LAKE FOREST — Even in the wake of an ugly four-game losing streak with no visible signs that they’ll come out of it, the Chicago Bears are not ready to give up hope for this year’s NFL playoffs. But they should.
LAKE FOREST — Even in the wake of an ugly four-game losing streak with no visible signs that they’ll come out of it, the Chicago Bears are not ready to give up hope for this year’s NFL playoffs.
But they should.
The Bears have not been mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs. But from the looks of things the past month, there is little reason to believe they won’t be very soon. But Bears head coach Lovie Smith is not ready focus on the 2012 season.
“We haven’t been eliminated from anything,” Smith said Monday, the day after a demoralizing 38-14 home defeat to Seattle. “We’re still in it, and we have a game coming up. That’s enough to get motivated to come to practice and improve.”
So that’s what they will do, for at least one more week. Chicago (7-7) will take on Green Bay (13-1) on Sunday with the attitude that they are still fighting for that last NFC wild-card spot. Dallas (8-6) leads the NFC South, and the 9-5 Falcons and Lions would be the last teams in if the postseason began today. Seattle, Arizona and the Giants, all 7-7, also are still in the hunt.
Oh yeah, and so are the Bears.
“There’s always next week, I guess,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said after the game Sunday, “until there’s not.”
That moment is closing in.
If the Bears win out and finish 9-7, they will still need help getting in. Either the Falcons or the Lions also would have to lose their last two games, and the Seahawks, Giants and Cardinals will need to lose at least one of their last two to open the door for Chicago.
For now, let’s just call it a long shot. The Bears consider it hope.
“We have to refocus,” defensive end Israel Idonije said, “circle the wagons and get ready for another battle.”
But this team is in no shape for another battle. We saw that Sunday. Wide receiver Johnny Knox will be lucky to be back next season, and quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte will most certainly not be rushed back now. And even if Smith decides to go with Josh McCown at QB instead of Caleb Hanie — or if he goes one step further, and plays rookie Nathan Enderle to see what he’s got — that won’t be enough to turn this offense around.
“That’s not what it’s about. I’m not going to sit around and be like ‘Hey, I hope this guy struggles so I can get in,’ ” McCown said after he was picked off on one of his two passes Sunday in late mop-up duty. “But if they call on me, I’ll be ready.”
But even if he is ready, this team is not. That’s sad to say after where it was positioned a month ago, at 7-3 after an impressive five-game winning streak.
“For us, we’re not talking playoffs or anything like that. We’re just talking about getting a win,” Smith said. “It’s kind of as simple as that: We’ve got to get to 8-7 some kind of way.”
Even though the Packers are no longer aiming for that perfect season, that will still be a tall task. They could rest QB Aaron Rodgers and others in the second half, but by then, the game may be out of reach.
As will Chicago’s playoff hopes.
Jay Taft covers the Chicago Bears for the Rockford Register Star. He can be reached at 815-987-1384 firstname.lastname@example.org.
What has to happen
Here are the teams the Bears are chasing for the final wild-card spot, with their records and remaining schedules.
Detroit (9-5): vs. San Diego; at Green Bay
Atlanta (9-5): at New Orleans; vs. Tampa Bay
Seattle (7-7): vs. San Francisco; at Arizona
N.Y. Giants (7-7): at N.Y. Jets; vs. Dallas
Arizona (7-7): at Cincinnati; vs. Seattle