Just as there is no shortage of storylines coming out of the Bears’ dramatic 37-34 overtime stunner Sunday evening at Soldier Field, there is no shortage of 5-6 teams in the NFC.
With the Philadelphia Eagles finally succumbing to New England in the NBC nightcap, six teams are mired at 5-6 in the Second Division, or whatever you want to call the NFC. Dallas and Green Bay meet Thursday night in Big D with superiority in the NFC on the line. The rest of the bunch is a giant mess right now.
The Bears, of course, are in that pile of teams a game behind the Detroit Lions (6-5). The Bears are actually two back of the Lions because they would lose a tiebreaker to them as Detroit swept the regular-season series.
But the Bears, suddenly alive after scoring the final 17 points in their win over the Denver Broncos, are helped out by the fact that they play three of the other 5-6 teams – Washington, Minnesota and New Orleans – down the stretch. Talk about controlling your own destiny. The Lions look to be fading quickly, and face a difficult schedule the rest of the way traveling to Minnesota, hosting Dallas, going to San Diego, hosting Kansas City and wrapping up at Green Bay.
If the season ended today, Detroit would claim the final wild-card spot in the NFC. The Giants, the Bears’ opponent this coming Sunday at Soldier Field, would be the other wild card team. They could be headed for another Tom Coughlin fade here in the second half after being plastered at home Sunday by the Vikings 41-24. Although 7-4, the G-Men still have to go to Philly and Buffalo and have home dates with Washington and New England.
To borrow from the inimitable Mike Tyson, the Giants did a “fade into Bolivian” last season when they started 6-2 and finished 2-6, a spiral started by the 38-20 loss in the Meadowlands to – who else – the Devin Hester-led Bears. Still, they made the playoffs at 8-8, a quirk you just cannot count on this season.
So, you learned this weekend that Broncos special teams coach Scotty O’Brien is one of the most daring men in his profession, and the NFC playoff race will likely remain a jumbled mess into the final week or two, all for the right to make a first-round playoff trip to either Tampa Bay or Seattle. In the first week of January, there are worse destinations.
But it’s still November, it could all change next weekend. If the Bears don’t find a way to win consecutive games for the first time this season (could the fifth time be the charm?) you’ll just about be able to remove them from discussion.
Until then, the discussion is about Hester, another up-and-down Rex Grossman display, the likely loss of Cedric Benson for the season and a defense that largely did a disappearing act. With the exception of defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and maybe cornerback Charles Tillman, did anyone stand out against the Broncos?
Yes, there is plenty to discuss. Chime in and we’ll have more during the week, including a mailbag entry on Tuesday.