ARKUSH: Bears, Lions, Packers have easy schedules to make playoff run
BY HUB ARKUSH Shaw Media October 27, 2013 9:14PM
Updated: October 27, 2013 9:17PM
On a Sunday afternoon without the Bears, what’s a fan to do?
If you’re like me, you found it to be a good chance to catch up on what’s going on around the league.
The Chiefs’ record is perfect, but their offense struggles regularly and it’s not clear they’ll be the best team in the league when the playoffs begin.
The Seahawks, Broncos, Saints and 49ers are good teams with deficiencies that will cost them games.
The Colts, Packers, Patriots and Bengals are in the next tier. Their flaws are a little more obvious now, but they still are capable of being legitimate contenders.
Short of serious injuries or strange turns of events, those nine teams almost certainly will be in the playoffs.
Hopefuls for the remaining AFC wild-card spot appear to be the Chargers, Jets, Dolphins and Ravens, none of whom appear to be any good and certainly not any better than the Bears.
Someone will win the NFC Least, and that will leave one wild-card spot for the Lions, Bears, Panthers and anyone else who might get hot. The Cardinals and Falcons are the most likely suspects.
Even in the Bears’ debilitated state, does anyone doubt they can compete with the Lions, Panthers and Cardinals and a Falcons team that is as beat up as they are?
That is relative to the wild-card chase. The NFC North looks to be much tougher.
While the Packers are arguably as banged up as the Bears, they’re a deeper, more talented team. The Lions aren’t necessarily better than the Bears, but they’re healthier.
We won’t have to wait long to learn about the division. The Bears will visit the Packers next Monday, then host the Lions the following Sunday. The Packers visit the Lions on Thanksgiving.
The Packers beat the Lions in Week 5, so a sweep of these games would just about sew up the title, even though the Packers still visit the Bears in the season finale.
A sweep for the Lions would give them a good shot at the title, but they still have work to do to catch the Packers. A sweep by the Bears would leave them in the driver’s seat, particularly if the Lions beat the Packers on Thanksgiving.
I know I won’t be able to pick the Bears over the Packers next week. But as I already have written, with the Lions, Ravens, Rams, Vikings, Cowboys, Browns and Eagles on the schedule before the Packers come to town, it’s not at all difficult to see the Bears lining up at 9-6 or even 10-5 for that final game.
The Lions will have a fairly easy path themselves with the Steelers, Buccaneers, Packers, Eagles, Ravens, Giants and Vikings.
The Packers get the Eagles, Giants, Vikings, Falcons, Cowboys and Steelers, in addition to the Lions and Bears twice.
Other than each other, none of the three NFC North contenders has a team with a winning record left on its schedule.
Of the Bears, Packers and Lions, at least one of them isn’t going to make the playoffs, and they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. Their schedules couldn’t be easier, and the prize is there for the taking.
Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com .