Monday, Dec. 27, 2010
By John Mullin
The Philadelphia Eagles can do the Bears a favor by winning Tuesday night. They may be saving the Bears from themselves.
Some teams benefit from bye weeks in playoffs. The Lovie Smith Bears are not one of them. If the Eagles lose, the Bears will have the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which is good, and they would have it in advance of their final game, which is not good.
A little background setup here first:
A Philadelphia win over the Minnesota Vikings in the special weather-induced Tuesday Night Football event is in fact pretty likely. The Vikings have (literally) been traveling around with a thundercloud hanging over them and dumping snow and worse all over them the past few weeks. The dome collapse forced them over to Detroit and a thrashing by the New York Giants (insert joke here).
Then the Bears hang 40 points last Monday night despite Drama Queen Bretts Willis Reed impersonation with the can-you-believe-hes-going-to-start?! Nonsense. Now the perfect storm plays out with the postponement out east.
All of which makes Minnesota that perfect Bears partner.
By losing to the Eagles, the Vikings would ensure that next Sundays flexd Bears game will matter for the Bears quest for a first-round bye in the playoffs. Perversely, this is a good thing, because the Bears have not handled these situations, where because of byes you can rest key players in final regular-season games, at all well recently under Lovie Smith.
The Bears had a first-round bye clinched in 2005, rested Rex Grossman and others against Minnesota, had their week off and then couldnt get the engines re-started in The Great Steve Smith Embarrassment in the divisional round.
In 2006 the Bears rested players in a meaningless sleepwalk against (coincidentally) Green Bay. Then, again they could not get find the On switch after their week off and needed two fourth-quarter defensive stops and overtime to escape at home against the Seattle Seahawks, a team they had beaten 37-6, at home, in the regular season.
The bye week is a good thing. The early clinch and resting players is decidedly not. (And repeating a clarification from earlier this season: The Bears have not had a bye week yet. What they had back in October was an off week. A bye is when you advance in a tournament, like the NFL playoffs).
Predictably perhaps, Smith doesnt see the pitfalls and perils of taking his foot off the gas in last regular-season games.
I think we kept the pedal down then, he said. In 05, we lost. In 06, we went through the same schedule and we won. Either way, you can get the job done. I think the 06 team was better, and thats why we won. I think it still comes down to that.
But that actually makes my point. The 06 team was better, yet barely defeated a team it had previously destroyed.
Still, Smith has lived by things like rotations of players and limits on contact as ways of keeping players fresh, and thats worked pretty well. So hes not likely to deviate from the fresh guys approach at this point.
I think by resting a few guys, I dont think you all of a sudden -- if guys get 20 less plays or something like that in a game -- that all of a sudden they stop playing good football, he reasoned. I just dont see it that way. If we were in a position where we didnt play our guys the entire game, I dont think that has a whole lot to do with what would happen that next week.
Well see. The Eagles can take the issue out of Smiths hands Tuesday night, and they might be doing him a favor ultimately.
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.