We’ve made it to the point where Week 17 of the NFL season features meaningful games for the Chicago Bears, and not because a better draft position is at stake.
The Bears clinched their spot in the postseason in Week 15 when they took down the Green Bay Packers and locked up their first NFC North title since 2010. And with a win against the San Francisco 49ers a week later, the Bears secured no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs. But there is still more to play for as the No. 2 seed is on the line and attainable for Chicago. That would mean a first-round bye and additional time for the team’s injured starters to rest and heal.
Knowing there is something at stake in Week 17, here are the games of consequence Bears fans should keep tabs on:
- Bears at Vikings
- 49ers at Rams
- Cardinals at Seahawks
- Eagles at Washington
All four games start at 3:25 p.m. CT, which is convenient, but could make things difficult to track once all the games get underway. Now, let’s discuss these games with the help of FiveThirtyEight’s prediction machine, which can help provide context.
The Bears started the week as 6.5-point underdogs against the Vikings, but the line has since moved to 4. But FiveThirtyEight’s calculations expect a much closer game than previously expected, listing the Bears as 1.5-point underdogs. The Vikings are projected to beat the Bears in 56 percent of their simulations. And if that was how things played out, it would push Minnesota into the postseason.
A Vikings win doesn’t necessarily lock them into the No. 6 seed and a re-match against the Bears. Minnesota could still move up to the No. 5 seed with a win, coupled with a loss by the Seattle Seahawks. FiveThirtyEight has Seattle with a whopping 88 percent chance of taking down the Arizona Cardinals, who are viewed as a 13.5-point favorite. Anything is possible, but Minnesota’s odds of landing a coveted higher seed are slim.
Of course, the Vikings shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch. A Minnesota loss and win by Philadelphia against Washington would knock them out of the playoffs altogether. It would represent quite the fall for a team that finished 2017 with the second best record in the NFC and advanced to the conference title game, only to fall to the eventual Super Bowl champs in a rout.
FiveThirtyEight has the Eagles as 4.5-point road favorites with a 65 percent chance of winning. The only thing the Eagles are playing for is the No. 6 seed. They can’t move higher than that, nor can they win the NFC East – even if they win, the Cowboys lose, and both teams end up with 9-7 records. Dallas owns the head-to-head tie-breaker. Philadelphia also loses tie-breakers against the Vikings (head-to-head) and Seattle (conference record), so it’s a real win-and-you’re-in (but only if you get some much-needed help) kind of day for Eagles fans. Good luck with all that.
So while Bears-Vikings, Cardinals-Seahawks, Eagles-Washington matchups could determine a potential Wild-Card Weekend opponent for the 2018 NFC North champions, it’s still possible for the Bears to land the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
A Bears win (which would put the Vikings postseason hopes on high alert) and a Rams loss to the 49ers would launch Chicago into the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. We’re looking at some long odds here. Because even though the Rams will be without running back Todd Gurley and safety Lamarcus Joyner, FiveThirtyEight gives Los Angeles an 85 percent chance of winning a home game against San Francisco.
As it stands, FiveThirtyEight’s math has the Bears with just a 7 percent chance of getting that first-round bye. Even with a win, those odds jump slightly to 15 percent. Uhhhh, that’s not all that great. But hey, if the Dolphins can beat the Bears with Brock Osweiler and the Giants can take down Chicago as home underdogs, then who is anyone to say Nick Mullens’ 49ers squad can’t up-end the Rams?
So here are your potential Bears playoff pairings for Wild-Card Weekend, with odds via ProFootballLogic:
- Bears-Vikings (64.8%)
- Bears-Seahawks (12.1%)
- Bears-Eagles (23.1%)
Of course, we could be looking at some far different scenarios if “our” San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams:
I am a gigantic FortyNinors American football club fan and always have beeN! The San Francisco treat! Go Fourties!
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) December 30, 2018
Let the games begin!