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NFL Chicago Bears

5 Reasons Why The Chicago Bears Are Playoff Pretenders

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5 Reasons Why The Chicago Bears Are Not Playoff Contenders

Chicago Bears Playoff Pretenders
Tim Fuller - USA TODAY Sports

Fair warning: If you’re a Chicago Bears fan you may not like a lot of what I’m about to say. The 2013 NFL season is quickly winding down, and in a week or two the teams who are true playoff contenders are going to separate themselves from the pack.

Really, how many times have we seen it? Right around Thanksgiving some team will catch fire – not the “Hunger Games” kind – and make a huge run, possibly all the way to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in February.

Unfortunately for Second City faithful, the chance of making that run seems to be growing smaller with each passing week. Certainly, anything can happen in the National Football League, but it’s looking more and more like the Bears are more pretender than contender.

The Bears started the season in tremendous fashion, winning their first three games under new head coach Marc Trestman, but since then they’ve struggled mightily, losing Jay Cutler for several weeks and dropping some crucial games to fall behind in the NFC North race.

Now, the Bears not only have to play some of their best football, but they are going to need help along the way. Certainly this team has all the talent to make a deep run, but somehow they’ve found a way to become just another also-ran thus far.

What will it take for the Bears to overcome the odds and become the team of destiny that Windy City fans have been longing for? What follows here are five key issues the team must deal with down the stretch if they have any hope of chasing the playoff dream.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer and NFL contributor for RantSports.com. “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and join him on Google+.

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5. Defense

Rob Grabowski - USA TODAY Sports

This year the Bears rank 25th in yards allowed per game at 376. By comparison, the Jacksonville Jaguars give up 375.8. When you're getting compared to the Jaguars in anything except how cool your owner's mustache is, you're doing something wrong. Chicago has also given up the fourth-most points in the league thus far. These aren’t the "Monsters of the Midway" of years past, and they'll need to shore up the D to go anywhere.

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4. Scoring

Mike Dinovo - USA TODAY Sports

I know, it doesn’t look like an issue, right? Chicago can put up points in bunches, but the Bears are also the only team in the league with a winning record boasting a negative point differential. The Bears have only scored 28 points four times this year, and three of those were in the first month. The top teams in the NFC – the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, and Detroit Lions – are capable of lighting up the scoreboards at will, and a shootout doesn’t suit Chicago.

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3. Soft Schedule

Scott Kane - USA TODAY Sports

The Bears have only one win over a team with a winning record right now, their Week 1 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals. Overall, the teams the Bears have defeated carry a 29-38-2 mark. Impressive, right? The schedule ahead isn't terrifying, but with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles still vying for the NFC East crown and Aaron Rodgers' return to the Green Bay Packers lineup looming, that's still three tough games and 8-8 probably won't get the job done. No more feasting on cupcakes.

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2. Poor Wild Card Positioning

Wild Card
Jeremy Brevard - USA TODAY Sports

If the season ended right now the Bears would be on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and it doesn’t look to get any easier. The wild card teams will likely be coming from the NFC South (Carolina or New Orleans) and the NFC West (San Francisco or a streaking Arizona). Neither the Lions nor Bears have a particularly daunting schedule remaining, but especially with the Lions’ dismantling of the Packers on Thanksgiving, the Bears will have an uphill climb just to make the postseason.

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1. Jay Cutler's Health

Rob Grabowski - USA TODAY Sports

Cutler has been dealing with a torn groin muscle and now a high ankle sprain that has set back the team’s and his expectations of a return. Backup Josh McCown has been surprisingly good in Cutler’s absence, but the Bears will go as Cutler goes and they need him in top form if they’re going anywhere in the playoffs. He might not be the most consistent player in football, but he brings a dynamic aspect to the team that it will need to compete.