Take 2, unlocked: Who are the Bears best equipped to face wild-card weekend?
Pro Football Weekly GM Hub Arkush and senior Bears reporter Bob LeGere debate which club Chicago is best equipped to host wild-card weekend:
ARKUSH: Bob, unlike some teams, the Bears’ playoff possibilities heading into the final week of the season are fairly easy to understand. If they win, and the Rams lose, they get a week off and we won’t know their first opponent until after the wild-card games. If the Bears and the Rams both win, and the Eagles beat Washington, then the Bears will play Philadelphia. If the Bears lose to the Vikings, they play them again the following weekend, assuming Seattle beats the Cardinals at home, which seems fairly likely. If the Bears and Seattle both lose, they play each other in Chicago.
We have to assume the Rams can handle the 49ers at home, so the question for the moment is: Which opponent do we think the Bears are best suited to handle in a wild-card game right now, Minnesota, Philadelphia or Seattle?
LEGERE: Hub, my first instinct is to say, “Eagles,” just because they’ve been decimated in the secondary by injuries. But if there’s any team in the NFL that has proved it can overcome the loss of key personnel, it’s Doug Pederson’s team. What the 8-7 Eagles have done the past two weeks without starting QB Carson Wentz is scary. They went to L.A. and defeated the Rams 30-23, then rallied to beat the Texans 32-30. So, if I’m the Bears, I want no part of Philly, or 9-6 Seattle and QB Russell Wilson, for that matter.
The Vikings’ past four losses have all been to playoff teams. Had they won any of those games, I’d be leery, but they didn’t. The Bears escaped with a 25-20 victory over Minny six weeks ago at Soldier Field, and it seems their home-field edge vs. the dome-team Vikings would be more significant than against the other two teams.
ARKUSH: I feel like I have to qualify this by saying I think the Bears can handle any of the three at home, as they’ve already proven against Seattle and Minnesota. The Bears are not a fluke, their success this year is built around significant upgrades in talent and coaching, and they will be the favorite no matter which of these three clubs they get.
That said, I got a good look at the Texans a couple weeks ago on the sidelines of their game with the Jets, and they weren’t very impressive, so that Eagles win doesn’t impress me all that much. Seattle went into San Francisco two weeks ago and couldn’t handle the Niners before the Bears did. As flawed as the Vikings have been this year, that defense is still really scary. Facing them a third time, especially if it’s a week after they beat the Bears Sunday, feels like a recipe for disaster to me.
LEGERE: I agree the Bears can defeat any of their three potential foes, and I believe they will. However, I could see them losing to all three as well. No one would argue that the Bears have a dominant defense – but they do NOT have a dominant team. Sure, they’ve won eight of their last nine games, but they’ve gotten fat on patsies.
Six of those games were against teams that already have at least 10 losses, and the Bears actually lost one of those games (30-27 to the Giants in overtime). And, as I mentioned, other than easy victories over the Jets, Bills and Lions (all double-digit losers) to start their streak, the Bears haven’t dominated anyone. Their last five victories have been by 5, 7, 9, 7 and 5 points. That’s not much margin for error.