Sunday’s Week 17 winner-takes-all showdown for the NFC North title between the Green Bay Packers and Bears in a renewal of the NFL’s oldest and best rivalry is a big deal.
There are no two ways about it.
And I’ll tell you right now, I believe the Bears are going to win this one.
So, now that that’s all taken care of, what am I going to do with myself between now and Sunday?
Mostly, I’ve been trying to figure out, as much fun and as exciting as all this is, how much does it really mean?
Does the fact the Bears are in the playoffs with a win over the Packers make them a “playoff team?”
Or are the Bears and Packers competing for the right to be the first home-team loser in the wild-card games?
Here’s the only easy answer in this conundrum: Of the nine teams still alive for or already in the 2013 playoffs – Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Panthers, Saints, Cowboys and Eagles – the Cowboys are the worst.
Dallas is 1-6 in games against the other eight clubs, including losses to the Bears and Packers in the past 3 weeks.
Next up – or down as the case may be – are the Packers and Bears.
The Packers are 1-3 against the remaining eight playoff contestants, while the Bears are 2-2. It is noteworthy, however, that the Bears two wins are over the Cowboys and Packers.
There should be little dispute that the Seahawks, Panthers and 49ers are the three best teams left, as all have top-five defenses and they are second, fifth and third, respectively, in total point differential.
The Saints already handled the Bears, and we know what happened Sunday in Philadelphia. The Bears also have losses to St. Louis, Washington, Minnesota and two to Detroit.
That leaves the Cardinals, who won’t be a playoff team unless they beat the 49ers on Sunday and the Saints lose at home to the Bucs.
If I’m right and the Bears beat the Packers, their wild-card opponent will be either the 49ers, Panthers, Saints or Cardinals. Which of those clubs do you like their chances against?
The Eagles game was a bit of an aberration, just a bad outing, and Philly does have the best offense of any of the nine contenders. But if the Eagles’ defense handled the Bears like that, what would the 49ers’, Panthers’ or Cardinals’ defenses do to them?
A 9-7 rookie campaign with a wild-card game would be a great start for Bears coach Marc Trestman, and based on all the moves he’s made so far, a nice sophomore campaign for general manager Phil Emery.
But if it allows them to believe they are anything more than slightly better than average, or that they should sign Jay Cutler to a long-term deal at the going QB rate of $100 million or so, and anything but a complete rebuilding of the defense will suffice, it could be the worst thing that ever happened to them.