. The only way the tie-breaker procedure makes it to #3 common games is if there only win was versus Jets. In that case, don’t ask me how, but I found that under all situations the Bears win the common game scenario.
In any event it appears a mere formality and that the Bears have locked up a 2 or 3 seed in the playoffs. The only question that looms is whether they can beat out the Eagles or Giants for that coveted 2 seed and a first round bye. It seems that these unlikely Bears will be playing Santa Claus these holidays and giving us the gift of late January football.
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