Successful teams take advantage of quirky opportunities. The Bears got a couple last Thursday against the Packers in Green Bay and now they have some in the form of their remaining schedule and playoff chances.
Their 5-6 record still leaves them on the outside of the two wild-card slots. The Packers (7-4) and Seattle Seahawks (6-5) hold those by virtue of being the only non-division leaders besides the Atlanta Falcons (6-5) with winning records. Slipping into the playoffs as a wild card out of the morass of also-rans remains a longshot but overtaking the Minnesota Vikings (8-3) with five to play is borderline impossible.
None of the what-if scenarios mean anything, however, unless the Bears simply win, and presumably win out. And they got that, even amid the celebrating of that 17-13 win in Lambeau Field.
“It kind of means something but we’ve got to continue to play ball,” said defensive end Willie Young. “We can’t get caught up with victories or get complacent because we won.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The fact that only one (Minnesota) of the remaining five opponents has a winning record borders as irrelevant. The reason is that nearly all of their arrows are pointing up: Washington and Tampa Bay have won two of their last three; Detroit has won three straight; and the Vikings have won six of their last seven.
The Bears may be an ascending team but they’re far from alone in a muddy NFC.
The biggest plus in the remaining five games is that they are all against NFC opponents, meaning that if the Bears win out, they are assured of a better record than Detroit, Tampa Bay and Washington. If Washington wins the NFC East, fine by the Bears, since it would mean that no one from that division would net out with a better record than Washington, and therefore the Bears.
The Bears have talked about themselves as fighters and finishers. Here’s their chance.
“We had our backs against the wall [in Green Bay] but the main thing we talk about is finishing,” said defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. “We knew it was going to be a hostile environment, emotions were high but we just had to stay focused and this team did that for all four quarters.”
“All four quarters” applies to seasons, not just games.