NFL

Playoff Football in Soldier Field

By Mike Burvee

The Bears are in the playoffs, that’s a given. What we don’t know yet is WHO they’re going to play with three different scenarios. Those three are the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and the Philadelphia Eagles. The other, much slimmer option, is to win on Sunday and hope that somehow the LA Rams collapse, leading to a bye for the Bears.

Chicago can hand Minnesota a season-ending loss in what willbe a playoff atmosphere at US Bank Stadium. After a big step forward last seasonfor the Vikings, losing in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champs, they were poised for a Super Bowl run of their own by signing “Captain Kirk” for a big-time deal to go along with one of the more formidable defenses in the league. A couple slip-ups this season isn’t doing them any favors and Chicago narrowly edged them out at Soldier Field. Both sides had multiple turnovers, also due inpart to their strong defenses.

If the Bears can beat the Vikings again, Minnesota is out. Thereare rumors that the Bears might rest some of their starters to stay healthy fortheir guaranteed playoff game, but I doubt that’ll happen with what’s at stake.If the Vikings win, Chicago would have to play Minnesota AGAIN and even though it’ll be a home game, it’s difficult to beat one team three times in oneseason.

Say the Seahawks somehow lose to Arizona this weekend and Minnesota wins, then Chicago would have to play Seattle, which is a team nobodyever wants to play in the playoffs. The Bears hosted the Seahawks in week two,coming off a heart-breaking loss to the Packers. At that point, it was unknown howthe season would turn out, with the thought being Chicago can’t close out games,they’d fail to beat Green Bay for yet another year and wouldn’t make theplayoffs. Taking a page out of Aaron Rodger’s book the Bears said, “Don’t Panic” and sure enough everything started falling into place. They bounced back with abig win over Seattle, won their next two and followed two close losses to the AFC East by winning eight of their last nine games going into Sunday.

The final “option” and most unlikely of all is having toplay the Eagles in round one. Another team that will put it all out there onSunday with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Philadelphia has turned around their dumpster fire season and have that small chance of making a deep run in the postseason. Even though Chicago beat the Rams at home, it wasn’t as big of a surprise given the style of play calling and domination over the NFC for bothteams. Philadelphia had to go into LA with Nick Foles starting after Carson Wentz was declared out. With all the factors adding up against the Eagles, there was a very small chance they’d even have a chance at winning, but they managedto pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent years while exposing issues withthe LA defense and shutting down their strong run game.

Philadelphia’s playoff hopes stayed alive and they’re comingoff a last-second field goal victory over the Texans, one of the better teamsin the AFC. Who knows what their team can cobble together and maybe Foles isgoing to lead them back to glory once again. Just one month ago they wereheaded for the basement of their own division, let alone the NFC, but here they are, somehow clinging to life. Chicago didn’t face any of the NFC East teamsthis season and though Chicago’s offensive play-calling is ever expansive, it’s always difficult to take down a team that beat out Minnesota and New England last year to claim the Lombardi Trophy.

Bears fans can keep their fingers and toes crossed for thatplayoff bye, with the Rams fading slightly down the stretch, but odds are they’llbe playing one of the three teams mentioned above. I’m sure they’ll take care of business and eliminate Minnesota this weekend, but it won’t get any easier from here on out. One thing’s for certain, playoff football is finally back in Chicago, so let’s be thankful for another week (or two) before they do have to worry about playing in a do or die situation.

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