It doesn’t get sadder than what the Bears did on Sunday to give up one of the team’s most winnable games of the season to the Minnesota Vikings, crashing back onto the shores of .500 Island (6-6) in the process.
The 23-20 overtime loss in Minneapolis would seem to be a season-destroying moment, but the modern NFL is designed in the mold of Jesse Jackson, it keeps hope alive.
Entering this week only a handful of the League’s 32 teams are even mathematically out of the playoff hunt. Teams like Pittsburgh (5-7) and Jacksonville (5-7) have managed to play themselves back into playoff contention for that “anything goes” sixth seed in the AFC, meanwhile even those damn Vikings (3-8-1) are still mathematically eligible to take the NFC North.
Indeed, the races in the North division (Detroit, 7-5) and the East division, led by Dallas (7-5) are acting as de-facto wild card spots in the NFC due to the near-certainty that the current wild cards — Carolina (9-3) and San Francisco (8-4) — should finish with better records than the North and East winners.
In all this talk about mathematic eligibility it has to be put out that teams like Minnesota and the Bears are only still hanging on strictly on a win-loss level. Their actual chances, due to silly things like their actual ability to beat the other contending teams, are much lower.
The web site playoffstatus.com lays out the chances of each team making each available playoff spot as well as their overall chances of reaching the postseason and its not a good look for most teams, including the Bears. Playoff Status has the Bears with an 88 percent chance of not making the playoffs, its most likely playoff spot is as the third divisional winner (6%), one percent better than its chances as the fourth division winner.
Dallas sits only with a 30 percent chance of not making the playoffs, yet they’ll probably play against the Bears Monday night as if they only had a 30 percent chance of making it. Chicago is going to have to match that effort at the least because Dallas has a good chance to create ground in its division with rivals the Eagles and the Giants playing tougher competition respectively in Detroit and at San Diego.
Just what can the Bears do to hold off a team that is playing with more immediately at stake, who doesn’t have the worst run defense in the league or a coach that mystifies (in the wrong way) more and more each week with his play calls? The reinforcements still aren’t ready to return so it looks like all there is left to do is hope — hope that its cold enough Monday to effect Dallas, hope that Tony Romo has a classic Romo meltdown, hope that numbers do lie sometimes.
Hope abounds in NFL with 28 of 32 teams mathematically alive (NFL.com)
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