12 teams are fighting for seven NFC playoff spots, including the 6-9 Bears, who kept their hopes alive with a 27-16 win over the Cardinals. Don’t get your hopes up too high, however. Chicago has less than a one-percent chance of earning a Wild Card berth even if they win their final two games against the Falcons and Packers.
GM Ryan Poles and his staff are already in evaluation mode, and the Bears will have several key decisions to make as soon as early January. That includes Matt Eberflus and his staff, Justin Fields, Khalil Herbert, Darnell Mooney, Jaylon Johnson, and Eddie Jackson. Second-year OL Braxton Jones could be on the bubble, too, and Poles may head into the 2024 season focusing on an offensive line that may need an overhaul other than Darnell Wright, Teven Jenkins, and possibly Jones.
With that in mind, let’s look at the contenders and pretenders in what will be a wild finish to the regular season.
- San Francisco (11-4): The 49ers have clinched the NFC West. San Francisco also holds tiebreakers over the Eagles and Lions for best NFC record. If the 49ers win out, they will be the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
- Philadelphia (11-4): The Eagles currently lead the NFC East but haven’t clinched. The Cowboys are a game behind but have to win their final two games and need the Giants to beat the Eagles in Week 18.
- Detroit (11-4): The Lions clinched the NFC North last week for the first time since 1993. The franchise is looking to end a league-worst postseason victory drought that extends 31 seasons.
- Tampa Bay (8-7): The Buccaneers lead the lowly NFC South but have yet to clinch the division, let alone a playoff spot. Tampa Bay can clinch the division if they win one of their two remaining games.
- Dallas (10-5): The Cowboys are 7-0 at home but 3-5 on the road. They’ve clinched a playoff spot, but can’t win the NFC East without help from the Giants. Dallas plays the Lions at home on Saturday night before closing the season with a tilt in Washington against the Commanders.
- Los Angeles (8-7): The Rams cannot win the NFC North, but hold the second Wild Card tiebreaker over the Seahawks.
- Seattle (8-7): The Seahawks were all but dead three weeks ago after losing their fourth consecutive game. But, they beat the Eagles and Titans, had a lot of help, and now control their playoff destiny. Seattle won’t clinch this weekend, however. They’d need to beat the Steelers at home and then hope the Packers and Vikings tie on Sunday night. They finish the season with a game against the Cardinals. Winning out would leave the Seahawks 10-7 and in the playoffs.
- Minnesota (7-8): If the Vikings beat the Packers Sunday night they’ll have a 96% chance of making the postseason. If Minnesota loses they have a 96% chance of missing the playoffs.
- Atlanta (7-8): The Falcons own the Wild Card tiebreaker over the Packers but enter Sunday’s contest against the Bears with a 10% chance of playing postseason football. If Chicago wins at home and the Buccaneers win, Atlanta will be eliminated.
- Green Bay (7-8): The Packers need to beat the Vikings and Bears to keep their postseason hopes alive. If they win those games, and the Rams beat the Giants in Week 17 but lose to the 49ers in Week 18, Green Bay gets in.
- New Orleans (7-8): The Saints have one path to the playoffs. New Orleans needs to beat the Buccaneers and Falcons to win the NFC South with a 9-8 record.
- Chicago (6-9): The Bears are not mathematically eliminated. That said, the odds are very stacked against them. The Bears need to win out, and then hope the Rams and Seahawks lose out. There are a few other scenarios that are even less likely. One has the Bears winning out, the Vikings beating the Packers, and the Falcons beating the Saints. You don’t have to give up, but I have. Let’s see what happens this weekend, though. Stranger things have happened.