LAKE FOREST – There are a number of scenarios by which the Bears still can make the playoffs in January, but at the end of the day, their chances are slim, and there is only one route that seems more than remote.
If the season ended today, the Seattle Seahawks would be the first wild card, the Vikings would be the second, and the Rams would be the first team out. The Bears would be the second.
To qualify, the Bears will need to leapfrog the 9-4 Vikings and 8-5 Rams, and to achieve that, the Vikings will have to lose to either the Chargers or the Packers and the Bears, and the Rams will have to lose two of three to the Cowboys, Seahawks and Cardinals while the Bears win out.
Again, it’s not the only scenario, but it’s the cleanest and actually not all that far-fetched.
But none of it matters if the Bears lose to the Packers on Sunday in Green Bay.
Asked Monday how he’s reading the mood of his team heading into this final stretch run, coach Matt Nagy said, “Yeah, winning helps. Winning helps for sure.
“I don’t know where this thing will end up. I’ve been talking about a silver lining. I don’t know when that will come or what it is.
“But I’ve said it before, I really, really appreciate the camaraderie, the spirit, just the way everybody in this building has handled everything.
“We know that we have a guaranteed three games left. Where that takes us, I don’t know, but I know I will look back and be very proud.
“But we’ve just got to do everything we can to get a win this week.”
What are the Bears’ chances of getting that win Sunday at Lambeau?
We all know the Bears have won three straight and four of their past five. Over that same stretch, the Packers are 3-2, getting pounded by the Chargers and 49ers, handling the Panthers and Giants, and struggling Sunday with Washington.
The Packers are clearly the better team on the season, but are they the better team right now?
The Bears have gotten fat on the Lions, Giants and Cowboys, and it’s tough to measure the significance of that last win with considering where the Cowboys are at right now.
But they also are winning with dramatically improved play from the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
In answer to a question about running back David Montgomery’s increased production against Dallas, Nagy said he thinks it’s more about the offense as a whole.
“I think just right now, what the feel is with our offense is that it’s not just the running back, it’s not just the quarterback, it’s not just the O-line. Everybody is just kind of syncing right now. Even myself, as a play caller.
“You start to feel stuff you like, things that feel right, concepts that are working. And then everyone’s just worrying about themselves, not worrying about others.
“And you put all that together, and you have success.”
Of course, the bigger test with the Packers will come for the defense and handling Aaron Rodgers, and the news Monday that Bears linebacker Roquan Smith is done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle is a significant blow.
On the other hand, Nagy wouldn’t rule out the return of Danny Trevathan and Akiem Hicks, and although Trevathan still seems a long shot, it’s looking more and more as if Hicks could be back.
“I feel good. I feel good,” Hicks said Monday. “There’s some preparations that need to be made, some finishing, some cleaning up of things to do just to make sure I’m prepared to play and do what I need to do out there.”
And to hear Hicks tell it, he doesn’t care how hard the road ahead may be. He’s just happy to be on it.
“Isn’t that beautiful, just to see the adversity and the grit and the fight that these guys had to go through? And I couldn’t help.
“To be in this position at this time in the season, you have to take advantage of it.”
Everyone has an opinion on how this will all work out, but I prefer for now just to focus on how much fun the next seven days are going to be.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.