Derek Helling

A Wild Card is Within the Bears' Grasp

Created on Nov. 21, 2013 9:40 AM EST

If the NFL season ended right now, the Chicago Bears would be the six seed in the NFC and play a wild card game at Detroit to open up the NFC playoffs. Both the 49ers and Cardinals are right on the Bears' trail with the same 6-4 record, and the Cowboys and Packers are just a game back. The chances of Chicago hanging on to its playoff spot and possibly moving up in the seedings are good, but they require consistent execution from the Bears.

The Bears have an easier road to keep their sixth spot or possibly move up to the five seed than they do winning the NFC North. Detroit has swept Chicago already this season, so should the Bears and Lions end up with the same record, Detroit would get the division title. Take into account the fact that the Lions have the NFL's softest remaining schedule based on the current records of their remaining opponents, and even with six games left to play, things aren't looking good for the Bears winning the NFC North crown this season. 

Chicago has head-to-head games remaining on its schedule with Dallas and Green Bay, allowing the Bears chances to address those threats to their playoff hopes directly. Both of those games will be in Soldier Field, giving Chicago the upperhand in that regard. Winning both of those games would give the Bears the first tiebreaker over the Cowboys and Packers should the teams end up with the same records. Losing those games would put Chicago in a position to need help.

The Bears have not played and will not play either the 49ers or the Cardinals in the regular season this year. The first tiebreaker for a wild card spot between three teams with two of them being in the same division is to break the tie between those two teams that are in the same division. San Francisco won the first meeting with the Cardinals but another game looms on the schedule. Should Arizona win the second meeting, the next tiebreaker is record within the division. That would likely decide who would break that tie. 

That team would then be compared in the two-team non-divisional tiebreaker scenario. Record against common opponents is the first thing compared, then record against all NFC teams if that first tiebreaker doesn't yield a result. The Bears and Cardinals will have played four common opponents by the time the season ends: the Eagles, Lions, Rams and Saints. Chicago and San Francisco will also have played four common opponents by the time the season ends: Green Bay, New Orleans, St. Louis and Washington.

12 of those 19 games have already been played, leaving seven huge dates left for these three teams all hoping to nab a wild card spot. That makes this Sunday's game in St. Louis of double importance for the Bears. Chicago needs it not only to get to 7-4 and keep pressure on Detroit, but in the interest of ensuring themselves a playoff spot should they fail to win the NFC North as well. The Bears' last three games of the season, in Philadelphia and vs. Green Bay, also will carry that dual impact should this situation continue that far.

Right now Chicago controls its own destiny in getting a wild card spot. In order for that to continue, all they have to do is continue to win. It's a simple plan, but executing it against other quality NFC teams seeking that same playoff spot will be difficult.

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