There are times in life when the enemy of our enemy can be a friend.
Last night was one of those times. Because, as we discussed in Bullets, the Packers beating the Lions (with an assist from some zebras) helped push Detroit into sole possession of last place in the NFC North. I figured a moment like that would help the Bears boost their playoff odds. I was wrong.
Before we get to assessing the Bears’ playoff hopes, let’s take a look at the standings:
NFC North Standings:
- Green Bay Packers: 5-1-0
- Minnesota Vikings: 4-2-0
- Chicago Bears: 3-2-0
- Detroit Lions: 2-2-1
There’s no questioning the talent in the NFC North. It’s the best division in football and is giving me serious SEC football vibes. Based on the early-season returns, any of these four teams could make a run at the division and it wouldn’t surprise me. Further, I would be willing to go out on a limb and predict that at least two NFC North teams make the postseason this year. And I would even go as far as to say that two teams in this division who don’t make the playoffs would make it in an alternate universe (or even if they were in a lesser division).
So, which teams are most likely to make it?
First, a look from Football Outsiders:
- Green Bay: 73.1% playoffs, 53.4% division
- Minnesota: 51.0%, 23.4%
- BEARS: 28.8%, 11.5%
- Detroit: 24.5%, 11.7%
While licking their wounds during the bye, the Bears lost 1 percentage points on their playoff odds from last week. Though, I suppose things could be worse – not only did the Lions lose Monday’s game in soul-crushing fashion, they saw their playoff odds drop 15 percentage points. But still, I didn’t quite expect to see any drop at all.
As things stand, the Seahawks (62.9%), Vikings (51.0%), Cowboys (47.2%), and Panthers (37.4%) are the only NFC teams who aren’t division leaders who have better playoff odds than the Bears. And if you look at the NFC Wild Card picture, Seattle (37%), Los Angeles (22.1%), Minnesota (27.6%), and Carolina (19.5%) all have better odds than Chicago (17.3%) at landing one of the two wild-card spots.
Check out the latest from FiveThirtyEight, which paints a slightly more optimistic picture:
- Green Bay: 74% playoffs, 51% division
- Minnesota: 53%, 25%
- BEARS: 37%, 16%
- Detroit: 38%, 25%
FiveThirtyEight’s forecast is relatively similar to that of Football Outsiders, but with the Bears’ chances being more than 10 percentage points better. Unfortunately, Chicago still faces the same hurdles. Seattle (67%), Minnesota (53%), Dallas (42%), and Carolina (39%) are viewed as having a higher probability of making the postseason, but at least the Bears get a shot at facing two of those teams before now and season’s end.
Chicago will get its crack at the Cowboys, Vikings, and Rams before this season is over, and will need to win those head-to-head matchups to best position themselves for run at a playoff spot. It won’t be easy, especially with news of Akiem Hicks’ injury putting him down for at least eight weeks. But there is still a road map to the playoffs if the Bears play their cards right. Hopefully, they put their time during the bye week to good use.