The Bears' playoff hopes are on life support after the loss of quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, who has a Grade 2 sprain of the MCL in his right knee and could miss at least two weeks. But let's be clear: They would flat-line if they even consider whether retired quarterback Brett Favre, 42, could help them. Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com reported that Favre would listen if the Bears called him, but Favre was clearly and obviously done last season while playing in an offense he has learned over two decades. Assuming there is someone in the Bears' front office with 20-20 eyesight, the Bears won't consider the move -- no matter how much fun it would be here on the NFC North blog. Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday that "we're not looking on the outside for help" and I'm going to take his word for it.
With that said, the Bears must find a way to get current starter Caleb Hanie straightened out in time for Sunday's game at the Denver Broncos. Hanie has six interceptions in two starts. I don't think anyone is blaming him for the entirety of the past two losses. But here are the facts: He is completing 45 percent of his passes, has thrown six interceptions in 60 attempts and has taken 11 sacks. That's a performance you expect from a player you've thrown onto the field in an emergency situation, not someone you've been developing on your roster for the past four years.
Perhaps the best illustration of Forte's value was the Bears' production with him on the sideline. Their 181 yards and 11 first downs, not to mention their three points, was by far their lowest output of the season. Backup Marion Barber can still be an effective interior runner at times and is a good receiver, but if they didn't know before, the Bears will find out over the next week how perfectly Forte fits their offense. The Bears are hoping that little-used Kahlil Bell can help Barber replace Forte, but it's fair to carry a healthy skepticism on those prospects.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
As poorly as things have gone the past two weeks, it's amazing to realize the Bears really haven't lost any ground in the NFC playoff race. Their 7-5 record matches the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, and it's one better than the New York Giants. Two teams are going to clinch wild-card berths, and the expectations for qualification are lowering with the week. I'm not sure which way to look at it from a Bears perspective: That they have missed an opportunity to all but lock up a playoff berth, or that they can still control their destiny despite the chaos of the past two weeks.