Looking ahead at playoff scenarios

For no good reason, I spent part of Thursday working through some playoff scenarios in anticipation of what could be a dramatic Week 15 game at Soldier Field. Some of this will be irrelevant after Sunday, but let's try to boil down the highlights as they stand now.

It will be possible for the Green Bay Packers to clinch the NFC North in Week 15 if this scenario occurs:

  1. The Packers defeat the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

  2. The Chicago Bears lose to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

  3. The Packers defeat the Bears in Week 15.

If all that happens, neither the Bears nor the Vikings could catch the Packers in any tiebreakers. You can see for yourself at ESPN.com's Playoff Machine.

It will not be possible for the Bears to clinch in Week 15 even if they win Sunday and the Packers lose. If the Bears beat the Vikings and then the Packers, their magic number will be one. They would win the division with any combination of a victory or a Packers loss. But if they lose out and the Packers win out, leaving both teams with 10-6 records, the Packers would win the tiebreaker based on common opponents.

If both teams win Sunday, the Packers would have a magic number of one if they defeat the Bears in Week 15. The Bears would need to win out, and the Packers lose out, to overtake them in the division.

If both teams win Sunday, and the Bears win in Week 15 to take a one-game lead, the division could well come down to Week 17. The next tiebreaker after head-to-head is division record, and neither team's division record would change until they play their final game. The Bears are at the Lions, while the Packers are at the Vikings. In this scenario, the Packers could win the division with a victory combined with a Bears loss.

That isn't every scenario, but it's most of them. I left out the part where both teams lose on Sunday because I'm such an optimist. Have at it.