ESPN’s Mike Clay runs down the rest-of-season strength of schedule for every team in the NFL, and it isn’t pretty for the defending NFC North champions.
According to Clay’s data, the Bears have the toughest remaining schedule in the league – i.e. each of the league’s other 31 teams have a lighter schedule load than the Bears – which means their path to a second consecutive postseason will be tougher than previously imagined. Here’s a look at the Bears’ remaining opponents and their records after five weeks of football action:
- Week 7: October 20 vs. Saints, 4-1
- Week 8: October 27 vs. Chargers, 2-3
- Week 9: November 3 at Eagles, 3-2
- Week 10: November 10 vs. Lions, 2-1-1
- Week 11: November 17 at Rams, 3-2
- Week 12: November 24 vs. Giants, 2-3
- Week 13: November 28 at Lions, 2-1-1*
- Week 14: December 5 vs. Cowboys, 3-2
- Week 15: December 15 at Packers, 4-1
- Week 16: December 22 vs. Chiefs, 4-1
- Week 17: December 29 at Vikings, 3-2
Or let’s put it this way: Chicago’s remaining opponents are 30-18-1, which comes out to a .612 winning percentage.
As things stand after five weeks, the Bears are one of 10 teams with a 3-2 record. To make things that more torturous, they are one of six NFC teams with identical 3-2 marks. And to put the cherry on top of this poop sundae, the Bears get to play four of those teams in their remaining 11 games. So not only is their schedule suggesting rough sledding ahead, it also serves as a reminder that they ultimately could control their own playoff destiny with how they play down the stretch.
Naturally, the odds aren’t particularly optimistic.
Football Outsiders lists the Bears’ playoff odds at just 29.8 percent, which is the lowest percentage of the four NFC North teams. How much did losing to the Raiders sting? It dropped the team’s playoff odds 14.6 percentage points.
The folks at FiveThirtyEight paint a slightly more optimistic picture, giving the Bears a 37 percent chance at making the playoffs with a 9-7 record based on their quarterback-adjusted Elo forecast. And for those of you who want the most optimistic viewpoint, the site’s traditional Elo projections have the Bears’ chances of making the playoffs at 41 percent.
Essentially, the probabilities show they are in for a dog fight if they are going to make the postseason for a second consecutive season. So while an early bye isn’t often viewed as a good thing, getting an early opportunity to re-assess things and get the ball rolling in the right direction coming out of the bye should provide clarity for the necessary steps that need to be taken in order to get back on a roll.