Please spare me the Jim Mora memes – which became tired once that video was reposted for about the fifth time – but Cole Kmet said the Bears were in “playoff mode” when they gave the Lions a beat down at Soldier Field last week.
“Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs… Are you kidding me? I just hope we can win another game!” Aaaaaaaaaaargggggggh!
The Bears are 5-8 and in last place in the NFC North, but yes, they do have a shot at making the postseason as a wildcard entry. Winning three of four has done quite a bit for the team’s general psyche. That’s saying a lot, considering Chicago had lost 14 straight going back to last season before a 40-20 Week 5 win over the Commanders.
First and foremost, the Bears need to beat the Browns on Sunday and then run the table against the Cardinals, Falcons, and Packers. That’s not as impossible as it may have seemed two months ago given Chicago’s defensive surge since parting ways with Alan Williams. That said, let’s call “playoff mode” a locker room rallying cry in the mode of the movie Major League rather than some type of inspired notion. Kmet, who grew up a Bears fan, understands that the idea is far-fetched.
“You go lay a dud this weekend and it’s back to chaos and all that stuff,” the emerging star said. “You win and it’s like, ‘Oh, my god — [the] Bears are back. Let’s throw a parade.’”
A win over Cleveland will change that calculus a great deal, especially if the Bengals beat the Vikings and the Packers, coming off a devastating defeat on Monday night, lose to the Buccaneers. Don’t look now, but the Bears are playing their first statement game of the Matt Eberflus era in Cleveland tomorrow. The Browns will try to fend off the Bears with 38-year-old Joe Flacco at quarterback. They’ve also lost 16 players to injury this season, and aren’t much healthier this weekend.
A loss to a playoff-bound team won’t undo the progress the Bears have made. Cleveland is currently the fifth seed in the AFC with a 78% chance of making the postseason. The Bears are the fifth-worst team in the NFL and probably won’t make the playoffs with an 8-9 record. D.J. Moore is already talking about revenge in Green Bay, but if the Bears aren’t 8-8 when they make the trip to Lambeau Field on January 7, winning won’t matter.
The Bears currently own the number 1 and 5 picks of the draft and are 1 game out of a playoff spot. Wild.
— Biblical Losses (@anthonycdemaria) December 12, 2023
Then again, could you imagine the league flexing that game to prime time if the two teams are fighting for the final postseason slot? What in the name of Al Michaels is going on here? If Chicago finishes 9-8 and makes the playoffs Eberflus should be named NFC Coach of the Year. It’s still almost unfathomable that the Bears are in the hunt.
Kmet and the Bears have earned the right to think those types of thoughts.
“It’s a results-based league — you either win or lose,” Kmet said. “I think why we were so frustrated in the middle of the season — we were putting good stuff on tape and seeing some good things, but it just wasn’t translating into wins. We’re able to now get in the win column lately and it’s a little more gratifying.”
It would be nice if finishing 9-8 would get the Bears into the playoffs, but they need a lot of help. The Panthers (1-12) won’t beat the Falcons (6-7) this week, but hanging Atlanta with its eighth loss would be a tremendous boost to Chicago’s chances. The Rams and Packers are also 6-7, so we’ll root for the Commanders and Bucs. The Giants, like the Bears, are 5-8 and a loss to the 6-7 Saints would be devasting. Chicago would prefer the Giants win, however, because New York plays the Eagles in two of their final three games. The Giants do hold a tiebreaker over the Bears, in case you’re wondering.
Yes, the NFC playoff race is a very fluid and complicated matter. The Bears are struggling with multi-team tiebreaker losses with eight teams fighting for three postseason entries. That said, a Bears win tomorrow could vault their chances into the 50% range if the following happens:
- The Bengals beat the Vikings today. Minnesota starting third-string QB Nick Mullens against Cincinnati. Joshua Dobbs is not an option, and Jaren Hall will eventually climb to the top of the depth chart. Kirk Cousins is out for the season and a pending free agent.
- The Buccaneers beat the Packers tomorrow. If Tampa Bay wins and the Falcons lose, the Bucs will seize control of the NFC North. Both teams are tied for the final wildcard spot so the winner gains the tiebreaker edge. Green Bay running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are questionable for Sunday’s game. WR Christian Watson missed last week’s game and probably won’t play tomorrow.
- The Panthers beat the Falcons. A Carolina win won’t impact Chicago’s stranglehold on the No. 1 draft pick so go ahead and root hard for the Panthers. There aren’t any playoff scenarios for Carolina, and they’re the only NFC team eliminated from postseason contention. Atlanta is in a three-way tie for the NFC South lead. However, a loss combined with a Bears win would drop them to No. 13 in the NFC playoff picture.
- The Giants beat the Saints. Other than their NFC North counterparts, New Orleans is the biggest thorn in Chicago’s side. The Bears need the Giants to win and then bomb twice against the Eagles. New York has momentum on its side after a huge 24-22 win over the Packers. The Saints have won six of the last 10 meetings between the two teams. If the Giants stop Derek Carr – which is entirely possible – they should win the game.
- The Eagles beat the Seahawks on Monday night. Seattle is another 6-7 team in the NFC postseason logjam. Philadelphia is the first team in NFL history to have 10+ wins and no more than one loss and then proceed to lose back-to-back games by 20+ points each. They’re going to destroy Seattle in what may be the lock of the week.
- The Bears beat the Browns. Chicago will play without DE Yannick Ngakoue, while four others are questionable, including Jaquan Brisker. Cleveland’s full injury report is too long to list here but a few of the notables that are out include RB Nick Chubb, S Grant Delpit, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., WR Michael Woods II, QB Deshaun Watson, OT Jack Conklin and others that are out or questionable. Myles Garrett is also questionable. Cleveland’s defense is allowing an average of 20.9 points and 263.0 yards per game which are 14th and 1st in the NFL. The Bears have been a turnover machine since acquiring Montez Sweat and the Browns have turned the ball over a league-worst 27 times.
Yes, the Bears have a shot at the playoffs but can’t do it without beating Cleveland. Our own Sean Holland predicts the Browns will win in a 16-13 nail-biter. While the Browns rank at the top of the league in multiple defensive categories, they’ve permitted 29, 36, and 27 points in their last three games. Justin Fields boasts a 149.0 passer rating when targeting D.J. Moore, the highest among all NFL quarterback/receiver duos. I think the Bears have a very good shot at winning their third straight game. Give me the Bears 34-21 if Garrett sits. If he starts and Chicago’s offensive line cannot contain him, Cleveland will win 17-13.