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It took some doing, by which I mean ignoring the running game, and Alshon Jeffery looking like a rookie when he was actually on the field, and not really having a tight end, and a lot of momentum-killing penalties, and a heap of injuries, and some fairly terrible play-calling, and special teams looking average, but the Bears have managed to parlay a 7-1 first half into the seventh seed in the NFC, thus reducing a promising season into a desperate two game win-out-or-die scenario for the third time in five years.
The NFL has an elaborate set of tiebreakers and so only true insiders like the crack Beachwood staff understand how to determine which 9-7 team has a chance to win the Super Bowl. Allow me to use our vast computational resources to help you, the dedicated reader, navigate the byzantine maze of NFC playoff scenarios for teams on the bubble.
Rams: I don't even think Steven Jackson realizes that there is actually a scenario in which the Rams can make the playoffs. If the Seahawks lose one game and abstain from playing another, coupled with two Rams wins and a Vikings tie, St. Louis will get 20 complimentary 300-level tickets to the AFC wildcard game of their choice. A loss in the final two weeks nets them a single $20 gift card to Red Lobster.
Saints: Quite literally all but mathematically eliminated, a lot has to happen for New Orleans to make the postseason at 8-8. Andy Reid actually has to eat Jason Pierre-Paul during the week 17 Giants-Eagles game. I mean, there's a chance he could eat him the same way you eat a Buick, by grinding it up and sprinkling a little on your cereal every morning, but to expect it to happen in under three hours is unreasonable.
Vikings: Must beat the Texans and Packers in order to . . . eff that. Not happening. Moving on.
Cowboys: Despite a mediocre start/middle/probably finish, Dallas can make the playoffs by winning out, thanks to a match-up with Washington in Week 17. A less likely road to the postseason requires the Cowboys to go 1-1 and the Rams, Vikings, Bears, Cowboys, Seahawks and Redskins to all tie, and then to all get into bus accidents.
Bears: Win out and hope that many teams lose at least one game. Jacksonville has to go 1-1 for some reason.
Redskins: Both teams stand at 9-6 as the seconds wane on the Week 17 match-up of the Redskins and Cowboys. The NFC East title is decided as Tony Romo receives the game's final snap and puts down the perfect hold . . . unfortunately he does this in trips formation on third-and-short at the Dallas 37. A confused, but delighted Washington squad wins by two and claims the #4 seed.
Giants: After beating the Ravens in Baltimore, New York must prevent Andy Reid from eating Jason Pierre-Paul (see above) in the season finale. If that happens, the outcome of the game is not in doubt.
Or, the Giants lose one of their two final games and miss the postseason, but along with the Jets are still given such disproportionate coverage on ESPN during the wild card and divisional rounds that 78% of Americans are convinced that Tom Coughlin's team is not only in the playoffs, but won in the first round.
Seattle: Benefactors of a number of tiebreakers including head-to-head records, conference records and amount of teal in their jerseys, Seattle will almost certainly make the playoffs even with a 9-7 record.
Better Know A Cardinal
In terms of NFC teams I know absolutely nothing about, the Arizona Cardinals certainly rank among the elite. The guy from The Nightmare Before Christmas is their quarterback, right?
What you do need to know is that their imposing level of anonymity coupled with a 1-9 record over the last 10 games combine to lull teams into a false sense of not actually playing a professional football game.
Your team may be up 6-3 late in the third but watch out!
Ken Whisenhunt has you right where he wants you and guess what, douchebag, you're only going to score nine points in today's pivotal contest.
Sure, you'll win 9-3, but say goodbye to your precious 10th tiebreaker.
Kool-Aid (1 Out of 5 Glasses Of Whatever You Were Drinking Last Week)
If the Bears can't beat the Cardinals they don't deserve to make the playoffs, so this kind of works out as a disappointment litmus test.
I think the Bears win, but you could - and I did - say that about any of the last four games.
Carl Mohrbacher is our man on the Kool-Aid. He welcomes your comments.