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Bears can still earn first-round playoff bye


Clinching the NFC North title Sunday with a 24-17 win over the Packers assured the Bears of hosting their first playoff game. But there's still a lot to be determined in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Among the NFC division winners (or leaders in the case of Dallas), the Bears (10-4) are currently the No. 3 seed behind the Saints (12-2) and Rams (11-3) and ahead of the Cowboys (8-6). The two wildcard teams are presently the Seahawks (8-6) and Vikings (7-6-1).

The top two seeds earn first-round byes, while the third seed hosts the sixth seed and the fourth seed hosts the fifth seed. If the season ended today, the Saints and Rams would get byes, while the Bears would host the Vikings and the Cowboys would host the Seahawks.

The Bears can still earn a first-round bye. In fact, they can still finish as the No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed in the NFC playoffs.

To catch the Saints, the Bears would have to win their final two games at San Francisco and at Minnesota, while New Orleans would have to lose its final two contests at home versus the Steelers and Panthers. In that scenario, the Bears and Saints would both finish 12-4, but the Bears would win the tiebreaker based on a better conference record.

To catch the Rams, the Bears would have to gain one game over Los Angeles over the final two weeks. So if the Bears went 2-0, the Rams would have to lose one game. If the Bears went 1-1, the Rams would have to go 0-2. Los Angeles will visit the Cardinals and then host the 49ers. The Bears would win the tiebreaker based on their recent 15-6 victory over the Rams at Soldier Field.

The Bears have a two-game lead over the Cowboys for the No. 3 seed. The only way Dallas can supplant the Bears in that spot is if the Cowboys beat the Buccaneers at home and the Giants on the road and the Bears lose both of their remaining games. In that scenario, Dallas would win the tiebreaker based on a better conference record.

Since the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions in 2002, the Bears have won the NFC North and had a first-round bye all three times they've made the playoffs. They were the No. 2 seed in 2005 when they lost to the Panthers in the divisional round and again in 2010 when they fell to the Packers in the NFC title game. They were the No. 1 seed in 2006 when they won the NFC championship and advanced to Super Bowl XLI.

Not counting the Super Bowl, the Bears have played their last six playoff games at Soldier Field, compiling a 3-3 record. They lost to the Eagles in 2001, lost to the Panthers in 2005, beat the Seahawks and Saints in 2006, and beat the Seahawks before losing to the Packers in 2010.