Playoff Payoff?

LAKE FOREST -- Sit down for this one, Bears fans.<p> Believe it or not, Chicago could be the first team to qualify for the playoffs with a win over Green Bay Sunday at Lambeau Field.<p>

   They need some help, though.    "The team needs to be aware of the overview," Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "They need to be aware of what every game means, and if you just keep it in the one week, things would take care of themselves.

   "But they also need to know just to have the added incentive to know how big the games get when you're on a run, when you're on top of the division, when you're on top of the conference."

   As strange as it sounds, the playoffs could happen with a little help from some friends. First, the Bears (9-2) need to take care of business themselves. A victory over the Packers (8-3) is just the beginning.

   NFC Central rivals Tampa Bay and Detroit, along with the New York Giants and Dallas, are all part of three playoff scenarios for the Bears.

   Detroit, the only NFL team without a win this season, must beat the Buccaneers in Tampa. Don't laugh, the Lions dropped a 20-17 decision to the Bucs at home less than a month ago.

   In one instance, a Bears and Lions win, along with a Giants tie or loss at Dallas and an Atlanta loss against New Orleans would put Chicago in.

   Another scenario includes all of the above except a loss by New Orleans and a loss by Philadelphia against San Diego.

   The final one includes a win by the Bears and Lions, a tie or loss by the Giants, a loss by the Saints and a Redskins' tie or loss against Arizona.

   "We knew we'd be good, and it was after the Baltimore game -- we played the world champions and we could have beat them -- when we knew we had something," linebacker Warrick Holdman said. "After that we felt we shouldn't lose any more games.

   "Against Minnesota (in the second game) everybody was focused and everybody was determined to win that game. With all the weapons they have, we played an outstanding game. That was a game that everybody thought that we could be good, and we had a shot at the playoffs. We've been rollin' ever since."

   First things first, though, and the Bears have to win on the road, something that hasn't been easy for the franchise. Chicago has lost 23 of its last 25 road games in December and January dating back to 1988.

   The Packers have Brett Favre, they're at home and they have some incentive as well -- win and they'll share the division lead with Chicago, and hold the tiebreaker with the season sweep. Green Bay held the Bears without a touchdown in last month's 20-12 victory at Soldier Field.

   "We can't go in there putting too much pressure on ourselves just because it's Green Bay," Holdman said. "We've got to go in there like it's a regular game, and just go in there and play.

   "I think that's how we'll approach it."    The Bears haven't made the playoffs since 1994.

   "Right now, where we're at and where they're at, it's all about first place in our division and it's for the divisional championship," defensive end Bryan Robinson said. "I know we've got a couple of more games to play in our division, but this is a team that has always had our number.

   "We're prepared to go to Lambeau. We know what this game means."

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