A glance at the Bears and Texans records shows two football teams in great position to make a postseason run. Both teams, however, lost their starting QB's and may struggle to even make the playoffs. The Bears (7-4) are fighting for a wild card spot, but lost to the Raiders yesterday, as Caleb Hanie filled in for Jay Cutler, who is out for at least the regular season with a broken thumb. The Texans are in an even worse position, as their starting and backup QBs are now out for the season. Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are done and now Gary Kubiak has to lean on rookie T.J. Yates for a playoff push.
Currently, the Texans are tied for the best record in the AFC at 8-3, holding a conference record tie-breaker over New England and Baltimore. The Texans don't seem as scary anymore though with their top two quarterbacks on the shelf. Houston has one of the best rushing attacks in all of football, but it will take more than that to beat quality opponents in January. Andre Johnson is back after a six-week absence, but can he succeed with Yates? Even as the #1 seed right now, Houston still isn't secure in the playoff race. Just 5 games remain, but there is a real possibility that the Texans will be playing for the division in Week 17 against Tennessee.
Houston has ATL, @CIN, CAR, @IND, and TEN left on their schedule. The Titans (6-5), who stand just two games back, have @BUF, NO, @IND, JAC, and @HOU remaining. I can't see T.J. Yates and the Texans beating Atlanta, Cincinnati, and even Carolina, so I believe Houston goes into the Tennessee game at 9-6. If Tennessee can win 3 of their next four, which I think they can do as long as they run the football the way they did yesterday, they will go into Houston with a chance to steal the division from the Texans. This division is all of a sudden up in the air as the injury bug is to blame for the Texans. Houston must run the ball successfully to win, so it will be interesting to see how defenses play against an unexperienced QB. I expect a lot of blitzes and 8-man fronts in order to force Yates into making a play.
Up North, the Chicago Bears saw their playoff hopes take a slight fall yesterday after losing to the Raiders. The Bears are still in good position, but I didn't like what I saw out of Hanie. We all know that Hanie can move around the pocket with the ball and make throws on the run, but he struggled yesterday, completing just 18 of his 36 attempts for 254 yards. He did throw 2 touchdown passes, but also had 3 interceptions. The Bears are best when they can run the ball and control the game. They ran the ball very well yesterday, with Hanie, Forte, and Barber all rushing over 50 yards; however, Hanie can't turn the ball over 3 times and expect to win.
The Bears realistically need to get to 10 wins in order to make the postseason via the wild card. The Lions and Falcons both are at 7-4, while the Giants play the Saints tonight in hopes to join the group. The Lions have a tough schedule as they have New Orleans and Green Bay still left. I see the Lions finishing at 9-7, a game short of the playoffs. The Giants have a very rough schedule, playing the Saints, Packers, and Cowboys twice in their last 6. They need to go 4-2, but I don't think they can do it. The Giants must steal one from the Saints or Packers for a shot at the Wild Card. The Falcons are in the best position of the four right now and I fully expect them to make the playoffs. The Falcons will get to 10 wins and could even win the division by beating the Saints in a few weeks.
That leaves the Bears muddled among these teams. The Bears must win three games to make the playoffs, which is feasible. It'll be tough for Chicago to win the smallest of games with Caleb Hanie behind center, but I'm sure he'll put in a lot of work again this week in hopes to put together a couple of wins. The Bears have winnable games remaining on the schedule, even with the Packers game looming in Week 16.
My Playoff Predictions as of Today: