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Bears’ Matt Nagy sees success in reaching playoff conversation after 3-5 start

Teams that start 3-5 have less than a 9 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Bears are still a long shot at 6-6, and the Dallas game is virtually a must-win Thursday, but they’ve got a shot.

Matt Nagy is 18-10 as Bears head coach.
AP Photos

Coach Matt Nagy doesn’t need to know the odds. Somewhere, under his indomitable optimism, he’s probably aware that it’ll take quite a push by the Bears to get in the playoffs.

He knows which teams need to lose, as the Vikings did Monday in Seattle. He caught parts of it while working late at Halas Hall, but it’s a safe bet he didn’t check Football Outsiders to see that it bumped the Bears’ chances by two percentage points to 3.6.

Doesn’t he feel 2 percent better?

“I guess,” Nagy said with a shrug. “If that’s what we need to hear: 2 percent.”

They still need help from the Vikings and Rams, and they need to fight off the Cowboys or Eagles behind them. It’s dizzying to figure out how each game impacts them.

The simplest piece of the equation is how the Bears handle the rigorous final month of opponents. And the game they can least afford to lose out of those four is against the Cowboys.

“We love this,” Khalil Mack said. “If you play this game and you love this game, you can’t wait to do the impossible in the sense. You can’t wait to go out and prove yourself.”

The Cowboys’ offensive line, running game, quarterback and defensive front are among the best the Bears have faced, but playing a fellow 6-6 team at home is as doable as it’ll get in December.

The Bears follow with a trip to Green Bay (9-3), a home game against the Chiefs (8-4) and the finale at Minnesota (8-4). If they keep winning, it’ll essentially be a race between them and the Vikings for the last wild-card spot.

That would be daunting for any team, and even Coach Brightside isn’t denying that. But Nagy believes the Bears are capable of pulling it off after watching them steer out of a four-game losing streak and get back to .500, regardless of the fact that they righted themselves against the lowly Lions and Giants.

When a team veers into a ditch at 3-5, it’s easy to keep sliding and lose control of the season. Since the current playoff format began in 1990, just 8.9 percent of 3-5 teams have made the postseason. That likelihood drops to 8.2 percent for 4-6 teams.

It’s not great at 6-6, either. Only 29.9 percent of those teams have made the playoffs.

But Nagy has seen resolve from his players at the depth of this season, and the late escape at Detroit got him feeling like the old Bears were back.

“When you go through what we went through with that four-game losing streak . . . it’s hard for everybody,” Nagy said. “You get to a point where it’s like, ‘OK, enough’s enough.’ And at some point . . . you forget all that, you don’t care and you go play.

“We got to that point after four weeks of losing where you just say, ‘Forget everything. Let’s just play.’ I feel like the last four weeks we’ve kind of done that.”

If he’s right that they hit a turning point last week, that’s huge. The old Bears could win four in a row against anybody. They closed last season by going 4-0 in December.

But that’s not where Nagy’s head is. Those games might as well be eons in the future. He already counts it as an accomplishment that the Bears can even have this conversation.

“It speaks to the direction of where we could’ve went in that four-game slide,” he said. “No one, not one time, started pointing fingers. No one started blaming. I hate blamers. Hate’s a strong word, but I dislike blamers. We never did that.

“Coaches, players, anybody — we just tried to come up with solutions. It put us in a position where we are playing some meaningful games. That’s a credit to our players for battling through that. It makes you proud to be their coach.”