Chicago Sun-Times

Packers game looms large on Bears' road to the playoffs

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The Bears jumped from 14th to 10th in ESPN's weekly NFL power rankings this week. They're the highest ranked 4-3 team -- as they probably should be considering they've played the second toughest schedule in the NFL statistically and ahead of the No. 11 Giants (4-2) and No. 16 Bengals (4-2.)

John Clayton's comment on the Bears was interesting: "By beating the Bucs in London, the Bears ensured they will be in the playoff hunt until the end."

With victories over the other two 4-3 teams in the NFC that essentially give them a one-game lead in a playoff-berth scenario, the Bears should be in then playoff hunt until the end. After playing the Eagles on Monday Night Football in Philadelphia next week, they play four of their next six games at home (Lions, Chargers, Chiefs, Seahawks) and the two road games are against the Raiders (4-3) and Broncos (2-4).

The catch lies beyond that six-game stretch -- a prime-time game at Green Bay on Dec. 25. Most Bears fans know how ominous that appears. So the key for the Bears after the break is to avoid a must-win situation in Green Bay. Assuming 10-6 gets them in like it does in most years, they'd be well-advised to be 9-5 or better heading into Green Bay. Unless the Packers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC by then, that's going to be a tough road game to win.

Can the Bears win five of their next seven games? A look at the schedule shows they at least control their own destiny:

Nov. 7 at Philadelphia -- No telling how the Eagles will be playing from day-to-day, let alone week-to-week. Bears are 4-3 after the bye week (1-2 in their opponents' home stadium). LOSS (4-4).

Nov. 13 vs. Lions -- The Lions are coming back to earth and Matthew Stafford is injured again. Bears should be much healthier than when they lost to the Lions at Ford Field. WIN (5-4).

Nov. 20 vs. Chargers -- Philip Rivers isn't have a great season and the Chargers aren't as good outdoors on the road in November against teams that aren't 1-10 like the Browns were in 2009. WIN (6-4)

Nov. 27 at Raiders -- It'll feel like the Bears' second trip to a foreign country and Carson Palmer will have had four more weeks in the Raiders offense. Could end up being a pivotal game. LOSS (6-5)

Dec. 4 vs. Chiefs -- The Chiefs have won three straight after an 0-3 start, but they've played the Vikings (1-6), Colts (0-7) and Raiders (3-3) with a rusty Carson Palmer at quarterback. WIN (7-5)

Dec. 11 at Broncos -- The Broncos could be on a real high or a real low coming into this game -- they will have played four of their previous five games on the road, but with Tim Tebow, you never know. WIN (8-5)

Dec. 18 vs. Seahawks -- The Seahawks are 2-8 on the road since beating the Bears at Soldier Field last October -- the losses by an average of 18 points. If the Bears can't win this with a playoff berth at stake ... WIN (9-5)

If 10-6 is the mark, that could leave the Bears needing to win at Green Bay or at Minnesota to make the playoffs. But the scenario is pretty clear: The Bears need to take care of business in the next seven games and avoid a must-win situation on the road in the final two weeks of the regular season.

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If it comes down to Chicago needing a win vs Green Bay to make the playoffs, I doubt Green Bay makes the same mistake Chicago did last season, that is let a rival enter the playoffs. Now, I know Chicago didn't lose to Green Bay on purpose last december, they did try in that game. My point is, Green Bay will go all out to stop the Bears from making the playoffs, no matter what their record is, if Green Bay has the #1 seed wrapped up by then, they'll still go all out to stop the Bears from making it, no doubt about it. For the Bears, every game from here on out is a must win.

Believe it or not, the Packers do have flaws. Yes, Green Bay has the leagues #4 overall offense, but they're the leagues 22nd ranked rushing offense. You have to be able to run to win in the playoffs, this could be a problem for the Pack. Also, Green Bay has the leagues 27th ranked defense, they're ranked 31st against the pass. My point, Green Bay isn't playing championship defense. Green Bay is playing our defense is good enough and we have the leagues best quarterback (Rodgers), much like the Colts have for years with one Mr. Manning. The Colts were exposed this year after Manning went down, IF Rodgers were to go down, I bet Green Bay would get exposed also, without Rodgers, Green Bay is not a playoff team, again, an injury to Rodgers would prove this. With the leagues 27th ranked defense and no running threat, no Rodgers means no Green Bay title run.

The key for the Bears is up front on both lines, defensive and offensive. On defense, someone not named Peppers has to make some plays, be it Melton, Okoye, Paea or Idonije. On offense, the line simply needs to stay healthy, the key will be that right side. Rookie Gabe Carimi needs to come back and stay in the starting lineup. And between Lance Louis and Chris Spencer, someone needs to take over that right guard spot and run with it. I like Louis, he gives Chicago some size and power inside, and brings a nastiness to the interior. Another key for the Bears will be Roy Williams, he needs to continue to come on. Williams plays corners with a physicality unlike any of the other receivers on the roster. Williams will especially be key vs the Pack and their corners who staright up man handle Chicago's receivers every time they play. Williams needs to come on and bring it vs the Pack! Should be interesting GO BEARS!!

ahhh....hey hey teh packers now theirs a REAL team!! not like then looser bears who do EVRYZHITNG WRONG!!!

di you looser now? my precuous PAckers will win the super bowelo!! aron rogers is just so dreamy!! wow he si teh best teh rgatest evr...kind off reminds me of ME!!! hyeaas uhh huh in ow sense i am allways right ansd i only give FSCTS!

but ou gys now me old crap-to nust yryin to pbr poastie....

ps soo so so soo do go pack go! do doo do do ogo go pack go!!

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on October 29, 2011 10:09 AM.

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