Will Bears reach playoffs?
No-quit Bears have enough to win
The Chicago Bears will advance; barely.
Look, teams show telltale signs of giving up over the course of a tough season, and that's not what anyone can honestly say they saw Sunday in the aftermath of the loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, the team is dealing with injuries, but none at really significant spots outside of Brian Urlacher. Besides, this is a veteran group led by an experienced staff, and everyone knows what's on the line.
The Bears need to win at least two -- maybe even three -- of their remaining games to get into the tournament. Once there, "anything could happen," as quarterback Jay Cutler said on Monday. He's correct. The entire team knows that, which is why there seemed to be a feeling of calm in the locker room after that game instead of that dejected vibe that often emanates once the players realize it's all over.
When Bears coach Lovie Smith spoke Monday, he acknowledged that his future is tied to wins and losses and explained he's just fine with that. From this vantage point, it's a positive sign that he didn't point fingers, make excuses or concede defeat.
Bears general manager Phil Emery has raved about Smith's ability to unite people. So now it's time for Smith to do just that.
Aside from the loss at San Francisco on Nov. 19, the Bears have been in position to win every one of the games they've dropped over the past five weeks. But critical breakdowns continue to lead to this team's demise. With the season and the futures of several folks on the line, expect for the Bears to make a stand soon to save the season.
That's not to say the Bears win Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. I don't think they will. But it's unlikely the Bears lose all three to close out the season, especially the last two against a pair of teams in the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions that seem to be on the verge of giving up. Ten wins should get the Bears in.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
Not enough offense to reach playoffs
Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said something last week that resonated with me.
"Whoever is in there has to play winning football, that's the key," Tice said. "If you're going to be a starting guy on the offense, play winning football for us. We need more guys playing winning football for us more consistently. That's what we need for us to be a rhythmic offense more often."
Forget about the remaining schedule for a moment: The Bears don't play winning football on offense, plain and simple.
Winning football isn't a wide receiver dropping a wide-open slant pass that would have resulted in a touchdown.
Winning football isn't an offensive line committing back-to-back penalties to destroy a third-quarter drive that began so promisingly with a 36-yard Matt Forte run.
Winning football isn't asking one guy to do everything, every single game.
We can go back and forth about which individuals are most at fault for the Bears' current predicament, but does it really matter? Football is a team sport, and until the Bears, as a team, figure out how to fix the offense, they are no longer a legitimate playoff contender in my mind.
Think how demoralizing that must be for the defense. These guys can't even give an inch, because the offense is never around to bail them out. Is it too much to ask the Bears' offense to outscore the Vikings' offense led by perhaps the worst quarterback in the NFL?
The days of expecting the Bears' defense to score touchdowns need to be over. A team should never include their defense or special teams scoring points in their weekly formula for victory. That stuff should be a bonus.
But it's not, which is why it's hard to see the Bears recovering to win enough in the final three games to make the postseason.
No offense equals no playoffs.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.