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updated: 12/14/2010 9:08 PM

Bears' playoff path rosy, but then it all depends on defense

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With the Vikings mathematically eliminated and desperately seeking a healthy quarterback and with the Packers uncertain of the status of their concussed Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers the Bears' path to the playoffs seems lined with rose petals.

They catch another break this week because their game against the Vikings will be moved to the University of Minnesota. As poorly as the Bears played in inclement weather against the Patriots, they should still be much more comfortable in the elements than the Vikings, who have a significant homefield advantage in the now-unplayable Metrodome.

The Packers have the unenviable task of going to New England this week to play the Patriots with Rodgers in shaky health after leaving early in last week's loss to the Lions. The Packers couldn't score on the Lions without Rodgers, which doesn't bode well for them against the Patriots, who are playing better than any team in the NFL.

So the Bears are truly in the driver's seat.

But just getting to the playoffs won't be considered much of a success for the Bears if they don't win at least one game, and that most likely hinges on the defense which was beginning to look dominant before a three-game swoon.

It's not just the 36 points and 475 yards they allowed to the Patriots on Sunday. Two weeks earlier they "held" Michael Vick to 333 passing yards and 44 rushing yards. Even in the week in between, the Lions had 20 points and 302 yards with third-string quarterback Drew Stanton running the show in just his second NFL start.

That kind of defense won't do it in the playoffs for the Bears. Their offense has gotten better throughout the season, but it's not the kind of unit that can be counted on at crunch time, what with a mediocre-at-best offensive line and a running game that doesn't do much more than keep the opposing defense honest.

The Bears need their defense to return to the dominating play it exhibited in victories over the Panthers and rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The defense needs to swarm all over a decent team as it did against the Dolphins when they were down to their third-string quarterback, Tyler Thigpen.

With defensive end Julius Peppers and linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs all playing at a Pro Bowl level, the Bears have the potential to dominate opposing offenses and they might need to with an offense that only occasionally flashes big-play ability.

The defense must carry the Bears in the postseason. But unless it regains the earlier form that propelled it to the top five in the NFL in total yards, rushing yards and points allowed, the Bears' postseason journey will be a short one.

• Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials at