The Chicago Bears have clinched the NFC North, and they still have a chance to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.
On the strength of a dynamic defense, improved QB play from Mitchell Trubisky and a balanced offense, Chicago has positioned itself to be one of the toughest teams in the NFC. There are legitimate questions as to how far this team can go in the postseason, but for the first time since 2010, the Bears are playoff bound, and they’re not getting in by the skin of their teeth.
How They Can Get a Bye
The New Orleans Saints are locked in as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams are currently the No. 2 seed with a 12-3 record, but they have not clinched that spot.
The Bears are 11-4 and they beat the Rams head-to-head 15-6 in Week 14. That victory gives the Bears the edge in a potential tiebreaker. Should the Bears defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon and the Rams fall to the San Francisco 49ers, the Bears would leapfrog L.A. into the No. 2 spot.
That would give the Bears a first-round bye and home-field advantage against the winner of one of the teams that survives the wild card round.
The Bears are currently the No. 3 seed, and while they have a chance to rise to No. 2, they cannot fall below the third spot. A loss to the Vikings on Sunday would drop them to 11-5 on the season, but that would still keep them ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, who can finish 10-6, at best.
As the third seed, the Bears would host a wild-card game on January 5 or 6.
Potential First-Round Matchups
If the Bears climb to the No. 2 seed, they would host the highest-seeded team that survives the wild-card round. The Saints would host the lowest-seeded squad. If the Bears stay at No. 3, there are a few different possibilities.
If they defeat the Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles knock off Washington, Minnesota would be out of the postseason and Philly would slide into the sixth spot. The Bears would then host the Eagles in the wild-card game. If the Bears defeat the Vikings and Washington beats the Eagles, the Vikings would remain in the sixth spot, and the Bears would play Minnesota for a third time in the wild-card round with Chicago as the host.
If the Vikings beat the Bears, it doesn’t matter what the Eagles do, Minnesota is into the postseason. They would have a shot at moving into the fifth spot if the Seattle Seahawks lose to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. In that scenario, the Bears would host the Seahawks in the wild-card game.
If the Vikings upset the Bears and the Seahawks take care of business against the lowly Cardinals, everything stays as is, and the Bears would host the Vikings in the wild-card game. There are a ton of scenarios that has Chicago playing the Vikings in the postseason. It’s tough to defeat the same team three times in a row. If the Bears win in Week 17 and still draw the Vikes in the postseason, expect to hear that saying a lot through next week.