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Bears control playoff destiny in NFC North

Chicago Bears running back Michael Bush (29) celebrates with wide receiver AlshJeffery (17) after Bush ran 40 yards for touchdown

Chicago Bears running back Michael Bush (29) celebrates with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) after Bush ran 40 yards for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Cleveland. The Bears won 38-31. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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Updated: December 17, 2013 1:31PM



The first-place Bears control their destiny in the NFC North.

Justin Tucker’s 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter — Tucker’s sixth field goal of the game — gave the Baltimore Ravens an 18-16 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Monday Night Football, dropping the Lions to 7-7 and in third-place in the NFC North behind the Bears (8-6) and Green Bay Packers (7-6-1).

The Bears can clinch the NFC North title and an even more unexpected bonus — the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs — with victories over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and against the Packers on Dec 29 at Soldier Field. In fact, if the Bears win on Sunday, the Packers lose to the Steelers and the Lions lose or tie the Giants, the Bears will clinch a week early.

The one catch is that the Packers also control their own destiny. If Green Bay beats the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on Sunday and the Bears on Dec. 29 at Soldier Field, the Packers would win the NFC North title.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has missed the past six games since suffering a broken collarbone in a 27-20 loss to the Bears on Nov. 4 at Lambeau Field, is hoping to be cleared to play against the Steelers this week. Rodgers will be evaluated by team medical personnel on Wednesday, according to news reports out of Green Bay.

If the Bears beat the Eagles and Packers to win the NFC North, they would be the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs and would host a first-round playoff game — likely against either the Panthers (10-4) or Saints (10-4).

The Bears, who were tied with the Lions heading into the weekend and would lose a tie-breaker because they lost both games to the Lions this season, got the break they needed when the Ravens found a way to win Monday night.

As it stands today, the fifth and sixth seeds for the NFC playoffs are the Panthers and the 49ers, both 10-4. The best the Bears could finish is 10-6, but that would give them the division title. So, the Bears cannot make the playoffs as a wild-card team.



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