When the Bears were in the midst of their longest losing streak in 18 years the past few weeks, any mention of the 'p word' no doubt would have elicited references to Jim Mora's highly-entertaining rant.
But after last Sunday's convincing 36-7 win over the Texans, the Bears are still in fact in the playoff race with three games remaining in the season. At 6-7, they are tied with the Vikings (6-7), one game behind the Cardinals (7-6) for the third and final wild card berth in the NFC playoffs.
The Rams (9-4) and Seahawks (9-4) are tied atop the NFC West, so the second-place finisher likely will claim one wild card spot. The Buccaneers (8-5) are in the second wild card slot, but if the Bears can catch them, they own the tiebreaker by virtue of a 20-19 win over Tampa Bay Oct. 8 at Soldier Field.
That would leave the Cardinals, Bears and Vikings competing for the No. 7 playoff seed the NFL added this season as part of the new CBA.
The Bears can still make the playoffs at 8-8, but more on that later. Given that they're tied with the Vikings and lost the first meeting with Minnesota, Sunday's contest is basically an elimination game for the Bears.
A victory Sunday would give the Bears a one-game lead over Minnesota. It would also improve their chances of winning the tiebreaker with the Vikings if the two teams finish the season with the same record. Here's a look at how a win Sunday would help the Bears in tiebreaking scenarios with Minnesota.
(1) Head-to-head: Bears and Vikings would split 1-1.
(2) Record against common opponents: Both teams are 5-5 with two games remaining. The Bears finish by visiting the Jaguars and hosting the Packers; the Vikings end by visiting the Saints and hosting the Lions.
(3) Record versus NFC teams: The Bears (6-5) would have a game-and-a-half lead over the Vikings (4-6).
It goes without saying that you'll be cheering for the Bears to beat the Vikings Sunday, but here are two other teams to root for:
Eagles over Cardinals in Arizona (3:05 p.m. CT)
The Bears trail the Cardinals by one game but can still catch them. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, but the two teams didn't meet this season. The second tiebreaker between clubs from different divisions is conference record. The Bears are 5-5, while the Cardinals are 5-4 with games remaining against the Eagles and 49ers at home and the Rams on the road. The Bears have already clinched the third tiebreaker, which is record against common opponents: The Bears are 3-2, while the Cardinals are 1-3 with one game left.
Falcons over Buccaneers in Atlanta (noon)
The Bears trail Tampa Bay by two games with three remaining. But as previously mentioned, they already own the tiebreaker over the Buccaneers by virtue of their Week 5 win at Soldier Field.
Bet you thought we forgot about detailing the scenario where the Bears can make the playoffs with an 8-8 record. We didn't. They actually can do so even if they lose to the Vikings. Here's how: The Bears beat the Jaguars and Packers; Minnesota loses to the Saints and Lions to finish 7-9; and the Cardinals drop two of their final three games to finish 8-8. That would give the Bears and Cardinals 6-6 records against NFC opponents, pushing it to the next tiebreaker—record versus common opponents—which the Bears already have clinched as detailed above.
Playoffs?! Yes, playoffs.