ARKUSH: Bears near bottom of playoff hopefuls
BY HUB ARKUSH Shaw Media December 26, 2013 10:34PM
If Marc Trestman and the Bears think they are anything more than slightly above average, they could interpret a playoff season incorrectly. | AP
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Updated: January 28, 2014 6:32AM
The winner-take-all showdown Sunday for the NFC North title between the Green Bay Packers and Bears in a renewal of the NFL’s oldest and best rivalry is a big deal.
And I believe the Bears are going to win.
So, now that that’s taken care of, what am I going to do with myself between now and Sunday? Mostly, I’ve been trying to figure out, as fun and exciting as all this is, how much does it really mean?
Does the fact that the Bears are in the playoffs with a win over the Packers make them a “playoff team”? Or are the Bears and Packers competing for the right to be the first home-team loser in the wild-card games?
Here’s the only easy answer. Of the nine NFC teams alive for or already in the playoffs — Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Bears, Packers, Panthers, Saints, Cowboys and Eagles — the Cowboys are the worst.
The Cowboys are 1-6 in games against the other eight, including losses to the Bears and Packers in the last three weeks. Next up — or down, as the case may be — are the Packers and Bears.
The Packers are 1-3 against the remaining eight playoff contestants, while the Bears are 2-2. It is noteworthy that the Bears’ two wins came against the Cowboys and Packers.
The Packers rank fourth in offense and 26th in total defense, and are the second-worst playoff hopeful left in total point differential at 19th.
The Bears are eighth in total offense — surprisingly they’ve slipped to 18th in rushing — and 29th in defense, and of the nine NFC playoff contenders, they are dead last at 21st in the league in total point differential.
There should be little dispute that the Seahawks, Panthers and 49ers are the three best teams left — all have top-five defenses and they are second, fifth and third in total point differential.
The Seahawks are 4-2 vs. the other eight contenders, the Panthers 3-2 and the 49ers 3-3. It is worth noting the 49ers’ losses are to the Seahawks, Panthers, Colts and Saints, and the Seahawks have been stopped only by the Colts, 49ers and Cardinals.
The Saints came to Chicago and handled the Bears, and we know what happened in Philadelphia last Sunday. The Bears also have losses to the Rams, Redskins, Vikings and two to the Lions.
That leaves the Cardinals, who won’t be a playoff team unless they beat the 49ers and the Saints lose at home to the Bucs.
If I’m right and the Bears beat the Packers, their wild-card opponent will be the 49ers, Panthers, Saints or Cardinals. Which of those clubs do you like their chances against?
I believe the Eagles game was a bit of an aberration, just a bad outing, and the Eagles do have the best offense of any of the nine contenders. But if the Eagles’ defense handled the Bears like that, what would the defenses of the 49ers, Panthers or Cardinals do to them?
The Bears’ defense isn’t stopping anyone.
If the favorites all win, it will be the 49ers coming to town to start the playoffs.
A 9-7 rookie campaign with a wild-card game would be a great start for coach Marc Trestman, and a nice sophomore campaign for general manager Phil Emery.
But if it allows them to believe they are anything more than slightly better than average, or that they should sign Jay Cutler to a long-term deal at the going QB rate of $100 million or so, and anything but a complete rebuilding of the defense will suffice, it could be the worst thing that could happen to them.
Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com.