Bears-Packers is This Week’s Most Important Game for the NFC Playoff Picture

Bears-Packers Week is always BIG.

You can throw out the record books when these two meet! And not just because Green Bay has taken the all-time series lead, either. But also, because this game always finds a way to take on bigger meaning for one reason or another. This week’s showdown will be no different.

Though this certainly doesn’t help Chicago.

In addition to playoff forecasts, FiveThirtyEight has a 1-100 scale grading the quality, importance, and overall rating for every game of each week. And when it comes to this installment of Bears-Packers, there is no game between two NFC teams that will affect playoff odds more than this one.

At least, that’s how FiveThirtyEight rates it.

The 82 score under the “importance” category makes Bears-Packers the third-most important game (per this grading formula) and most important in a game featuring two NFC teams. That there are just three games altogether in that high-rating class really drives home how big of a game this one could be. For instance, a Bears win would put them in a first-place tie with the Packers. On the other side of the ledger, Green Bay winning would further cement its spot in the playoff picture, all while dropping Chicago back onto the bubble a it looks ahead.

For what it’s worth, the Bears start the week in possession of the NFC’s sixth seed. Chicago, Carolina, and New Orleans have matching 3-2 records going into this week’s action. But ESPN notes the Bears have a tie-breaker edge over the Panthers because of winning percentage in conference games. It’s far too early to lean on that tie-breaker scenario, but it’s always good to know those scenarios if it comes to it.

As for what the forecasters project in the future…

The Playoff Picture

Football Outsiders

Football Outsiders playoff odds are pretty straightforward. The report plays out the season 50,000 times. Then, a random draw assigns each team a win or loss for each game. The probability that a team will be given a win is based on an equation that considers the DAVE ratings of the two teams and home-field advantage. (DVOA and DAVE ratings are explained here.)

The Bears got a bump in their odds (+6.7%) after sinking the Raiders last week. Consecutive wins against the winless Lions and slumping Raiders weren’t the prettiest, but a win is a win. And it’s put Chicago in a better place than where it was a few weeks ago. Here’s where Football Outsiders has their chances after five games:

•   Playoffs: 23.5%

•   Division: 12.9%

•   Wild Card: 10.6%

•   Super Bowl: 0.2%

So … you’re saying there’s a chance?

And because I know you’re curious, Football Outsiders gives a 0.1 percent chance of  “Matt Nagy Reunion Special” Super Bowl pitting the Bears against the Chiefs.

FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight, like Football Outsiders, uses a pretty straightforward simulations system with just some subtle differences. Here’s how they explain the methods:

“This forecast is based on 50,000 simulations of the season and updates after every game. Our traditional model uses Elo ratings (a measure of strength based on head-to-head results and quality of opponent) to calculate teams’ chances of winning their regular-season games and advancing to and through the playoffs. Our quarterback-adjusted Elo model incorporates news reports to project likely starters for every upcoming game and uses our quarterback Elo ratings to adjust win probabilities for those games. A team’s current quarterback adjustment is based on its likely starter in its next game and how much better or worse that QB is than the team’s top starter.”

The first number will represent the standard simulation, and the number that follows in parenthesis will be with the quarterback-adjusted Elo model.

  • Playoffs: 39% (27%)
  • Division: 18% (15%)
  • Super Bowl: 1% (0.5%)
  • FiveThirtyEight’s traditional formula likes the Bears more than the QB-adjusted forecast. This makes sense if you consider (1) Chicago’s quarterbacking history and (2) the site’s QB rating has Justin Fields on the lower end of the spectrum. For what it’s worth, 538’s QB ratings are: “a rolling average of recent performances and incorporate both passing and running.” Rookie rankings are rooted in a player’s draft position. For example, a QB who goes first overall begins with 113 Elo grade. And the scale slides down from there, which helps explains why Fields checks in behind Andy Dalton. Although, it doesn’t necessarily help us understand why both QBs come in behind Nick Foles. Hey, don’t give me that look. I didn’t say it was a great explanation!

    In Conclusion…

    In any case, the non-QB adjusted forecast giving the Bears a 39 percent chance of making the playoffs is the most optimistic of the major forecasters. And that’s the seventh highest number among NFC teams. In other words, the Bears re in that mess of squads battling for a wild-card spot. Nevertheless, this presents a place to plant the seeds of big dreams. Allow your brain to run wild with scenarios of Justin Fields leading Chicago into the postseason. No, seriously. Do it. Because such scenarios exist in this reality, however unlikely they might seem.

    written by

    Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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