Three weeks ago, the Chicago Bears were rolling along at 7-1 thinking Super Bowl with a dominating defense and leading the NFC North. Two weeks ago, their quarterback Jay Cutler took a vicious shot to the head on a pass play versus the Houston Texans and suffered a concussion; he has not played since. The Bears later lost that game last Sunday 13-6 to the Texans and Monday night were beaten soundly on the road by the San Francisco 49ers 32-7.
It’s the eighth straight time the Bears have lost at San Francisco; three of those losses have been in the playoffs. They have not been close to winning (41-0, 52-14, 44-7, 26-0, 17-0 and 44-15), and Monday night they trailed 20-0 at half before losing 32-7. The 49ers improved to 7-2-1 and lead the NFC West. The Bears are tied at 7-3 with the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
The Packers technically hold the tie breaker head to head because they have beaten the Bears 23-10 and are 2-0 versus division opponents the Bears, who are 1-1. Next Sunday, November 25, the Bears host the 6-4 Minnesota Vikings at Soldiers Field in Chicago. Monday night, both the 49ers and Bears were forced to go with backups because of concussions suffered by both starting quarterbacks.
Alex Smith, the 49ers starter, was hurt in last Sunday’s 24-24 tie with St. Louis, the first game to end a tie in the NFL since 2008. Rookie Colin Kaepernick in his first NFL start on Monday night was brilliant. He threw two first-half touchdown passes and completed 16-23 for 243 yards, and his QB rating was 133.1.
Jason Campbell, the veteran backup with 31 career starts for the Bears, was not good; he was pressured by the forceful 49ers defense into two interceptions and was sacked five times. The NFC is loaded: Falcons are 9-1; 49ers are 7-2-1; Packers and Bears are both 7-3; Seahawks, Buccaneers and Vikings all are 6-4; and Dallas and New Orleans are 5-5. Not much room for error in the NFC race.
With six weeks left the playoff chase is on, and yes the Vikings are very much in the race because they are 2-0 in the division. Usually 10 wins gets you in the playoffs, so that means the Vikings would need to win four of their remaining six games. Four of them are on the road, and four of them are against either Green Bay or Chicago. They play Chicago this Sunday.
The Bears have lost to the Packers, Texans and 49ers. The Packers have beaten the Texans and Bears and lost to the 49ers. The Vikings have beaten the 49ers and will play the Bears, Packers and Texans over the next six weeks. Buckle up: We will see if the Vikings are contenders or pretenders in 2012!
The 49ers beat the Packers, the Packers beat the Bears, and the 49ers beat the Bears. What will the Vikings do Sunday?
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.