Can Chicago Bears Survive Injuries to Still Make Playoffs?

By Brian Neal
Matt Forte Chicago Bears
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Does anyone else just feel weird today after watching that Chicago BearsBaltimore Ravens game unfold over the course of nearly five and a half hours? I just feel strange.

However, strange isn’t always a bad thing, and maybe it’s because of something I’ve sort of thrown out the window the past few weeks or so that’s creeping back up: Hope.

Yes, hope may be the reason I’m feeling so off at the moment.

Despite the Bears losing Henry Melton, then Nate Collins, then Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs and finally Charles Tillman, it seemed like they didn’t have much of a realistic shot at the playoffs, especially with how dreadful the defense has been at times this year. But after a wild win that came by way of a barely-good Robbie Gould field goal in overtime — 23-20 was the final — suddenly Chicago sits at 6-4 and tied atop the NFC North with the Detroit Lions once again. Of course, they do hold the tie breaker, but even if the Bears don’t win the division, they are certainly in the Wild Card race.

The problem with all of this “hope” is that I don’t know how many games the Bears can pull out with so many key starters hurt. I can’t really even offer a realistic expectation or prediction for any of their remaining games, because their win today was such a surprise.

The only thing that I do know is that their schedule moving forward is favorable, but four of the next five are on the road. Nevertheless, let’s take a look.

Next Sunday they play the St. Louis Rams in Missouri. Early in the year, this game looked pretty winnable, but after St. Louis trounced the Indianapolis Colts last week, they’re not going to be some walk in the park. And with as good as their defense has been, I don’t honestly expect Josh McCown to keep up his mistake-free play for another four quarters.

Following that matchup, they head to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Vikings. This is one of the few upcoming games that I feel fairly confident for, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Cutler and Briggs could be back for it, and Jay Ratliff will likely be playing as well. Those three would make a huge difference, especially with Briggs defensively, because stopping Adrian Peterson is never easy.

The Bears then have a home game with Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. The benefit of having this matchup on Dec. 9 instead of in November is unreal because Romovember will be over with, even by nine days. And yes, that is a joke. That game could go either way, and you know the Cowboys will need that game as much of the Bears in their tight race for the division in the NFC East.

Six days later, Chicago will play against the Cleveland Browns in Ohio. Say what you want about how bad the Browns have been in the past, but their defense is no joke, much like the Rams — and the Browns have had a couple of upsets this season as well.

Philly is their next destination, and they’ll take on an improved Philadelphia Eagles team. After their defense was easily the worst in the NFL the first half of the season or so, they’ve been playing a lot better, and the offense finally has some real direction with Nick Foles at the helm. Again, no gimme.

Finally, the Bears return to Soldier Field for a showdown with the Green Bay Packers. With Aaron Rodgers back for the Pack, again, this game will not be one the Bears can come in with an advantage.

With all of this said, I can’t tell you what the result will be. Because of all the injuries, every win they earn will pretty much come as a surprise to me. But, while I try to be as realistic as possible, I am a very positive and optimistic fan.

So, if we get to the end of the season and the Bears do somehow make the playoffs at perhaps 9-7 or 10-6 — which is a realistic possibility at this point with no clear powerhouse opponents left on the schedule — they could potentially have a healthy Briggs, Cutler and Tillman all ready for the postseason. Barring any other significant injuries, I’m not so sure I can quite toss in the towel like I was ready to a few weeks ago.

Yes, hope has me feeling strange right now. Strange enough to almost be expecting some January football for the Bears.

Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.


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