Written by Stephen Brown III
The playoffs are set! We know all 14 teams that are in and what the matchups look like for Super Wild Card weekend. When looking at the playoff bracket, the matchups look pretty good. Most people have been able to make a case as to why any team can win their matchup. However, by far the most overlooked team is the Bears. Most people assume that the Bears will barely be a bump in the road for the Saints. Well I’m here to tell you differently.
The Bears needed some help to squeak into the playoffs. Going into the last week, they controlled their own destiny, simply needing a win against the Packers. However, after a loss, they needed the Rams to beat the Cardinals, which happened. So, the Bears snuck in at 8-8, and play the 2 seed, the 12-4 Saints. While the matchup seems tough (the Bears are a 10-point underdog), it’s really not as bad as people seem. And once they beat the Saints, the sky’s the limit for Chicago. But before we get there, let’s talk about the Wild Card round.
Wild Card Round vs. New Orleans
What a lot of people don’t remember is the Bears and Saints actually played this year back on November 1st. This was a back and forth contest that was tied multiple times throughout the game. The contest eventually went to overtime, where the Saints won 26-23. However, the Bears have the X-factor this time: Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has been playing excellent football since his unbenching, which has also opened up the run game for David Montgomery. The Bears have been putting up points at an impressive clip. Offensively, if they were able to put up 23 the first time, I have no doubt that they can put up at least that this time.
Defensively, the Bears should be in better shape than last time. While their defense hasn’t been playing as well as of late, the offense for the Saints shouldn’t be as scary. I know what you’re thinking: the Saints have been putting up points in bunches: 29, 52, and 33 in the three games since Brees has been back. However, the Bears matchup up well with what the Saints like to do. They have athletic linebackers like Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan to keep up with guys like Kamara and Cook. They have playmakers on the defensive line like Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack to help stop the run and to get to the very immobile Brees. And perhaps the strongest part of this team: the secondary, with guys like Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, and rookie standout Jaylon Johnson. The Bears need to use this star studded defense to stuff the run and force Brees to throw deep. We know that if Brees is forced to push the ball downfield, the Saints are in trouble.
So, the Bears have an improved offense and the exact personnel to keep up with the Saints on offense. As long as Trubisky keeps playing as well as he’s been playing, the Bears win this game and move on.
Divisional Round vs Green Bay
As the 7th seed, if the Bears win, they will automatically play the Packers in the divisional round. This is the worst case scenario for the Bears. Since Aaron Rodgers took over as the Packers’ starting QB, the Packers are 21-5 against the Bears. The Bears played them in week 17 and played a great game. Halfway into the fourth quarter, this was a 5 point game, until the Packers ran away with it. The Bears had the right game plan, but ultimately, Rodgers was just too good. A big hit for the Bears was losing Roquan Smith early in the game. While his replacement, Josh Woods, played fine, losing a playmaker and star like Roquan Smith is a game changer. If the Bears come out with the same game plan against the Packers, they can win this game. After giving up 21 in the second quarter, the Bears shut out the Packers for the next quarter and a half. The last TD was essentially a garbage time TD so really, the Bears only gave up 7 points in the second half.
The game plan is there. Control clock, keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands, and make sure to put up points on every drive. With slightly better play from Trubisky (maybe mix in some more runs with Mitch) and a little more aggressiveness from the offense (i.e. not kicking a 20-yard field goal against the league MVP), the Bears can absolutely take down the Packers.
NFC Championship vs TBD
At this point, we don’t know who the Bears would play. It would likely be Seattle or Tampa Bay. However, no matter who it is, I shouldn’t have to make any argument as to why the Bears could win. They will have already beat the number 1 and 2 seeds in the NFC, so there’s no reason they couldn’t beat anyone.
So, there you have it. The Bears’ path to the Super Bowl. They just need to take down the one and two seeds in the NFC and then either the three seed or the GOAT in the NFC Championship. Piece of cake. But seriously, while it’s a long shot, the Bears aren’t as dead in the water as everyone thinks. The path to the Lombardi starts this Sunday for Chicago.