Odds against them, but Chicago Bears fun again
There are a number of scenarios by which the Chicago Bears can still make the playoffs, but their chances are slim. There is only one route that seems more than remote.
If the season ended today, the Seattle Seahawks would be the first wild card, the Minnesota Vikings would be the second, and the Rams would be the first team out. The Bears would be the second.
To qualify, the Bears will need to leapfrog the 9-4 Vikings and 8-5 Rams, and to achieve that the Vikings will have to lose to either the Los Angeles Chargers or the Green Bay Packers and the Bears, and the Rams will have to lose two of three to the Dallas Cowboys, Seahawks or Arizona Cardinals while the Bears win out.
Again, it's not the only scenario, but it's the cleanest and actually not all that far-fetched.
But none of it matters if the Bears lose Sunday at Green Bay.
Asked Monday about how he's reading the mood of his team heading into this final stretch run, Bears head coach Matt Nagy replied: "Yeah, winning helps. Winning helps for sure.
"I don't know where this thing will end up. I've been talking about a silver lining. I don't know when that will come or what it is.
"But I've said it before, I really, really appreciate the camaraderie, the spirit, just the way everybody in this building has handled everything.
"We know that we have a guaranteed three games left. Where that takes us, I don't know, but I know I will look back and be very proud. But we've just got to do everything we can to get a win this week."
What are the Bears' chances of getting that win at Lambeau?
Well, they have won three straight and four of five. Over that same stretch, the Packers are 3-2, getting pounded by the Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, handling the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, and struggling Sunday with Washington.
The Packers clearly are the better team on the season, but are they the better team right now?
The Bears have gotten fat on the Detroit Lions, Giants and Cowboys, and it's tough to measure the significance of that last win with where the Cowboys are at right now.
But the Bears also are winning with dramatically improved play from quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the offense.
In answer to a question about running back David Montgomery's increased production against Dallas, Nagy said he thinks it's more about the offense as a whole.
"I think just right now, what the feel is with our offense is that it's not just the running back, it's not just the quarterback, it's not just the O-line," Nagy said. "Everybody is just kind of syncing right now. Even myself, as a playcaller.
"You start to feel stuff you like, things that feel right, concepts that are working. And then everyone's just worrying about themselves, not worrying about others.
"And you put all that together and you have success."
Of course, the bigger test with the Packers will come for the defense and handling quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the news Monday that Roquan Smith is officially done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle is a significant blow.
On the other hand, Nagy wouldn't rule out the return of linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, and while Trevathan still seems a real longshot, it's looking more and more like Hicks could be back.
Hicks said Monday: "I feel good, I feel good. There's some preparations that need to be made, some finishing, some cleaning up of things to do just to make sure I'm prepared to play and do what I need to do out there."
To hear Hicks tell it, he doesn't care how hard the road ahead may be. He's just happy to be on it.
"Isn't that beautiful, just to see the adversity and the grit and the fight that these guys had to go through? And I couldn't help," he said. "To be in this position at this time in the season, you have to take advantage of it."
Everyone has an opinion on how this will all work out, but I prefer for now just to focus on how much fun the next seven days are going to be.