8. Football gods: Knox’s slip. Cutler’s injury. A Hail Mary by Tyler Palko. Matt Forte’s injury. The whole Tim Tebow thing. The Bears paid for a year of good fortune in one month.
Updated: January 14, 2012 8:19AM
A loss is a loss to Brian Urlacher.
‘‘They all suck,’’ he said after the Bears’ 13-10 overtime loss to the Broncos on Sunday.
But this one really sucked.
Sitting on a stool at his locker with his back to a waiting throng of media, Urlacher bowed his head for a moment before facing reporters, perhaps summoning the strength to explain how Tim Tebow got the best of the Bears. But probably more because he understood just how damaging the loss really was.
‘‘This is not good. We needed to win this one,’’ Urlacher said when asked how the loss affected the playoff picture. ‘‘We needed to win every game, obviously. Ten [wins] should get you in usually. We have to win the rest to get to 10.’’
That means the Bears have to beat the Packers in Green Bay on Christmas night — besides beating the Seahawks (5-7) on Sunday at Soldier Field and the Vikings (2-11) on Jan. 1 at the Metrodome — to finish 10-6.
Even then, the Bears would need help to get the second NFC wild-card berth. Either the Lions (8-5) would have to lose two of their final three games — at Oakland (7-6), San Diego (6-7) at home and Green Bay (13-0) at home — to finish 9-7, or the Falcons (8-5) would have to lose one of their last three — Jacksonville (4-9) at home, at New Orleans (10-3) and Tampa Bay (4-9) at home — to finish 10-6.
The Bears would win a tiebreaker with the Falcons based on their 30-12 victory over Atlanta in Week 1. But they would lose a tiebreaker with the Lions based on their record against common opponents, so the Bears have to finish with a better record.
Believe it or not, the Bears still have a chance to make the playoffs even without beating the Packers. At 9-7, they would earn the second wild-card spot if the Lions lost their final three games to finish 8-8.
While that might seem unlikely, it’s not impossible the way the Lions are going. They’ve lost three of their last five games and nearly lost to the Vikings at home Sunday.
The Giants (7-6) and Cowboys (7-6) are also in wild-card contention. But they play each other in Week 17. The loser will finish no better than 9-7 and would lose a tiebreaker with the Bears based on conference record. The Cardinals (6-7) can finish 9-7 but also would lose a tiebreaker with the Bears based on conference record.
The Packers are an X-factor in almost any Bears scenario. They are a virtual lock for the No. 1 seed (the Packers play at Kansas City on Sunday) but are unlikely to coast against the Bears. Not only will they have a chance to stay unbeaten, but they likely would relish the chance to knock the Bears out of playoff contention before their home fans.
Even at 15-0, the Packers would be more likely to coast in Week 17 against the Lions on the road. But with two weeks off before their first playoff game, there’s a risk in coasting, too.
As for the Falcons, they will be underdogs against the Saints in New Orleans. But expecting them to lose to the Jaguars or Buccaneers is asking a lot.
There is one other factor to consider: The Bears have to start playing like a playoff team with Caleb Hanie at quarterback. Not only has Hanie struggled in place of Jay Cutler, but his teammates have failed him at the worst times in losses to the Chiefs and Broncos. Not exactly the heart of a champion. Almost the opposite.
They need help. If they can find a way to help themselves, they might just make it.