Bears secure No. 2 seed in NFC playoff picture

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Bears secure No. 2 seed in NFC playoff picture

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.

Bears face decisions on Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and 2017 roster

Bears face decisions on Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and 2017 roster

What we "knew" most about the 2016 Bears heading into the season is that, offensively, Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery would be the straws that stirred the offensive drink. 

Thanks to injuries, suspension and a perfect storm that resulted in a 3-13 season, the straw had a hole in it, the team still couldn't collectively close out games and a fifth-round rookie (Jordan Howard) and a second-year undrafted free agent (Cam Meredith) turned into the greatest causes for optimism on that side of the ball. 

The news that the team is shopping Cutler is hardly news-bulletin worthy. We've written about Cutler Fatigue here and discussed it on CSN's BearsTalk Podcasts for some time now. A breakup has seemed inevitable after eight years of .500 ball when he's been behind center. The tricky part is finding an alternative that would be a marked improvement for a coaching staff that might need to finish .500 to continue on the job in 2018. Yet that's the gamble that must be taken for a franchise that almost needs to move on, for better or worse, in order to find a way out of the muddy ditch it's found itself in.

Cutler must first be deemed healthy enough after labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder - something similar to what Buffalo did with Tyron Taylor this week following groin surgery. But Taylor might be a safer bet to stay with the Bills than Cutler is here. Those medicals might be out there already around the league if shopping has truly begun. And while a new destination for Cutler might not earn him the same salary (roughly $15 million) he'd make here, the thinking here is he'd prefer a fresh start just as much as the Bears want one. 

So let's go shopping.

Cleveland? No. 

San Francisco as a stopgap starter? Maybe. There's tons of salary cap space while a successor is groomed, and there's the Shanahan (Kyle/Mike) Factor. But more losing. 

How about Jacksonville to push his young clone, Blake Bortles? Perhaps. There's still a loaded, talented young defense that has yet to reach a promising ceiling, and a couple of talented receivers. 

The Los Angeles Rams could provide a push for Jared Goff (though it's hard not to see Goff being the starter, for better or worse). But if something should happen, Cutler would be ready, with Todd Gurley, what should be a respectable defense and a location close to where wife Kristin Cavallari can return to actressing. 

Jay in Buffalo? Good one! 

Arizona has already shot down interest. 

We don't see Denver wanting him back as they await Paxton Lynch's maturity with Trevor Siemian as a bridge. 

Reuniting with Adam Gase in Miami could be an option with Ryan Tannehill's health still a mystery. 

Then there's always Houston. I'm looking for Tony Romo's ultimate destination impacting Jay's. 

But retiring, as some reports this week suggested? No. Despite the public perception, Jay is a competitor, and I truly believe that still runs through him. He may not get to prove his reputation wrong before he retires, but despite what body language experts feel, I believe he'd still like to prove something. But I'm also not counting on any team giving up a draft pick for him. Teams know the Bears will release him, but if a club lower on the waiver claim wire truly desires him, Ryan Pace has squeezed something out from teams for his players on the discard pile before.

As for Jeffery, all remains quiet on the franchise tag front. The seal remains tight at Halas Hall over whether there have been any negotiations this past week, and if so, whether they've moved in a positive, long-term direction. 

Two things to keep in mind: the Bears did not tag him last year until the day before the deadline to do so. That deadline this year is March 1. The other is the fact that other teams in similar situations (such as Washington with Kirk Cousins and Kansas City with Eric Berry and Dontari Poe) have yet to make moves either, as that deadline looms. If the Bears determine they'll cut ties with Cutler, Eddie Royal and Lamarr Houston, that will free up another $24 million in cap space on top of the $60 million-plus they have already. Perhaps that factors into the decision on Jeffery, who'd get paid $17 million in 2017 under a second straight franchise tag for a team that needs play-makers and a coaching staff that needs wins next season. Letting him go would require attention and a portion of those dollars to replace him in the draft and/or free agency.

We leave all our internet/talk radio caller GM's with this question: Would you REALLY want to be in Ryan Pace's shoes this offseason? Can you be as shrewd, wise and run the table to the extent he must, especially at the most important, franchise-shaping position (which, granted, he's put on the back-burner his first two years)? And "get it right" to build momentum moving forward for a franchise that's reached the playoffs just once in the past decade? The rebuild remains substantial. And so are the decisions he faces in a crucial offseason.

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

This is apparently the week of Jay Cutler news.

Reports surfaced earlier this week the Bears are pushing hard to find a trade partner for the enigmatic quarterback, though Ian Rapoport reported the organization informed Cutler in mid-January they were shopping him around.

It seems clear Cutler's time in Chicago has come to an end and an ensuing move is more of a formality at this point.

But apparently Cutler may not even suit up again...for ANY team.

Rapoport reported on NFL Network Wednesday night Cutler is mulling over retirement, even as he's healthy and working out now after shoulder surgery.

"There's no guarantee Cutler even plays in 2017, one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play or not play, retire, walk away. A lot of things at play here for Jay Cutler."

Host Dan Hellie immediately followed up, asking for clarification on the retirement part.

"It is a consideration; it's something he's confided in people," Rapoport said. "But Dan, I would say, it's not a surprise for quarterbacks this age. We've heard [Ben] Roethlisberger talk about it; we've heard Tony Romo talk about it. If it's not perfect, if he can't find the team he wants or the contract he wants, it's very easy for Jay Cutler to walk away."

Whoa.

Cutler, 33, has made more than $112 million in his 11-year career and is owed at least another $2 million in 2017, even if he's cut by the Bears.