By Adam Hoge-
CLEVELAND (CBS) — By winning back-to-back games for the first time since September, the Bears have greatly increased their chances of making the playoffs.
In fact, as the Detroit Lions (7-6) get ready to host the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) tonight, the Bears (8-6) hold the NFC North lead, but the Lions can reclaim it with a win because they hold the tiebreaker.
A Lions’ loss, however, would give the Bears all the control. By winning their final two games against the Eagles and the Packers, the Bears would clinch the NFC North title.
But some interesting scenarios are playing out.
For one, after overcoming a 23-point deficit in Dallas on Sunday, the Packers are still very much alive in the NFC North race. Their tie against the Vikings earlier in the season is hurting them, but if they beat the Steelers in Green Bay next week and get one loss from the Lions, the Packers can steal the NFC North with a win against the Bears at Soldier Field in Week 17. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers seemingly set to return to the Packers’ lineup, this appears to be a very realistic possibility.
For the Bears, it’s pretty easy. Because they are two games behind the 49ers (10-6) and Panthers (10-6) and one game behind the Cardinals (9-5) for the two Wild Card spots — and have a poor 4-6 record against the NFC for a potential tiebreaker — the Bears need to win the NFC North. To do so, they need to win their final two games and get one Lions loss. Both games are tough, but winnable, especially with linebacker Lance Briggs possibly returning to the lineup.
There’s an interesting quirk in next Sunday night’s game in Philadelphia. If the Cowboys beat the Redskins earlier in the day, a win or a loss against the Bears will have virtually no impact on the Eagles’ playoff hopes. Either way, the NFC East title would come down to a Week 17 matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys in Dallas. The only thing on the line for the Eagles against the Bears would be seeding, as the NFC North and NFC East winners will take either the No. 3 or No. 4 seeds.
There’s also a chance both division titles will come down to winner-take-all games in Dallas and Chicago in Week 17. If the Packers and Bears take care of business next week and the Lions lose to either the Ravens or Giants (5-9) by Sunday, Soldier Field will be hosting an NFC North championship game Dec. 29.
In that case, either the Bears or Eagles will likely end up playing on Sunday Night Football two weeks in a row. The Week 17 Sunday night game won’t be decided until after next week’s Bears-Eagles matchup and NBC might have to pick between two division title games, with the other one possibly being moved to the 3:25 CT timeslot on FOX.
But the Lions will have a say in that. They still control their own destiny right now.
So enjoy rooting for the Ravens on Monday night. Either way, the Bears need to win in Philadelphia Sunday night.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.