On Nov. 9, I was talking worst-case scenario.
Back then, I said: "The Bears still could go 3-5 down the stretch and limp into the playoffs. The Giants did that last year and won the Super Bowl, so it's not impossible."
That was when they were 7-1 and had a 95 percent likelihood, historically speaking, to make the playoffs. And here we are – they need to win at Detroit to go 3-5 down the stretch. But because of the Vikings' late surge, which breaks their tradition of starting hot and failing late, the Bears can't just win and get in.
Now they need to become big Green Bay fans, just for one afternoon.
As things stand this week, I believe the Bears will beat the Lions on the road to do their part. And because the Packers are playing for the No. 2 seed, I believe they'll come to play and beat Minnesota.
Once in, the Bears are going to have a tall order no matter who they draw. It's likely to be on the road at San Francisco – where the Bears were positively destroyed on Monday Night Football without Jay Cutler.
They'd likely be heavy underdogs in the rematch, but as we saw last season with the Giants, just about anything can happen once the calendar turns to January.
BEARS (9-6) at Detroit (4-11)
Noon Sunday, Fox. Bears -3 (44.5)
The skinny: The Bears' defense came to play last week, with the only touchdown scored by the Cardinals coming on a Bears special teams gaffe. They've won eight of nine against the Lions, and there's nothing Detroit has done the second half of the season to convince many people that they can play spoiler at home. Obviously the Bears have to have it, and then they'll become huge Green Bay fans if they win.
MattE’s pick: Bears 26, Lions 17
Houston (12-3) at COLTS (10-5)
Noon Sunday, CBS. Texans -7 (46.5)
The skinny: The Texans are playing for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and have the benefit of a home win over Indy earlier this month. The lure of home-field advantage in the playoffs should be enough, despite what should be an emotional Colts team with coach Chuck Pagano making his return.
MattE’s pick: Texans 27, Colts 23
Tampa Bay (6-9) at Atlanta (13-2)
Noon Sunday. NL
The skinny: The Falcons have locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so it makes sense to rest their standouts and make sure they're good and healthy for the playoffs. But they also can stay perfect at home with the win.
MattE’s pick: Falcons 28, Bucs 17
N.Y. Jets (6-9) at Buffalo (5-10)
Noon Sunday. Bills -3.5 (39.5)
The skinny: These teams opened the season against each other, and now they'll close it out – putting us all out of our misery. There were 72 points in the first meeting. Don't count on it this time.
MattE’s pick: Bills 23, Jets 17
Baltimore (10-5) at Cincinnati (9-6)
Noon Sunday. Bengals -3 (41.5)
The skinny: The Bengals are the No. 6 seed in the AFC and can't move up. A Ravens win and Patriots loss would mean these two teams would meet again next week in the opening round. The Bengals plan to play their stars, despite it being a mostly meaningless game for them. I'll take them at their word on that and go with the hot hand.
MattE’s pick: Bengals 26, Ravens 24
Jacksonville (2-13) at Tennessee (5-10)
Noon Sunday. Titans -4 (42.5)
The skinny: In the last three months, the Jaguars' one win came against the Titans. And don't think the Titans don't remember. They have revenge on their mind, and the Jaguars have dreams of a top-two draft pick dancing in their head.
MattE’s pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 17
Carolina (6-9) at New Orleans (7-8)
Noon Sunday. Saints -4.5 (54)
The skinny: The Saints are fighting just to get to .500 in a disappointing season in part thanks to their Week 2 loss to the Panthers. This one should be fun in the dome, and the Saints will get a small measure of revenge.
MattE’s pick: Saints 38, Panthers 30
Philadelphia (4-11) at N.Y. Giants (8-7)
Noon Sunday. Giants -7.5 (46)
The skinny: The Eagles have won just once since they beat the Giants early in the season. They have Michael Vick back behind center for perhaps the final time. But the Giants have to win and get some help to have a playoff shot, and they'll do their part.
MattE’s pick: Giants 34, Eagles 14
Cleveland (5-10) at Pittsburgh (7-8)
Noon Sunday. NL
The skinny: The Steelers used to dominate at home, but now have dropped three straight there. They can't make the playoffs, but they can still salvage 8-8 and won't have much problem doing so.
MattE’s pick: Steelers 29, Browns 13
Green Bay (11-4) at Minnesota (9-6)
3:25 p.m. Sunday, Fox.
Packers -3 (44.5) The skinny: Plenty at stake here. The Vikings win and they're in. And Adrian Peterson has vowed to get the 200+ yards he needs to break Eric Dickerson's season rushing record. But the Packers are playing for a first-round bye, and that wins the day.
MattE’s pick: Packers 31, Vikings 24
Kansas City (2-13) at Denver (12-3)
3:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS. Broncos -16 (42)
The skinny: The Broncos are the hottest team in the NFL with 10 straight wins. Peyton Manning may very well win both the Comeback Player of the Year award and the MVP. And most importantly, he can help give his team the week off next week with a win. Lock it up.
MattE’s pick: Broncos 34, Chiefs 10
Miami (7-8) at New England (11-4)
3:25 p.m. Sunday. Patriots -10 (46.5)
The skinny: The Patriots are playing for playoff position, and they could still get a first-round bye with a win and a little help. I don't think they'll get the help, but they'll get the win.
MattE’s pick: Patriots 34, Dolphins 16
Oakland (4-11) at San Diego (6-9)
3:25 p.m. Sunday. NL
The skinny: Matt Leinart – remember him? – gets the start for the Raiders on the road. The Chargers have been terrible at home, which has pretty much killed them. But they own the Raiders, and they'll get one more win for Norv Turner before he's fired in the offseason.
MattE’s pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 17
Arizona (5-10) at San Francisco (10-4-1)
3:25 p.m. Sunday. 49ers -16.5 (39)
The skinny: No one has as much potential to move up or down as the Niners. They win the division with a win. If they win and the Packers lose, they get a first-round bye. But if they lose and Seattle wins, they'd drop all the way to No. 5. But no worries.
MattE’s pick: 49ers 26, Cardinals 10
St. Louis (7-7-1) at Seattle (10-5)
3:25 p.m. Sunday. Seahawks -10.5 (41)
The skinny: The Seahawks routed the Niners at home last week and easily are the hottest team in the NFC, averaging 50 points a game the last three routs. They'll cruise again at home while watching the scoreboard to see if the Niners can choke.
MattE’s pick: Seahawks 41, Rams 16
Dallas (8-7) at Washington (9-6)
7:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC. Redskins -3 (49.5)
The skinny: How awesome is this? The regular season closes out in prime time with the winner taking the division and making the playoffs, and the loser probably going home. Everything else should be decided by kickoff. The Redskins won their first meeting this year in a shootout. But I'm going with the upset this time.
MattE’s pick: Cowboys 34, Redskins 30
Last week: 12-4 straight up, 11-5 against the spread. Season: 152-87-1 (.636) straight up, 125-112-3 (.527) against the spread.