It wasn’t exactly steak-and-Lowenbrau, but Matt Nagy celebrated in 21st-century style Sunday night — sushi and Cabernet and “quality time with my sons at home.”
Nagy, 40, didn’t get this far by going overboard, so after an understated and brief celebration following the Bears’ 24-17 victory Sunday against the Packers at Soldier Field that clinched the NFC North and the team’s first playoff berth since 2010, the rookie head coach went right back to work — with a little more on his plate.
As always, Nagy is focused on the next game — against the 49ers on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. That mentality hasn’t changed. But while keeping the “earmuffs and blinders” on as plaudits and presumably honors pour in after leading the Bears from 5-11 last season to 10-4 this season, Nagy has the added responsibility of guiding this team into the playoffs with a combination of good health and momentum.
“It’s OK to celebrate and enjoy [Sunday and Sunday night], but we have bigger things that we’re trying to achieve,” Nagy said. “And I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for us — understanding that we accomplished a good goal, but that’s not enough.
“Now you take it into the last two weeks, and there’s the ability for us to be four different seeds — some are slimmer than others. [Taking] that into account, it makes it easy. You go play, and you play to win, and nothing changes. You literally control what you can control.”
The Bears are the No. 3 seed in the NFC, behind the No. 1 Saints (12-2) and the No. 2 Rams (11-3).
The only way the Bears can drop to the No. 4 seed is if they lose to the 49ers (4-10) and Vikings (7-6-1) on the road in the last two weeks while the Cowboys (8-6) beat the Buccaneers (5-9) at home and the Giants (5-9) on the road.
The Bears still have a chance to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye — most likely if they sweep their last two games while the Rams lose to the Cardinals on the road Sunday or to the 49ers at home in Week 17. The Bears also earn the bye if they beat the 49ers and Vikings to finish 12-4 and the Saints lose their last two games — to the Steelers and Panthers at home. If both scenarios occur — with the Bears, Rams and Saints finishing 12-4 — the Bears would be the No. 1 seed.
More than likely, the Bears will have something to play for against the Vikings in Week 17 and are unlikely to coast into the playoffs.
“Unless you’re locked in [to the No. 3 seed] and can’t move — then you have to decide what you want to do [about resting players],” Nagy said. “But right now, we just have to win.”
If the Bears stay at the No. 3 seed, as is most likely, their wild-card-weekend opponent could be one of five teams: the Vikings, Seahawks, Eagles, Panthers or Redskins.
The only certainty is that the Bears will open the playoffs at home. Favoring one opponent or another is often dicey. At this time last week, the red-hot Seahawks were the team to avoid — then they lost to the 49ers on Sunday. The Vikings appeared to be in disarray. Now they look rejuvenated after scoring 41 points following the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. If the Panthers or Eagles make it, they’ll be on a hot roll. Contenders come and go, but one playoff maxim never changes: Be careful what you wish for.