This is no knock on Jay Cutler, but with him or without him for the remainder of the regular season, the Bears still should make the playoffs.
Coach Lovie Smith says Cutler will be back before the end of the regular season, but the team won't need him until the postseason.
The Bears could probably play Matt Forte at quarterback and beat the Chiefs, Broncos and Seahawks, which are their next three opponents after Sunday's date with the Raiders in Oakland. None of those three teams currently have a quarterback situation that's any more favorable than the Bears'. Victories in those three games would give the Bears 10 wins with two games left -- at Green Bay and at Minnesota -- all but assuring a postseason berth.
If the Bears should stumble against the Chiefs, Broncos or Seahawks and need to win one of the final two, recent history says they should be able to handle the Vikings, whom they have beaten four straight times by a combined 142-67.
The 4-6 Chiefs are without their starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, possibly out for the year, so they're going with Tyler Palko. Kansas City has scored a total of 16 points in its last three games, including three in Palko's first start Monday night against the Patriots.
The 5-5 Broncos have Tebow at quarterback, but he appears to be a quarterback in name only. He's still learning the position and can't throw the ball downfield with any accuracy, but he is a threat as a runner and has compiled a 4-1 record as a starter. That can't last. If the Bears, with their speed on defense, can essentially render Michael Vick a non-factor, they should have little trouble containing Tebow.
The 4-6 Seahawks are led by quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson's greatest asset is his mobility, but he's no Vick. The Seahawks are still capable of giving even superior teams a battle when they're at home, but this game is at Soldier Field, where the Bears are 5-1 and have scored 30 points or more in all five of the victories. Before defeating a lousy Rams team 24-7 in St. Louis on Sunday, the Seahawks were 1-4 on the road and had scored a total of 33 points in the four defeats.
The Bears couldn't ask for a better situation in which to develop inexperienced backup quarterback Caleb Hanie. For the remainder of the regular season, the only defense they face that is in the upper half of the NFL in yards and points allowed is the Seahawks'.
The biggest potential problem for the Bears, especially if they plan to rely more heavily on the run game to take pressure off Hanie, is that half of their remaining opponents have excellent run defenses.
The Seahawks, Vikings and Broncos are all in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed per rushing attempt, and the Seahawks and Vikings are also top 10 in total rushing yards allowed.
Should Hanie prove to be incapable of handling the job, the Bears could look elsewhere for a quarterback. One option might be former Chicago starter Kyle Orton, who was waived by the Broncos on Tuesday. However, the identity of the quarterback doesn't figure to make or break the Bears.
Bear Report: The only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears.