The Bears' playoff hopes took a hit today. A big hit.
Minnesota's 35-14 victory at Arizona reduced the Vikings' magic number in the NFC North to one. The Bears (8-6) need the Vikings (9-5) to lose at home to Atlanta and the New York Giants and they need to defeat Green Bay and Houston. So, the division could be gone before the Bears host the Packers on ``Monday Night Football'' Dec. 22.
The window for a wild-card berth is closing on the Bears, too. Atlanta's 13-10 overtime victory over Tampa Bay dealt a serious blow to their hopes of taking that path into the postseason. The Bears passed only Washington in the wild-card standings on Sunday. They can pass Philadelphia if the Eagles lose Monday night to Cleveland, but the Browns are a two touchdown underdog going into Lincoln Financial Field.
So, the Bears are behind the Buccaneers, Falcons, Cowboys and Eagles for the wild card. To get into the top two they need Tampa to lose at home to San Diego and Oakland or have Atlanta swept by Minnesota and St. Louis. The Falcons host the Rams in the Georgia Dome in Week 17. Then, there is the business of surpassing Dallas and Philadelphia.
The bottom line is the wild card would require a series of improbable events. The Bears' best hope is to have the Vikings, who have won four straight, lose out. Then, the Bears have to win out and they have not won more than two straight since making their Super Bowl run in 2006. It hasn't happened often--just five times since 1990--but the Bears could wind up 10-6 and miss the postseason.
It's worth noting the Vikings have not won the NFC North since it was known as the Central and the Buccaneers resided here as well.