Bears secure No. 2 seed in NFC playoff picture

Bears secure No. 2 seed in NFC playoff picture
December 29, 2010, 4:40 am
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Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010
11:47 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com
The Minnesota Vikings 24-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles was both really good news and really bad news for the Bears.

The good is obvious and near immediate. The Bears are now assured of no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, meaning they receive a bye through the wild-card round and dont have to play until the Jan. 15-16 weekend. An already healthy team gets even more time to get healthy.

And they will be exactly two games from returning to the Super Bowl.

The Bears could even earn the No.1 seed and a guarantee of both playoff games being played in Soldier Field. Its a longshot because the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints both would have to lose Sunday on the road, the Falcons to Carolina and that would be an even more monumental upset that what the Vikings effected in Philadelphia.

The bad news is longer term and perhaps as significant ultimately. With the performance of Joe Webb, it appears very likely that the Vikings have found a quarterback to succeed Brett Favre. Minnesota wasnt going to bring Tavaris Jackson back and Favre isnt coming back (finally) so the ascension of Webb to starter re-sets the Vikings as a legitimate force in the NFC North, which they were heading away from being.

And one outside aspect to Minnesotas performance is that anyone who looked at the Bears wins over the Vikings and dismissed Minnesota as a hobbled team should reconsider. Favre was never an overly serious challenge for the Bears under Lovie Smith (he was 9-3 against Favre teams). The Bears were fortunate to miss Adrian Peterson in the snow game at TCF Bank Stadium on that Monday night but Peterson too had been increasingly blunted by the Bears.

Packing in the Packers

Never let it be said that all young players dont get the implications of history in their game.

The game against Green Bay next Sunday isnt just another game and running back Matt Forte was blunt about there being an added measure of sweetness in knocking Green Bay out of the playoffs, which a loss would do to the Packers.

It would be nice, Forte said. It would be even better with us going to the playoffs, just to kind of kick them out and not have them in it either.

One thing the Philadelphia loss also did was eliminate the possibility that the Bears would have to play the Packers this Sunday and, if they lost, face them again the following weekend.

Lovie Smith cited beating the Packers among his three primary goals when he took the job back in 2004. As far as beating Green Bay being added motivation this weekend, Smith says all the right things about the true motivation nowto a point.

We dont need any more motivation, Smith said. Our motivation for us, like its always been, is to win a world championship. As far as the Packers, we realize the rivalry, but its really just about us playing our best ball.

And if something unfortunate happens to them, I mean, so be it.

Thinking North

One thing the Bears have done with Lovie Smith is take care of business close to home. Since Smith arrived in 2004, the Bears hold winning records over each of the other three division rivals

Detroit: 10-4, including six straight

Green Bay: 8-5, plus Sunday

Minnesota: 8-6, including 3-1 vs. Favre Vikings

By comparison, Dave Wannstedt was 1-11 against the Packers. Dick Jauron was 2-8; and Mike Ditka was 15-5, losing his first and last games against Green Bay, the latter against a young Brett.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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