Chicago Sun-Times

Breaking down the playoffs with a little help, well, a lot of help

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"Playoffs!''

Our good friend Kevin Seifert at espn.com has taken a glance at the playoff scenarios facing the NFC North this week. Yes, Detroit has been eliminated.

The Bears find themselves in a must-win situation, more or less, because if they lose and the Vikings can prevail Sunday at Arizona, the Bears' season will be on life support. In that scenario, Minnesota will be crowned champs of the NFC North.

Of course, a Vikings' loss and a Bears' loss would still keep the Bears in the hunt for the division title. They would need to win the final two weeks and have Minnesota lose out.

The Bears would still be alive in the hunt for a wild card spot, but based on their 0-3 run through the NFC South already, they hold virtually no tiebreakers and would need a complex scenario of things to unfold for them to sneak in at 9-7. Any way, check out Seifert's breakdown. It's worth a look.

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There may be more help coming our way than not. Gus Frerotte as some of you may know left the Lions game with a back injury and Coach Childress isn't sure who will go at QB for the next game. Tavaris Jackson or "T-Joke" as Vikings fans affectionally refer to him, could get the nod after being benched earlier in the season. Hmm, a starting QB benched in the first few games and replaced by a vet, then regains his job when the veteran gets injured? As a Bears fan I couldn't imagine such a thing.

It's also been reported that the Packs' starting lineman Mark Tauscher has been put on IR.

The Vikes also have the suspensions still looming over their heads. I think we stand a better chance than we think in getting to the post-season.

The only way we have any sort of shot aside from a divine miracle for getting into the playoffs is for us to not only beat every team but also hope for the vikings to start to lose, which will be difficult to say because they are in fact playing teams that are skilled but those same teams have clinched their division and don't need to worry about playing at their peak. But if they do play there best against the vikings, then the vikes are likely to experience a rude awakening especially with their arrogance and compulsive penalties. Hopefully the lose the rest of their games and we end up having a shot for the POs.

Do the Bears deserve to be in the playoffs and would it matter if they did make it? Top to bottom, I think they still are the best team in the division, they just don't play like it every week. They blew it against the Bucs, Pampers, and the Falcons. I always said, if you can't make the playoffs you might as well lose out, you get a better draft pick and an easier schedule next year. If you're not gonna win it all, it's better not to even make the playoffs!! But....on any given sunday (or Thurs or Monday). Go Bears....I think!!!!!

Ish brings up a worrisome point. I was thinking the Bears were in good shape to make the playoffs, but forgot about that tradition of teams who have clinched their spots "resting" their regular starters.That is an abominable practice and could almost make me give up being an NFL football fan.I do not participate in fantasy football, but it must be extremely annoying to those who do to find out that their running backs, quarterbacks and receivers are all "resting" the last three weeks of the season.Remember what happened the next game after the Bears rested players a couple of years ago? i think there should be a rule that every team has to field their best line-up every game at the end because other teams are too seriously affected if they do not. I can understand the concept of protecting against injuries, but whatever happened to the idea of doing one's best out of pride if nothing else?

Imagine this scenario:

The Bears win the rest of their games and take the NFC North. Arizona hosts Tampa and Chicago plays at home against the other Wild Card team. Tampa and Chicago both win their Wild Card games then go on the road and upset the Giants and Panthers, setting up a rematch against Tampa at Soldier Field in the NFC title game.

As far-fetched as it may seem, anything can happen once you're in the playoffs.

The Williams wall suspension will be what makes the difference. If they are allowed to play the rest of the year, we aren't going to catch the Vikes. Jackson will do enough at QB if Frerotte can't go to keep the defense honest, and Peterson and Taylor will continue to gash defenses left and right (and up the middle for that matter). But if they are suspended, the Vikes are in a lot of trouble defensively.

Honestly, with our offensive line, I would be surprised if we win 2 out of our last 3. Brees is a huge threat, especially the way we have given space in the passing game to receivers. If he throws for less than 350 yards, it will be a huge positive for us. We also had a rough time with Pierre last year, but there is a lot more film on him now to understand his tendencies. Reggie Bush is back, but he is a one-trick pony, and we can shadow him. Orton should be able to throw, but if we have to match them score for score, we are in trouble.

The Pack is a winnable game, as they are really struggling to field enough bodies on the DL to play the game. We should be able to run and pass on them, but we will need to give Tait some help with Kampmann. He was running right by him last time, so we need to help Kyle out on that side. Maybe some quick screens and dump-offs to the offensive right side will make him think a bit. We should be able to pressure Rodgers from the front side with Tauscher out of the lineup, and hopefully we can press the interior a bit.

Houston is going to be tough to stop. They have a shifty back in Slaton, which we always struggle with. They have a beast in Andre Johnson that we will not be able to cover, and Walter and Daniels are nice secondary targets for Schaub. Mario Williams will flat-out destroy John St. Clair, so Orton will need to get rid of the ball early and on target, which will make our passing game short range at best. Forte will be shadowed by Ryans, which will be an interesting matchup, but not distinctly to our advantage. We will need a couple of big mistakes by Schaub, which has been known to happen.

All in all, the Pack is probably our best chance of a win, but all three games could go either way. The trenches will decide all 3. Right now I don't like our OL in any of the three matchups, but we match better against the Pack than the other two. Our DL, is going to struggle against the Saints, but should be solid against the Texans and Packers. Here's to hoping.

Paul, what Ish doesn't realize is other factors that could make it tough for the Vikes.

Arizona is just two games out of a first round bye and also would want to make a statement against a possible playoff opponent in Minnesota.

With their loss Sunday, the Falcons are now fighting for their playoff lives.

Should the Giants lose to Carolina, they would desparately want to finish with a win, hoping Carolina falters in week 17 to escape with home field advantage thru the playoffs.

It al comes down to this, each team has 3 games left if the Vikes win one of those three and the Bears loose one of those 3 it's over. I think Houston is going to give the Bears fits, there Oline has given up just 18 sacks this year, and Williams will be bouncing all over are Dline.

I still say the Pack are poised to play Spoiler, Grant has turned his season around and teams that can run and Pass give the Bears D major problems. There O and D lInes have proven they can overpower our lines. The biggest problem is the Pack will be loose and playing for nothing other than they like ruining our season. The Bears will be under a lot of pressure in that game.

The Saints are an odd matchup but the fact that they will have two days too get ready for this game cannot help them at all. They are horrible on the road winning only one game this year. But I keep looking out the window and one of two things are going to happen, this game will be played in mud or on ice. So who has the horses who will push the pile, in either of these conditions it becomes about power not speed. Forte should give the Bears the edge between the tackles. But if the Saints can get a passing game going it's over. Tough game to call.

It all comes down to whether the Bears, and no thought elsewhere, can take care of business. I don't give two shifts about the Vikings because that, for the most part, is out of our control.

My main concerns are;

Will Lovie/Babich (I'm truly not sure who controls the 'D') get a little more creative with overloading blitzes on critically situational plays during the game to create either a turnover, or to give the 'D' extra rest during games. This bend but don't break is tough on an undersized bunch. I'd rather blitz an overloaded side with safety/linebacker, safety/corner, or linebacker/corner on a third and long near mid-field than continue to let this third and long completion ratio grow. Granted, the corners are ONE DAY going to have to come up and challenge, but just the fact that 7 out of 10 create quick throws is enough to give it a try.

First down tosses to the tight ends have to be near 80% completion rate. I can't tell you how many drives have been successful with at least three first down passes. We all know it can't be a continuous option, but damned if it isn't our best option. Couple that with a few tosses to Forte OVER THE MIDDLE, ala Roger Craig, and a couple more two minute offensive series in the mix, and I think our scoring will be a little more consistent keeping the opponents off balance.

We've lost too many games to quality opponents that could easily have been ours, had it not been for a LONG THIRD DOWN stop or a
continued drive on our part, so there's no 'worlds apart' idea that says we have no chance.

It's all situational, and it, for the most part, has been a matter of one or two in those games.

Game of inches my behind. Hit the button at the right times and be MILES ahead of everyone else. THEN we can see if the Vikings have obliged us.

Master it and see what a couple coaching decisions can do to make a 34-14 loss a 27-17 win, or a 7-6 record an 11-2 record.

It's there for the making, RIGHT THERE!

All solid posts here guys, I think I see a lot of frustration as most of us realize we should have been in a whole lot better position than we are in if we took care of business early, yes we had the tougher road early in the season, but 0-3 against the NFC south is terrible, all of those games we came from ahead to lose, now we need to win out and hope the Vikes fall on their can...this is a season we will regret if we do not make it since the tide is shifting in the NFC, still I'd rather be us than the Eagles or Cowboys they are in bad shape also due to the success of the NFC South....it all starts on Thursday the Saints are and will be tough to beat, get that one and we get time to rest for showdown against the pack in a payback game, I like our chances there then let it all ride in week 16, boy we need a lot of help but at least its interesting going down the stretch.......Go BEARS line up and hit somebody on Thursday

all in all I agree with hadji
Joe you broke it down pretty good too.

But there sure are alot of Positive thinkers out there now, win one and it's all good I guess. Brees is on a record pace and we have the 28th Pass D? ok right. Is Adams that good? or did we suddenly decide to learn to stunt and blitz? Brees did attend Purdue guy's, right down the road. Why he would forget to learn to throw in the cold is beyond me, unless our D had a part in it (28). The receivers drop his passes in the cold, well our WR can drop a few too.
2 Purdue QB's is going to be kool though.
Orton does have the skills if our Oline can protect (like someone said throw to the TE's.)Pierre has really been coming on - I picked him up in FF a couple weeks ago, he's hot.


Link to NOS Blog about the Windy City Weather:

http://blog.nola.com/jeffduncan/2008/12/new_orleans_saints_must_find_w.html

The Big Ten finishes around Nov 20 each year, so they don't really play in the cold that hits around mid-Dec.

RAO:
Interview with Brees:

Q: What is the coldest game you have played in since high school?

Brees: Probably a game a couple of years ago in Cleveland where there was a blizzard and chill factor of below zero. There was a a 20 mile an hour wind blowing sideways across the field the whole game. That was a cold one. A couple of practices that we go through in college (Purdue), those were right around zero degrees. In the Midwest, that's the way it goes.
The entire interview:

http://www.bayoubuzz.com/News/Sports/NFL/New_Orleans_Saints/Interview_With_New_Orleans_Saints_Drew_Brees_and_Deuce_Mc_Allister__2537.asp

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on December 8, 2008 5:31 PM.

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