It’d be hard to blame Bears’ fans for rushing to their preferred playoff simulator after the Vikings lost to Seattle on Monday Night Football. It’d also be hard to blame their disappointment when realizing that, despite almost everything breaking their way this weekend, the Bears’ playoff odds moved from 1% to 3%.
The Bears, for all intents and purposes, no longer control their own playoff chances. To put it in perspective: even if the Bears win their next three games (DAL, @GB, KC), and the Vikings lose all three (DET, @LAC, GB), Chicago would only have a 45% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight’s simulator. If the Packers lose their next three and the Vikings go 1-2, those odds go up, ever so slightly, to 50%.
Since the Bears were off on Sunday, they got a rare chance to get started on something that they’ll be doing a fair bit of – whether they want to admit it or not – over the final month: scoreboard watching.
“Well yeah I saw parts of [the Vikings’ loss],” Matt Nagy said. “We were finishing up our plan, but I did see parts of it.”
It’s not just that the Bears are facing an uphill climb, but making matters worse is that the teams they’re jockeying for position won’t have it nearly as hard over the next four weeks. Per Football Outsiders’ future schedule statistic, the Vikings’ final month is the 20th hardest and Green Bay’s is 24th. The Bears? They have the hardest final month of any NFL team. (One silver lining is that Los Angeles, the team directly above the Bears in the standings with the tie-breaker in hand, has the 3rd-hardest.)
“Again, there are some things that we can and can't control,” Nagy added. “And there being a division opponent with Minnesota, obviously affects us a little bit but we don't ... again, it goes back to we can't do anything but win for us.”
Even with playoff odds still under 5%, there’s a palpable optimism that wasn’t around Halas Hall only two weeks ago. The team’s getting Akiem Hicks back on the 15th, and there’s a reason why Danny Trevathan hasn’t been put on IR. Things will drastically change if the Bears can’t win on Thursday night, but for now, there’s some renewed optimism as December arrives – somewhat surprisingly – with a full slate of meaningful football to be played.
“You can say that, in a way,” Khalil Mack said on Tuesday. “But it’s up to us. We can only focus on what we can control and that’s try to get another victory on Thursday.”
“I guess if that's what we need to hear, yup.” Nagy added, sarcastically. “Two percent.”