If you haven’t seen your local mall Santa for Bears playoff wishes, I’d say you better get a move on it by the end of tonight or leave Mr. Claus some pretty delicious cookies by the chimney.
THE MINT — And now to get all Bob Costas on you, although the AFC playoff picture is virtually set with just seeding arrangements in need of sorting, the NFC picture is disputably high as the Sears Tower. And yes, I refuse to call it the Willis.
Bluntly for the Bears, they get in with a win over the Lions and a Green Bay win over the Vikings in Minnesota next Sunday.
Yes, that’s right. You root on the Pack.
In that case, it basically creates an eerily similar scenario to 2010 when Green Bay needed a win to get in, and did so at Chicago’s expense at Lambeau Field in Week 17 of the season. While it was a meaningless game for the Bears at the time, it allowed the Packers to clinch a wildcard and opened the gate for Green Bay to win the Super Bowl over the Steelers, beating the Bears at home in the NFC championship. A lot of people criticized the Bears, who if they just had taken care of business in Lambeau, might have went to the Super Bowl and avoided Green Bay in the playoffs.
While that’s fresh on the Packers minds, it’s key though for Green Bay to realize that of all its scenarios to ponder, if they were to beat Minnesota and the Bears come away with a win, they’ll get a week off with the first round bye in a trade for the Bears to have new life and copy the Packers script of yesterday. It also gives the Packers a chance to have a rematch against Seattle if the Seahawks were to win their first round game on the road — which is likely because San Francisco should beat Arizona and Seattle’s opponent in that regard, either Dallas or Washington is beatable.
What Green Bay doesn’t want is to lose in the dome against the Vikings and their bye week, thus being forced to play the Vikings again at Lambeau a measly week later.
So it may be wise that the Packers win out and take their chances, which are slim for Green Bay to play Chicago because the Bears would have to win on the road in either Seattle or San Francisco — the ladder which would be a rematch of a MNF game in Week 11 where San Francisco spanked the Bears in the national spotlight — and then have to beat top-seeded Atlanta, which is no tall task, but more of a mountain.
If Green Bay’s win means a playoff spot clinched for the Bears, at worst, they’d have to play the Bears in the NFC championship in Green Bay, which would be the second postseason meeting ever between the two teams and have the Bears number twice this season. Home field aside, beating a team three times in one season is very tough, and that’s the pressure GB would have to face.
This is all based on the Bears beating Detroit — which appears to be likely — but a divisional game isn’t always the case and the Bears just snapped a string of losing five of their last six.
Rest of the NFC
The game with the largest implications in the NFC in Week 17 is Dallas and Washington. The winner takes the NFC East. Dallas is out with a loss. Washington isn’t out with a loss but would need help. Whether the Giants win or not, Washington would need Chicago and Minnesota to both lose to earn the last wildcard spot.
For the Giants, they need losses by Chicago, Minnesota and Washington, which seems insurmountable, but appropriately realistic somehow.
Imagine if that held true and New York, who’s been on life support, go to San Francisco, a place they know very well after they knocked off the Niners last season in the NFC championship that went to OT and start where they left off last year. And if Arizona somehow pulls off the upset, then its worth noting that the Super Bowl champs would have to go into Seattle, a place everyone is trying to avoid in the playoffs.
Green Bay can lock a first round bye with a win and Seattle can lock a first round bye with a win and losses both by Green Bay and San Francisco loss. How poetic would it be if after beating San Francisco last night, Seattle sees another SF loss against Arizona and gets a bye that wouldn’t be if the replacement officials had not blown the call in their game in Week 3 and connected both teams at the hip for the rest of the year.
A number of possibilities would have to happen to get Seattle and Green Bay on the field together one more time. But mainly, if Seahawk remains the No. 5 seed going into the playoffs and Green Bay holds the No. 2 spot, Seattle would need the last wild card team to upset the 49ers for it to all unfold and you could just see Green Bay welcoming Seattle with open arms up in Northern Wisconsin.
Got all this?
San Francisco reclaims a first round bye with a win and a Green Bay loss. Seattle would be forced to play the winner of the NFC East on the road, either Dallas or Washington. Seattle can’t do worse than 5 but better than 2.
Minnesota of all teams can lose and still get in coupled with a losses both from Chicago and Dallas. They’re No. 6 no matter what.
Based on your wildest NFL dreams coming true as far as playoff implications, here’s what you could come to expect.
Seattle at Washington — RG3 vs. Russell Wilson, two rookie QBs vying for the ROY
Minnesota at Green Bay — A rematch of Week 17 in a change in venues, in a rivalry that needs no introduction
Chicago at San Francisco — 49ers get second home game against the Bears, whom they crushed 32-7 in Week 11 on MNF
Chicago at Seattle — Bears looks to avenge Wilson’s late-game heroics in their meeting 22 days ago in Chicago
NY Giants at San Francisco — Rematch of last year’s NFC title game, something for Howard Schlossberg to rant about
Seattle at Dallas — This made me think of Tony Romo’s miscue in the playoffs. How sweet is that?
Washington at San Francisco — RG3 vs. San Francisco’s defense, a real treat
San Francisco at Dallas** — Throwback game I’d love to see
**Would require a Dallas win, a 49ers loss against Arizona, a Minnesota win at Green Bay OR wins by Green Bay and Chicago and a 49ers loss.
Houston, who’s reeling right now and would probably love for the playoffs to start this weekend, can win the top seed in the AFC with a win in Indy.
If not, the loss opens the door for Denver and New England to leap frog the Texans and grab the top two seeds. Denver would get home field and it would set up a potential Tom Brady-Peyton Manning showdown in the AFC title game.
Baltimore won the AFC North. Their game against Cincinnati, who clinched the No. 6 spot, can’t change positions if New England wins against Miami. So the Bengal and Raven might as well do whatever they want to prepare for the playoffs.
If New England loses to Miami, Houston can’t do worse than second. A win by Baltimore though could jump to No. 3.
NFC: Chicago, Green Bay, Washington and San Francisco win.
1. Atlanta 2. Green Bay 3. San Francisco 4. Washington 5. Seattle 6. Chicago
Chicago at San Francisco — CHI wins, CHI at ATL
Seattle at Washington — SEA wins, SEA at GB
AFC: Indianapolis, New England win.
1. Denver 2. New England 3. Houston 4. Baltimore 5. Indianapolis 6. Cincinnati
Cincinnati at Houston — HOU wins, HOU at NE
Indianapolis at Baltimore — BAL wins, BAL at DEN
Week 17 sets up to be one of the best weeks I can remember in a long time. Makes you wonder if the fix was in this week because the NFL got exactly what it wanted in Week 16.
They got Washington and RG3 a chance to advance. The Minnesota/Green Bay game that’s always entertaining got its stakes raised. Denver and New England could be the top two seeds because of Houston, who lost and can lose to Indy and Andrew Luck next week. Major market teams like Chicago won. San Fran’s loss opens the door for Green Bay’s bye. Dallas still has a chance. What a week.
By the way, see the season finale for the League? It’s a must see.
Just like Santa. If you want the Bears to make the playoffs next week. But more on them later.