Bears coach Lovie Smith acknowledged the obvious on Monday: that his team has performed poorly while losing four of five games.
The result is a team that has plummeted from a 7-1 pinnacle to a valley of mediocrity, one that needs a strong finish to ensure a playoff position
"We haven't played our best football the last couple weeks, and when you don't play your best football you get in a situation where you don't control what happens in the division," Smith said. "We're in that position right now. We need a little bit of help as far as the division title and all that is concerned."
Even a victory over the Green Bay Packers Sunday at Soldier Field won't guarantee an NFC North title for the Bears, but it would pull them alongside Green Bay at 9-5 and increase their chances of qualifying for the postseason.
"We do control our playoff hopes," Smith said, "and that's what we have to do now, just play better football."
Smith, who has a year left on his contract, was asked if his future with the Bears could be tied to a playoff appearance.
"I think every day I've been here, each day I think all of us come to work, we're going to do the best job we possibly can," he said. "All of our futures are tied. It's all based on wins and losses, really, and I'm OK with that."
Smith is hoping to field a healthier team on Sunday after losing several players to injuries in the Vikings game: quarterback Jay Cutler (neck), running back Michael Bush (ribs), kicker Robbie Gould (calf), defensive end Shea McClellin (knee), safety Craig Steltz (chest) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (knee).
On his radio show Monday afternoon, Cutler said he "should be ready to go" against the Packers.
In addition, the Bears entered the Minnesota game without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring), cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), defensive tackle Stephen Paea (foot) and guard Chris Spencer (knee).
But Smith said it was too soon to update the status of any of the injured players.