Bears coach Marc Trestman says he doesn't dwell on his team's 6-4 record, and he might be the only one who doesn't.
The Bears technically trail the 6-4 Lions in the NFC North because Detroit already has won both head-to-head meetings. But the Bears are in the thick of the race for one of the two wild-card spots.
They currently trail the red-hot 7-3 Carolina Panthers, who have won five straight and are tied with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. Both NFC West teams have better records than the Bears in the NFC, an important tiebreaker, but only by the slimmest of margins.
Another game back are the 5-5 Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, both on the Bears' remaining schedule. Of the contenders, the Bears and Packers have the easiest remaining schedules, at least on paper. For the rest of the season, the Bears face just one team currently with a winning record, the 6-5 Eagles, whom they play Dec. 22 in Philadelphia.
However, the Bears play four of their next five games on the road, while the Packers have three each at home and away.
"We know where we are, and we know where we're going, and we know the road ahead, what it is," Trestman said. "But I really don't spend a lot of time on the record. I don't spend any time on the record. We're in a position to get our team better (today) when we come in, and that's really the entire focus. There are no other issues other than that."
The Cardinals have by far the toughest homestretch with games against three division leaders; the 10-1 Seahawks, the 7-3 Colts and the Eagles, plus the 49ers.
The Bears might have an easier time making the playoffs by winning the NFC North outright but because of the tiebreaker disadvantage they must finish with a better record than the Lions.
A common opinion is that the Lions will stay true to recent form and self-destruct, leaving the division crown there for the taking by the Bears or even the Packers, if they can get injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers back sooner rather than later.
But the Lions would need a colossal collapse, considering four of their remaining six games are at home, and their opponents are a combined 23-38, a winning percentage of 37.7.
For now, Trestman is only concerned with his team, and he seems content with that.
"The beauty is that we have a team of players that just do whatever you ask them to do," he said. "They come in and work hard, they understand that nobody's more important than the next guy on our team, and they just work. And we've got coaches here who work really hard to get them ready to play.
"It's a great environment to be in. And I'm just appreciative to be one of the guys in the building."
If some of the injured players in the building continue to heal, Trestman and the Bears could get a boost from impact-level reinforcements. Quarterback Jay Cutler, seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive end Shea McClellin and four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff all could be back within the next 2-3 weeks, providing some impetus for a late-season playoff push.
Trestman will stress to his team that Sunday's game against the 4-6 Rams at St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome is the only one that matters, and he's right. But chances are a lot will be at stake in the season finale, Dec. 29, against the Packers at Soldier Field.
•Veteran long snapper Jeremy Cain was waived Tuesday after filling in for Patrick Mannelly the past two games. Mannelly was sidelined by a calf injury but is expected to play Sunday at St. Louis. Linebacker Lawrence Wilson was signed to the practice squad.
Remaining schedules for wild-card contenders:
Panthers 7-3 (6-2 conference) -- at Dolphins (5-5), BUCS (2-8), at Saints (8-2), JETS (5-5), SAINTS (8-2), at Falcons (2-8). Combined record of opponents: 30-30.
49ers 6-4 (3-3 conference) -- at Redskins (3-7), RAMS (4-6), SEAHAWKS (10-1), at Bucs (2-8), FALCONS (2-8), at Cardinals (6-4). Combined record of opponents: 27-34.
Cardinals 6-4 (4-4 conference) -- COLTS (7-3), at Eagles (6-5), RAMS (4-6), at Titans (4-6), at Seahawks (10-1), 49ERS (6-4). Combined record of opponents: 37-25.
Bears 6-4 (3-4 conference) -- at Rams (4-6), at Vikings (2-8), COWBOYS (5-5), at Browns (4-6), at Eagles (6-5), PACKERS (5-5). Combined record of opponents: 26-35.
Cowboys 5-5 (5-2 conference) -- at Giants (4-6), RAIDERS (4-6), at Bears (6-4), PACKERS (5-5), at Redskins (3-7), EAGLES (6-5). Combined record of opponents: 28-33.
Packers 5-5 (3-4 conference) -- VIKINGS (2-8), at Lions (6-4), FALCONS (2-8), at Cowboys (5-5), STEELERS (4-6), at Bears (6-4). Combined record of opponents: 25-35.
Remaining schedules for current division leaders who could wind up in wild-card equation:
Saints 8-2 (6-0 conference) -- at Falcons (2-8), at Seahawks (10-1), PANTHERS (7-3), at Rams (4-6), at Panthers (7-3), BUCS (2-8). Combined record of opponents: 32-29.
Lions 6-4 (5-2 conference) -- BUCS (2-8), PACKERS (5-5), at Eagles (6-5), RAVENS (4-6), GIANTS (4-6), at Vikings (2-8). Combined record of opponents: 23-38.
Eagles 6-5 (5-2 conference) -- bye, CARDINALS (6-4), LIONS (6-4), at Vikings (2-8), BEARS (6-4), at Cowboys (5-5). Combined record of opponents: 25-25.
*all caps signify home games
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