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Bears’ playoff chances are up to 97 percent, according to one projection

November 26, 2018

The Chicago Bears are closing in not only on their first postseason berth but also their first home playoff game since 2010.

At 8-3 and fresh off posting a spotless mark during their harrowing 12-day stretch that included three wins over divisional opponents, the Bears’ chances of punching a playoff ticket are up to 97 percent, according to respected analytic site Football Outsiders. FO projects Chicago’s chances of winning the NFC North at 84 percent, with Minnesota at 15.2 percent, the Packers at 0.8 percent and the Lions at zero.

FO calculates its playoff odds by simulating the season 30,000 times and using its weighted DVOA rankings and also considering home field advantage to assign wins and losses. The only NFL teams with a higher likelihood than Chicago of playing in January are the 10-1 Saints, 10-1 Rams, 9-2 Chiefs — all at 100 percent — and the 8-3 Patriots, who edge Chicago with 98 percent odds by virtue of playing in the AFC East.

The Texans, currently at 88.8 percent as they prepare to host the Titans on “Monday Night Football,” would also inch ahead of the Bears with a win tonight.

As far as actual seeding, the Bears have a 65 percent chance of earning the No. 3 spot in the NFC, which would have them hosting the No. 6 seed at Soldier Field on wild card weekend. And they’ve already earned home victories over their two most likely opponents — Seattle (25.7 percent) and Minnesota (24).

Although the Panthers are mired in a three-game descent, they’re the one other club Bears fans will want to keep close tabs on, with a 22.9 percent chance of earning the NFC’s last wild card. The Panthers, though, have both games left with the NFL-leading Saints in the final three weeks, and must visit Tampa Bay and Cleveland, each showing signs of late life, in Weeks 13-14.

We’ll get more into how the Bears match up with all of their potential playoff foes before too long. But on first blush, we’d lean slightly toward the Vikings as the most preferable Round 1 opponent. Not only did they beat Minnesota handily only eight days ago, but Kirk Cousins is the least mobile, least battle-tested passer of the bunch, and the Vikings might have suffered a huge loss in their win over Green Bay in CB1 Xavier Rhodes’ potentially serious hamstring injury.

Conversely, the Seahawks are much healthier than they were back in Week 2, when the Bears mostly pushed a group missing Pro Bowl LBs K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner and leading WR Doug Baldwin around.

We’re not still advising you to start researching flight deals to Atlanta in February, but those interested in attending a game at Soldier Field the first week in January can probably start penciling in their plans. That we’re typing this before the calendar turns to December speaks to the monumental breakthrough the franchise is enjoying following four consecutive double-digit loss seasons while residing in the NFC North basement.

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