Bears' playoff hopes still alive

After two straight victories, the Chicago Bears (5-6) are just two games out of the NFC Wildcard race with five weeks to go, with an important tiebreaker in their back pocket.

The Chicago Bears raised their record to 5-6 yesterday with a 21-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the club’s second win in a row and one that keeps their slim playoff hopes alive.

There are seven teams in the NFC with a better record than the Bears: Green Bay Packers (8-3), Detroit Lions (7-4), Philadelphia Eagles (8-3), Dallas Cowboys (8-3), Arizona Cardinals (9-2), Seattle Seahawks (7-4) and San Francisco 49ers (7-4).

Three of those teams will earn division titles – likely the Packers, Cardinals and Eagles – with a fourth playoff spot going to the winner of the NFC South, a division currently led by the 4-6 New Orleans Saints.

That leaves the Bears, Lions, Cowboys, Seahawks and 49ers to battle it out over the next five weeks for those final two NFC playoff spots.

In reality, the Bears must win each of their next five games to even have a shot at the postseason. Yet if they do, it appears that could be good enough to earn a playoff berth.

Due to their victory in Week 2, Chicago holds the tiebreaker over the 49ers, meaning San Francisco’s lead in the standings is really just one game.

In addition, the Bears will square off against the Lions twice in the next five weeks. Picking up wins in both contests would erase Detroit’s current two-game lead in the division and give Chicago the tiebreaker.

The Bears will also face Dallas in two weeks, a game at Soldier Field in what will surely be frigid conditions. It’s the type of situation in which Tony Romo and the Cowboys have consistently wilted the past decade. A win in that game and the Bears pick up another tiebreaker.

While it’s a long shot Chicago will earn its first playoff berth since 2010, there is still hope. If the Bears win out, and both the Cowboys and 49ers lose just one other contest, the Monsters of the Midway will head on the road in the first round of the NFC playoffs.

The chances that scenario plays out are slim but the club’s odds will get much better if they can secure a road victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving. If Marc Trestman’s team can pull off that upset, they become a legit contender for the postseason. They’ll pick up momentum from defeating a hated NFC North foe and will be riding a three-game win streak into the Cowboys matchup in Week 14.

Two weeks ago, all hope was lost for the 2014 Bears, yet this Thursday’s contest has renewed meaning, which will give Chicago fans plenty to cheer for before the turkey feast begins.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.

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