With a 40-14 victory over the Vikings on Monday night, the Chicago Bears clinched the NFC North title for the first time since 2006. At 10-4, the Bears can earn a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs if they win their remaining two games.
The Eagles — leaders of the NFC East — have the same record, but lost to Chicago in Week 12. In a less-likely scenario, the Giants (9-5) could win the NFC East with the same record as the Bears, but the Giants hold the tie-breaker with a head-to-head victory in Week 4.
In our preseason predictions, we didn’t have the Bears finishing any higher than third in the division, but we certainly weren’t the only ones not high on the them. It appears there aren’t many people, including myself, who believe in them now — even after they’ve clinched the division. Jay Cutler’s penchant for throwing interceptions has been well documented, though to this point he has half as many (13) as he finished with last year. His decision making is still suspect, and we know he’s capable of imploding on any given day.
In any event, the Bears control their own destiny. A first-round bye and a home game would be huge, especially if they are matched up against an indoor powerhouse like the Saints in round two. Having played outdoors and in the cold, Chicago would have en enormous advantage in January against a dome or west coast team, so that has to be the goal. If they beat the struggling Jets and injury-plagued Packers, they’ll accomplish their mission.