(CBS)- After a 5-1 start to the season, it’s been all downhill for the Bears dropping their last five games including a 41-25 rout at the hands of the division rival Packers this past Sunday night. But, despite the 5-6 record, the team is still alive in the playoff hunt if they can get things together down the stretch. With five games remaining, the Bears are just one game back of the Arizona Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot, tied with the Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.
What are their odds of making the playoffs? Well, the projections systems aren’t too favorable. In FiveThirtyEight’s projection model, the Bears have just a 23 percent chance of making a postseason appearance. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) is even lower, pegging the Bears chances at 15.2 percent and projecting the team to finish with a record of 7.4 and 8.6 or basically 7-9.
The pessimism from the models is understandable. The team is on a five game losing streak and they currently lose out on the tiebreaker to the Vikings due to their loss to Minnesota two weeks ago.
But, if you’re a glass half full person, there is reason for optimism. Of the team’s final five opponents, just one is currently above .500 (the Packers). Two have already fired coaches (Lions and Texans). Another, the Jacksonville Jaguars, could do so in the coming weeks. So, what would need to happen in order for the Bears to make the playoffs?
They would have to finish at least a game ahead of the Vikings in the win-loss column and or beat them in the Week 15 rematch. In the FiveThirtyEight model, giving the Bears wins in the next two weeks against the Lions and Texans moves their chances up to 44 percent. Winning those two games seems possible as they’re given a 73 percent win probability against the Lions and a 52 percent win probability against the Texans.
They would likely need some help from the Vikings in terms of Minnesota losing a few of their upcoming games. There’s both good and bad news on that front. The Vikings face the Jaguars this coming Sunday which is a likely win (83 percent probability). But, after that, Minnesota faces the Buccaneers (7-5), Bears and Saints (9-2) in consecutive weeks. Both the Bucs and Saints games are on the road and they draw Tampa Bay following their bye week. Giving the Vikings a win and a loss against the Jaguars and Bucs respectively would put them at 6-7 heading into the crucial Week 15 battle at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Of course, you have to acknowledge that neither the Lions or Texans are gimme games for the Bears at this point. It took a 21 point fourth quarter for Matt Nagy’s crew to overcome Detroit in Week 1. And the Texans just exploded for their highest offensive output of the season on Thanksgiving with Deshaun Watson torching the Lions for 318 yards and four touchdowns.
First things first, the team must end their losing streak this weekend against the Lions. A loss to Detroit would drastically drop their chances from 23 percent in the FiveThirtyEight model to just seven percent.
The Bears host the Lions this Sunday, December 6 at Soldier Field with kickoff set for 12:00 p.m. Central Time.