How the Bears can make the playoffs and whom they’d face in the first round
The Bears have multiple ways into the playoffs, even with a loss, and their potential first-round opponent has been narrowed to one of three teams.
There were times when it looked like a conversation about the Bears’ playoff scenarios would never need to happen. They plummeted to 5-7 on a six-game losing streak and were a long shot even with the newly added seventh seed.
But now, after rising to 8-7 and catching seemingly every break around the NFL, there are multiple ways for the Bears to get in. They could make it even without beating the Packers on Sunday. Crazy as it sounds, they could still get the sixth seed.
How to get there
The most straightforward way for the Bears to make the playoffs is to win Sunday. That would get them to 9-7 and clinch their spot.
If the Bears win and the Cardinals lose to the Rams, the Rams take the sixth seed at 10-6, followed by the Bears at No. 7. The Cardinals would be out.
If the Bears and Cardinals win, that would create a three-way tie between those two and the Rams at 9-7.
The Rams’ win over the Bears in October doesn’t factor into this because the first step in tie breaking is to narrow it to one team per division. That means the Rams would be out because the Cardinals have a better NFC West record, leaving the Bears and Cardinals.
That tie goes to the Bears based on a better record against common opponents: Lions, Panthers, Rams, Giants. The Bears went 3-2; the Cardinals are 1-3 with a game left against the Rams.
The other simple route for the Bears is that they get in with a Cardinals loss because they and the Cardinals would both finish 8-8 and the Bears have that edge against common opponents.
If the Bears make it, they’ll be on the road against the Packers (12-3), Saints (11-4) or Seahawks (11-4). Those teams are locked into the top three seeds, but their order isn’t set.
With the new format, a sixth-seeded Bears team would face the No. 3 seed, while finishing seventh would set them up against the No. 2 seed.
The Packers can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win or a Seahawks loss or tie.
The Saints need to beat the Panthers, get a Packers loss and have the Seahawks beat the 49ers to force a three-way tie. That would put the Saints first, followed by the Seahawks, then Packers.
The Seahawks need a win and the Packers and Saints to lose.
So if the Bears beat the Packers and land seventh, the most likely outcome is that they will draw the Seahawks.
If they win and land in a three-way tie, the sixth-seeded Bears would likely visit the Packers.
If the Bears lose but get in on a Cardinals loss, they’d be the No. 7 seed and likely open at the Saints.