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updated: 12/4/2013 10:35 PM

Secret weapon holds key to Bears' playoff chances

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  • Bears fans are hoping the Lions play like the turkeys they sometimes can in the team's remaining four games.

      Bears fans are hoping the Lions play like the turkeys they sometimes can in the team's remaining four games.
    Associated Press

  • Jim Schwartz, left, talks with Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, center, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers before Detroit beat Green Bay 40-10 on Thanksgiving.

      Jim Schwartz, left, talks with Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, center, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers before Detroit beat Green Bay 40-10 on Thanksgiving.
    Associated Press

  • Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is sacked by Julius Peppers during the first half of the Bears' overtime loss Sunday.

      Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is sacked by Julius Peppers during the first half of the Bears' overtime loss Sunday.
    Associated Press

 
 

Just because the Bears haven't resembled anything close to a playoff team the past two weeks doesn't mean they won't be part of the postseason party.

How, you ask? They have a secret weapon.

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And it's not the healthy return of quarterback Jay Cutler (probably next week).

Nor the return of seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs (possibly next week).

Nor is it the return of two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman (not until the postseason).

And it's not the boost that recently returned defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff can provide to a run defense so bad that it could ruin the remainder of the season regardless of how well the offense plays.

The Bears' secret weapon could be the undisciplined Detroit Lions. Their ability to self-destruct could hand the Bears the NFC North title, if only they can play well enough in the final four weeks to accept it.

That's the only realistic way the 6-6 Bears are getting to the playoffs. Forget the wild-card route because those two spots currently belong to the Panthers (9-3) and 49ers (8-4), and both of them have been wicked hot lately. The Bears also trail the Cardinals and Eagles (both 7-5) in the wild-card chase.

But despair not Bears fans. Do not underestimate the potential for the Lions to implode. Their schedule down the stretch includes just one team with a winning record, but none of their four games are slam-dunk wins.

Because the 7-5 Lions have already swept the season series, the Bears must finish with a better record. But that could happen in the next two weeks, which might be the best stretch for the Bears to make up ground.

Sunday the Lions are 2-point underdogs in Philadelphia against the Eagles, who have won four straight. I'm not the only one who lacks faith in Jim Schwarz's team. The wiseguys in Vegas don't like them any better.

A week from Monday the Lions host the 6-6 Ravens, who are currently tied with the Dolphins for the sixth and final wild-card berth in the AFC and will have plenty to play for. According to Kevin Bradley, the sportsbook manager at Bovada.lv, the Lions will be a 5-point favorites in that game, hardly prohibitive.

In Week 17, the Lions entertain the Giants (5-7), and Detroit would be 7-point favorites, according to Bovada.lv. But that number could go down, given that the Giants are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won five of their last six.

If the Lions lose their next two games, the Bears can pass them by defeating the Cowboys at home Monday night and then the Browns (4-8) in Cleveland.

Vegas makes the Cowboys game a pick 'em, and the Bears would be 3-point favorites against the Browns, whose quarterback situation is so discombobulated that they signed Caleb Hanie on Tuesday and could start him Sunday.

After that, the Bears are at Philadelphia in Week 17, where, as of right now, they would be 4-point dogs. They finish at home against the 5-6-1 Packers, who shouldn't be counted out yet, especially if injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns this week. If he doesn't the Packers seem doomed, since 1 more loss probably eliminates them, and they've yet to beat anyone without Rodgers.

The Lions end at Minnesota, and as everyone knows, as long as Adrian Peterson is on the field, the Vikings have a chance.

All of this conjecture hinges on the Bears winning at least three of their final four games.

For a team that has allowed 504 rushing yards in the past two weeks, that might be the most unrealistic part of the equation.

blegere@dailyherald.com

Remaining schedules

Bears

COWBOYS (7-5)

At Browns (4-8)

At Eagles (7-5)

PACKERS (5-6-1)

Detroit Lions

At Eagles (7-5)

RAVENS (6-6)

GIANTS (5-7)

At Vikings (3-8-1)

Green Bay Packers

FALCONS (3-9)

At Cowboys (7-5)

STEELERS (5-7)

At Bears (6-6)

• Follow Bob's NFL and Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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