Wild-card scramble: Who has the edge?


Wild-card scramble: Who has the edge?

Back when the Bears were the team scoring 50 points in a game in Tennessee, long before the Seattle Seahawks made that point total weekly occurrence the question was whether the Bears would have a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Now it is who else has to lose games to let the Bears squeak into the postseason. Because the first casualty of Sundays 21-13 Green Bay win was the Bears control over their own destiny. If they kept winning, it didnt matter what others did, because the Bears had a lead.

Now they dont. But they arguably have a better course through the minefield of two final games than the teams they find themselves chasing, some of which play each other. All of which presupposes the Bears winning on the road against Arizona and Detroit, two teams with a combined 19 losses.

Seattle is the biggest hurdle because of having beaten the Bears. As for the overall:

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsSeattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers
10-3-1St. Louis Rams
6-7-1Comment: Few teams are playing better than Seattle right now, winners of three straight and five of their last six. Head-to-head tiebreak edge on Bears.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsMinnesota Vikings
@ Houston Texans
12-2Green Bay Packers

Comment: The toughest finishing stretch, although both opponents may be resting their firepower with positions clinched.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsWash. Redskins
@ Philadelphia Eagles
4-10Dallas Cowboys

Comment: Dallas is a blood feud but Washington has won five straight and put up 30 in four of the five.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsDallas Cowboys
New Orleans Saints
6-8@ Washington Redskins

Comment: No one really likes playing the Saints even after losing three straight before dismembering Tampa Bay. Washington in D.C. will be difficult.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsNew York Giants
@ Baltimore Ravens
9-5Philadelphia Eagles

Comment: The Ravens are slumping with three straight losses and getting scored upon. The Eagles should just forfeit.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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