As I sit with a smile on my face Monday morning because my Cowboys are in first place, I know my Bears’ friends are doom and gloom because of Jay Cutler going down with a broken thumb. As you who know me well know I have no love for the Bears, I will tell you there’s still a lot of hope. I would say that 80% of the Bears game is set-up by defense and special teams with the remaining 20% on the offense’s shoulder. Forte seems to be handling most of the work load at this point, so if Caleb Hanie, Cutler’s replacement can manage the game the Bears still have a shot at the playoffs.
While Cutler looked pretty good against the 13th ranked Chargers defense this past Sunday, he did nothing against the ninth ranked Lions the week prior. Hanie has every opportunity to be as successful as Cutler in Mike Martz’ offense.
Let’s look at the remaining schedule:
@The Raiders – The Raiders are looking good with Carson Palmer at the helm and they have a pretty good defense that can cause Forte some issues. The key for Hanie in this game is taking what the Raiders give him to loosen the defense up enough to let Forte run wild. The Raiders defense ranks 23rd against the run and 20th against the pass, so there should be some open Bears’ receivers. No doubt the Raiders are going to make Hanie beat them, so there should be a lot of man coverage down field. Since the Bears are on the road and Palmer should be able do enough against the Bears secondary the Raiders win this one in a low scoring affair. Record: 7-4
Chiefs – The Bears come home to face the Chiefs in what is a second of three games against the AFC West, a blessing down the stretch. Bears can win this game on defense and special teams alone. The Chiefs have showed a pulse at times but they are not a very good team and the Bears will exploit this. Record: 8-4
@Broncos – This one makes my head hurt because I still haven’t been able to figure out how the Broncos have gone 3-1 with Tebow, he’s not a good quarterback. The Bears should easily win this one because their defense should be able to cause Tebow fits, but the Jets defense should have done the same and Tebow beat them last Thursday. Since it’s on the road and Tebow seems to really have God on his side, Broncos win in a squeaker: Record: 8-5
Seahawks – Again, the Bears come home to game that they should have little problem winning, they should be able to run and pass, as well as make big plays on defense and special teams. Record: 9-5
@Packers – Just withdraw from the game and keep the team healthy. Packers win big. Record: 9-6
@Vikings – The Vikings have shown some signs of life, but if Adrian Peterson is still gimpy the Bears should win easily. Even with Peterson the defense should confuse Vikings QB, Christian Ponder, enough to create a few turnovers that should lead to points. Bears close out with a win on the road. Record: 10-6
Now it gets trickier in regards to getting into the playoffs, especially with the Cowboys winning this weekend and the Giants losing. If the season ended today the Lions would play the Cowboys and the Bears would play the Saints in the Wildcard round. I’m sticking by 11-5 for the Cowboys and winning the division, but the Giants now become the Bears’ problem.
In week 13 the Giants host the Packers in the Meadowlands and while Bears’ fans would instinctively root for the Giants they should be rooting for their enemy the Packers. In fact, you should back the Pack the next two weeks against the Lions on Thanksgiving and the Giants the following week. Two more wins by the Pack and you’re playoff hopes improve, in fact the Pack close the season hosting the Lions so your chances greatly improve.
The Giants have to play the Saints in week 12, so that should be another loss especially with the Saints coming off the bye week. That takes care of the Giants, but there’s still the Atlanta Falcons to consider, however the Bears’ hold the tiebreaker from the opening day win so they would only be a concern if they finish with a better record than the Bears.
So hope remains if the Bears formula continues to work, solid defense and spectacular special teams.