The Chicago Bears have vaulted themselves back into the NFC playoff race thanks to two consecutive wins, but they have gotten very little help from the teams they are chasing as the season winds down.
Two of the three teams currently holding wild card spots in the NFC won their games in thrilling fashion over the weekend, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to come back and beat the Atlanta Falcons, while the Arizona Cardinals held off a late charge by the Philadelphia Eagles in a Sunday victory.
Here’s the lay of the land as the NFL prepares to move into Week 16.
Where Things Stand:
The Bears are currently at 7-7 after two straight wins over the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings, leaving them one game behind the Arizona Cardinals, who held off a strong challenge from the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon in the desert.
The Bears are two games behind the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who both sit at 9-5 in the closing stretch of the regular season.
The Green Bay Packers have already clinched the NFC North division title, and are closing in on the top seed in the NFC, as they hold a one-game lead over the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks with two games left to play in the regular season.
The Bears have played two of the teams currently in NFC wild card spots, meaning that those tiebreakers are simple to explain. The Bears own the tiebreaker over the Buccaneers by virtue of their October win over Tampa Bay, but the Rams hold the tiebreaker thanks to a win at SoFi Stadium earlier this season.
Arizona Cardinals -
Things with the Cardinals get slightly more complicated. Since the Bears and Cardinals did not play this season, the next tiebreaker on the list is the better conference record.
Currently the Cardinals own that tiebreaker by half a game, with a 6-4 record compared to the 6-5 mark for the Bears. If the Cardinals win out, the Bears cannot catch them in the standings.
If the Cardinals go 1-1 in their final two games, which are both against NFC opponents, then the Bears could tie them by winning their final games against the Jaguars and Packers.
In that scenario, the next tiebreaker on the list would be the best win percentage in common games. That tiebreaker would go to the Bears, as Chicago has gone 3-2 against the Lions, Panthers, Rams and Giants, collectively. The Cardinals are 1-3 in those games, with one game remaining against the Rams.
Three or Four-Way Tie -
If a scenario evolves where the Bears and Cardinals end up in a three-way tie with either the Rams or Buccaneers, then other tiebreakers will be applied, starting with a division tiebreaker (if the Rams and Cardinals end up tied), then proceeding to head-to-head records and won-loss percentages in the NFC.
The Bears have two games remaining, one against the 1-13 Jaguars and then a home game against the Packers in the season finale. If they win both of their final two games, then they would be in excellent position to potentially make the postseason as a wild card team.
The Cardinals have two divisional games left, taking on the San Francisco 49ers and the Rams in their final two games of the season.
Speaking of the Rams, they could put themselves in the driver’s seat of the NFC West if they can beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. That would give both teams a 10-5 record, and the Rams would own the tiebreaker due to sweeping the season series against Seattle. The Seahawks could clinch the division with a win, however.
The Buccaneers have a road game against the Lions this weekend, then finish up their regular season with a rematch against the Atlanta Falcons at home on Jan. 3. A win in either of those games would lock up a playoff spot for the Bucs, who are holding out hope that they can somehow catch the Saints for the NFC South crown.