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NFL Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears’ Playoff Hopes Are Vanquished After Mass-Injury Spree

Jay Cutler Chicago Bears

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to be completely honest with you: This was the most optimistic I’ve ever been going into a Chicago Bears season. I thought they had all the pieces to have a team worthy of contender status.

They came into the year with a rebuilt offensive line, corps of receiving options that would open up the field, running back who was finally in an offense that would accentuate his strengths to the fullest, defense that took the ball away with ease and made life difficult for nearly every offense in the NFL and a special teams that consisted of one of the best kickers and return men in the history of the league. Not to mention, a quarterback who finally had a strong offensive-minded coach who was supposed to be able to get the most out of him and bring the offense to new heights they have never reached in the 93-year history of the franchise.

However, all of that optimism has been taken away, and realism is setting in fast. Due to the vast amount of injuries to crucial members of the team over the past month or so, including the two biggest yesterday in their game against the Washington Redskins, the Bears’ playoff aspirations appear to be diminished.

And that’s coming from a writer and fan who generally looks at most situations in a relatively positive light.

Sure, the team is 4-3, but with Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs out for at least the next month — and perhaps more — the odds of them getting through that stretch with any wins are growing more and more thin.

The Bears do have the benefit of the bye this upcoming week, but then open up the second half of their season with games against the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens. It’s conceivable that Cutler and maybe Briggs could be back following that three-game period, but Chicago will likely lose all of those matchups without them, falling to 4-6.

That would mean they would have to finish 5-1 at the worst over the last six games to have a winning record and realistic shot at being a Wild Card. While the schedule during that time is certainly manageable, with should-be wins against the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles (with one more tough matchup against Green Bay in Week 17), it would mean that everyone important would have to stay healthy during that stretch — which I have no faith in — and they’d need to play their best each and every week with no slip-ups.

Not to mention, how much confidence does anyone have in that defense anyway? Even with Briggs they looked bad against the Lions, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Redskins. The ACL tears to Henry Melton and Nate Collins depleted their depth on the interior defensive line, and it’s clear that the line was struggling from all four positions before those injuries ever occurred.

Things are looking bleak for the Bears. At this point, the only factors that may salvage their postseason hopes are pure luck or divine intervention. The latter of which I’m not expecting, especially since I don’t believe God actually favors my team over the others… At least the logical side of me.

Anyway… It’s hard to be positive moving forward. Yes, Josh McCown looked solid against the Redskins, but then again, it’s the Redskins, who have been horribly inconsistent defensively this year. If you’re expecting him to be just as proficient versus the Packers or Lions, forget about it.

Hey, I’ve been wrong before, and I’d be thrilled to be in this instance. However, I’m urging you all to temper your expectations for the remainder of the season, or at least for the next month or so. Otherwise, much disappointment will be sure to follow.

Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor at RantSports.com and senior at Lewis University. Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.

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