Chicago Bears’ head coach Lovie Smith may have been mistaken last Monday when he indicated that the Bears’ game against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday was not a must win game. But make no mistake about it, the Bears game against the Arizona Cardinals today is a must win game for the Bears. If the Bears lose today against the Cardinals, the team will be eliminated from playoff contention. In order for the Bears to have any chance at earning spot in the playoffs, the team must win their final two games beginning with today’s game against the Cardinals. Even if the Bears win, the team will need help.
There a plenty of tie-break scenarios for the for the five teams in the NFC conference that share the same record of 8-6. But there is no need to go into all those scenarios. To simply put it, the Bears need to defeat the Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings need to lose to the Houston Texans. It would be to the Bears’ benefit if the Baltimore Ravens defeat the New York Giants; the New Orleans Saints defeat the Dallas Cowboys; and the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Washington Redskins.
But for the Bears, it all begins with a victory against the Arizona Cardinals. On paper, there is almost no way to envision the Bears’ dropping today’s game against the Cardinals. The Cardinals have a no-name quarterback who makes their passing game irrelevant, and Beanie Wells offers them a slight opportunity to establish a running threat against the Bears. The Bears have struggled against top running backs this season. Tennessee Titans’ running back Chris Johnson, Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch, and the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson all have found success against the Bears’ defense this season. Wells is not of the same caliber of those aforementioned running backs, but he likely will be the only Cardinals’ player that could pose a significant threat to the Bears’ defense.
Believe it or not, the Cardinals’ defense ranks among the top in the National Football League. The Cardinals have the fourth best passing defense in the NFL and lead the league with a total of 22 interception, one more than the Bears’ defense. Where the Cardinals’ defense drops off is on run defense as the team is among the bottom five teams in terms of rushing defense. Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson is considered by some to be of the league’s best corners and will shadow Bears’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall throughout the entire game. If Peterson is able to take Marshall out of the game plan for the Bears’ offense, expect Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler to turn to receivers Alshon Jeffery and a returning Earl Bennett. Nonetheless, this once again is a prime opportunity for Bears’ offensive coordinator Mike Tice to utilize running back Matt Forte. The Bears’ showed a commitment to the run last week against the Packers as the first five offensive plays were running plays, but that commitment disappeared shortly thereafter. If the Bears’ offense is going to have any type of success, it could be dependent upon the efforts of Forte.
There is something to be said about momentum in the NFL, and momentum is not with the Bears right now. But today’s game against the Cardinals will serve as a “get right” game for the Bears as they will defeat the Cardinals.