The Vikings' 23-6 upset of the Houston Texans forces the Bears to beat the Arizona Cardinals today to keep their playoff hopes alive. If the Bears lose, the best they could do is tie the Vikings at 9-7 -- and the Vikings would win the tie-breaker with the Bears.
The Bears are favored against the Cardinals, but their record in must-win games under Lovie Smith is dubious -- a big reason why they have been either a No. 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs or not in at all.
In 2007, they were 5-6 after an overtime victory over Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and the Broncos at Soldier Field. But they lost to the Giants 21-16 at Soldier Field the following week and then to the Redskins (24-16) and Vikings (20-13 t home. Safely out of the playoff picture, they beat the Packers 35-7 and the Saints 33-25 at home to close the season.
In 2008, they were 6-6 heading into December and beat the 4-8 Jaguars 23-10 at Solder Field. They needed a last-second field goal to force overtime and beat the Saints 27-24 at home, then needed a blocked field goal at the end of regulation to beat the 5-9 Packers 20-17 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive. Needing a victory to stay alive in Week 17, they lost to the Houston Texans 31-24 in Houston.
In 2009, the Bears were 5-7 and still had feint playoff hopes heading into a home game against the Packers. But Ryan Grant went 62 yards for a touchdown on the Packers' first offensive play of the game and the Packers won 21-14 to finish the Bears off. After a 31-7 loss to the Ravens the following the week, the Bears kept hope alive for 2010 by beating the Vikings 36-30 in overtime and the Lions 37-23 at Ford Field. Jay Cutler threw eight touchdown passes to only one interception in those two meaningless games.
In 2011, the Bears were 7-5 but without Cutler heading into the final month. They lose to the Broncos 13-10 in overtime
in Denver, lost to the Seahawks 38-14 at home and 35-21 to the Packers at Lambeau Field. Safely out of the playoff picture, they beat the Vikings 17-13 at the Metrodome with Josh McCown at quarterback.