NFL INSIDER: No more excuses in crunch time for Bears

2013-12-05T16:56:00Z 2013-12-06T02:52:04Z NFL INSIDER: No more excuses in crunch time for BearsMatt Erickson Times Correspondent
December 05, 2013 4:56 pm  • 

If the season ended today, the Bears would — again — fall just short of the playoffs.

And once again, injuries would probably get the bulk of the blame. Jay Cutler's been out. Lance Briggs. Charles Tillman. Major players, all three.

But there has been way more to it than that, as those three standouts have had very capable backups starting in their steads.

If the Bears fall short, they can look back at some coaching decisions that ranged from questionable to just plain dumb. And they also can point to coming apart at the seams with penalties the past month.

At 6-6, all is not lost for the Bears. But it's going to take a Herculean effort and probably a 3-1 stretch to close the season with tough games at home against the Cowboys and Packers and on the road at Philadelphia. A road game at Cleveland seems easy by comparison to those first three, even though they'll be dealing with three other middle-of-the-pack teams.

What Bears fans should be asking for this holiday season is some improved play calling from Marc Trestman and Co., and players with a renewed head on their collective shoulders. But no more excuses in crunch time.

COLTS (8-4) +6.5 (43.5) at Cincinnati (8-4)

MattE's pick: Bengals 27, Colts 23

Detroit (7-5) +3 (54) at Philadelphia (7-5)

MattE's pick: Eagles 31, Lions 27

Atlanta (3-9) NL at Green Bay (5-6-1)

MattE's pick: Packers 26, Falcons 13

Minnesota (3-8-1) +6.5 (42.5) at Baltimore (6-6)

MattE's pick: Ravens 24, Vikings 20

Buffalo (4-8) +2.5 (43) at Tampa Bay (3-9)

MattE's pick: Bucs 26, Bills 23

Cleveland (4-8) +11.5 (44.5) at New England (9-3)

MattE's pick: Patriots 34, Browns 17

Kansas City (9-3) -3 (45) at Washington (3-9)

MattE's pick: Chiefs 23, Redskins 17

Oakland (4-8) +2.5 (40.5) at N.Y. Jets (5-7)

MattE's pick: Jets 24, Raiders 17

Miami (6-6) +3 (40.5) at Pittsburgh (5-7)

MattE's pick: Steelers 26, Dolphins 20

Tennessee (5-7) +12 (49) at Denver (10-2)

MattE's pick: Broncos 37, Titans 20

St. Louis (5-7) +6.5 (41.5) at Arizona (7-5)

MattE's pick: Cardinals 23, Rams 17

N.Y. Giants (5-7) +3 (47.5) at San Diego (5-7)

MattE's pick: Chargers 24, Giants 20

Seattle (11-1) +3 (41) at San Francisco (8-4)

MattE's pick: Seahawks 23, 49ers 20

Dallas (7-5) +1 (49.5) at BEARS (6-6)

MattE's pick: Bears 27, Cowboys 24

Last week: 11-5 straight up, 8-7-1 against the spread. Season: 119-72-1 (.623) straight up, 92-90-10 (.505) against the spread

Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 12 seasons. He covers mixed martial arts for The Times and is assistant MMA editor for USA Today and

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