60-second rant: First-round bye in sight for Bears

Posted Dec. 21, 2010 @ 6:10 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

The Bears have accomplished what few expected them to. They would be the No. 2 seed in the NFC if the playoffs began today, which would give them a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round.

Their status went from playoff contender to the league's only official division champion in Week 15, and they made the upgrade in dominating fashion, forcing five turnovers and racking up four sacks in a 40-14 blowout of the Vikings — it was their largest margin of victory in more than two years — but, despite all the superlatives, Monday night's outcome really shouldn't have changed anyone's outlook for the Bears as far as this season goes.

They shellacked a team that was forced to play Joe Webb, a sixth-round rookie, at quarterback for 2½ quarters, and he didn't even have the benefit of handing off to RB Adrian Peterson, who didn't play because of a thigh injury.

The Bears did what any team that wants to be counted among the legitimate title contenders should do, but they still have to battle two teams with playoff aspirations before the regular season is complete. They'll face the Jets, who just beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and the Packers, who almost beat the Patriots in New England without Aaron Rodgers.

Atlanta will only need to beat the Saints or Panthers to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC, leaving the NFC East champion as the Bears' top competition for the No. 2 seed. The Bears hold a tiebreaker advantage over the current leaders in the division, the Eagles, but Philly has an easier road than Chicago — they'll face Minnesota and Dallas.

That No. 2 seed is far from locked up and the Bears can't let up if they want that first-round bye. Their toughest stretch of games may still be ahead of them.