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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 20: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears is congrtaulated by Matt Forte #22 and Greg Olsen #82 after scoring a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium on December 20, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Devin Hester;Greg Olsen;Matt Forte
The Bears locked up a spot in the playoffs after beating division rival Minnesota, Monday.
So, now what? Can they rest their starters? Can they secure home field advantage? Here are the answers to all your playoff questions.
Will the Bears get a first-round bye?
It's possible, and the Bears are in control. If they win out, beating the Jets and the Packers, they'll have a first round bye. They could also clinch the bye, and the second seed in the NFC, with a win over the Jets, and losses from the Eagles and Giants.
Are the Jets in a playoff race, too?
Yes. The Jets currently sit at the sixth seed in the AFC, meaning they're the last ones in. If they beat the Bears on Sunday, they're in. After a win over Pittsburgh last week, they have both momentum and motivation.
If the playoffs started tomorrow, who would the Bears play?
The Bears are currently the two seed in the NFC, so they would have a bye the first week, and then face the winner of the Saints-Rams game. Dropping to the third seed would mean a game the first weekend of the playoffs, possibly against the Giants.
Should the Bears start sitting players to save them for the off-season?
This is a tough call. With the playoffs locked up, the Bears could start resting some key players to prepare for the postseason, but there's still a bye and a good seed to play for. I'd say no, not yet. If they lose this Sunday, then yes. As wrong as it sounds, Lovie Smith should sit the starters against the Pack.
Any chance we'll play the Packers in the postseason?
Not likely. To even get in the playoffs, the Packers would need a win over the Giants this Sunday. This is a difficult feat because a) the Giants are also fighting for a playoff spot, so they have just as much to fight for and b) QB Aaron Rodgers is coming off of his second concussion of the year. There's no telling how effective he will be, and the Giants will take advantage of that. They're second in the league in sacks. Remember what they did to Jay Cutler? If the Pack can pull this off, they'll still need to beat the Bears on Jan. 2. As fun as it would be to play Green Bay in the postseason, it's not likely.
What about homefield advantage?
The Bears are guaranteed at least one home playoff game in the playoffs, but we won't know when that game will be until at the earliest, this Sunday. If they hold onto the two seed, they'll be home against everyone except the Falcons, the one-seed. The Bears could steal the top seed from the Falcons if Atlanta loses both to New Orleans and Carolina, and the Bears win both of their remaining games.
Could the Bears actually ... win the Super Bowl?
Anything can happen, dear reader. When the Giants won the Super Bowl over the seemingly unstoppable Patriots in 2007, the Giants were a 10-6 team and got into the playoffs with a wild card. The Bears have two things on their side: momentum and health (knock on wood throw salt spit twice.) Chicago has just one loss since their bye week, and only one player -- linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa -- missed Monday night's game with an injury. That's unheard of at this time of year.
With the right set of opponents in the playoffs, and a little bit of luck, a Super Bowl is possible.
Are you nuts?
Possibly, but if there is anything that this season in the NFL has taught us, it's that the parity is astounding. Winning the Super Bowl isn't just about who has the best players. It's about peaking at the right time, staying healthy, and getting those players to work as one mind on the field.