With Sunday’s win over the 49ers, the Bears assured themselves of at least the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs and can still earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
The Bears (11-4) would supplant the Rams (12-3) as the second seed with a victory over the Vikings coupled with a Los Angeles loss at home to the 49ers next Sunday. The win in San Francisco gave the Bears a two-game lead over the NFC East champion Cowboys (9-6) with one contest remaining, locking Dallas into the No. 4 seed.
The Saints (13-2) clinched the top seed with a comeback win over the Steelers Sunday.
The Seahawks (9-6) have secured one of the two NFC wildcard spots and will finish as the No. 5 seed with a win next Sunday over the Cardinals in Arizona or a Vikings loss to the Bears.
The Vikings (8-6-1) would clinch the second wildcard berth with a win over the Bears or a loss by the Eagles (8-7) in Washington. A Minnesota win and a Seattle loss would enable the Vikings to nab the No. 5 seed with the Seahawks dropping to No. 6.
If the season ended today, the third-seeded Bears would host the sixth-seeded Vikings and the fourth-seeded Cowboys would host the fifth-seeded Seahawks in the first round. But, of course, that can change based on Week 17 results.
Because the Bears are still in contention for the second seed and a first-round bye, they do not plan to rest their starters in the season finale.
“You understand that when you’re in the position that we’re in right now, anything can happen to these other teams,” said coach Matt Nagy. “You can’t just say, ‘this team is going to win’ or ‘this team is going to lose.’ Anything can happen.
“What you can control is winning your game. If you don’t do that and then the other team loses and didn’t go about it the right way, now you just let that slip. So we need to go about this thing next week just like we have every other game. And I think if you don’t do that, it changes up how you approach your week mentally, how you approach it during pregame, so that’s not what we’re going to do.”
If the Bears’ final game could not change their playoff seed, Nagy would at least consider resting some of his players. But that’s not the case.
“If we were in a position where you can’t move at all seed-wise and you were just locked in, then I think that that’s something that you’ve got to discuss,” Nagy said. “But we’re not in that position. We’ve got to play to win and I kind of like that. I don’t mind that at all and I think our guys will kind of like it. It just kind of keeps you going in that rhythm.”
The best photos selected by the Bears team photographer from Sunday's win against the 49ers in Santa Clara.