Before we get to assessing the Bears’ playoff hopes, let’s take a look at the standings, which should provide some clarity to the situation:
NFC North Standings:
- Green Bay Packers: 6-1-0
- Minnesota Vikings: 5-2-0
- Chicago Bears: 3-3-0
- Detroit Lions: 2-3-1
After seven weeks of the season, the road to the NFC North runs through Green Bay. The Packers comeback season is upon us, and while that doesn’t mean the Bears should fold up shop and waive the white flag, things are getting tougher. For the Bears to get where they want to go, they’ll need to accept the harsh reality that any road to the postseason will most likely come through a wild-card spot.
First, a look from Football Outsiders:
- Green Bay: 85.3% playoffs, 65.2% division
- Minnesota: 67.6%, 28.0%
- Detroit: 14.4%, 3.7%
- BEARS: 11.4%, 3.0%
Losing to the Saints was extremely damaging to the Bears’ playoff hopes. So much so, their probability to make the postseason have dropped *BEHIND* the Lions — a team behind them in the standings. YIKES!
The Bears’ playoff odds dropped by 17.4 percent, which is the second largest one-week drop that happened this week. Only the Eagles (whose postseason probabilities fell by 25.8 percent) took a larger step back. And in case you forgot, the Bears and Eagles square off in Week 9 in what looks to be a battle of disappointing teams.
With the Bears’ chances of winning the NFC North for a second year in a row down to a lowly 3 percent, the time has come to fully embrace the chase for a wild-card spot. Even then, things look bleak: 8.4 percent.
Here is a list of NFC teams who have a higher probability than the Bears of landing one of the two wild card playoff positions: Vikings (39.6%), Seahawks (31.2%), Rams (28.8%), and Lions (10.7%).
While licking their wounds during the bye, the Bears lost 1 percentage point 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: 85% playoffs, 62% division
- Minnesota: 72%, 31%
- BEARS: 19%, 5%
- Detroit: 10%, 2%
FiveThirtyEight continues to provide a more optimistic appraisal of the situation, but it’s still ugly. Chicago’s playoff odds fell by 18 percentage points after last week’s loss to New Orleans, and their projected record dipped from 9-7 to 8-8. At least the Bears still have as a higher probability of making the postseason than fellow NFC stragglers in Detroit, Tampa Bay, Arizona, New York, Atlanta, and Washington. But yeah … that’s not saying much and it’s not the company the Bears expected to be keeping at any point this season.
If you’re in search of some optimism, take solace in knowing the Bears still control their own destiny – to an extent. They still play games against contenders like the Cowboys, Vikings, and Rams. There are also games against the Chargers, Giants, and Lions — all of whom have worse playoff odds than the Bears. That playoff roadmap might look tattered at this point, but a little bit of tape will help sort it out, and a win against the Chargers could bring some clarity.