The Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals both started the season hot, with the Cardinals 4-0 at one point, and the Bears sitting at 7-1. Unfortunately for both teams, it went downhill from there, but Chicago's prolonged success to start the season has put them in a position to make the playoffs.
But they'll still need to win out, and they'll likely need a little help on top of that. The Bears are in a desirable position if you're, say, the Cardinals, but they're on the outside looking in as it stands. They appear to have an easier schedule than some of the other teams, but the Cardinals will be trying to score wins in the final two weeks to potentially save the jobs of some of the coaching staff, and maybe some of the players.
Meet the Cardinals
If there's a team with a worse-off situation at quarterback in the NFL, it wouldn't be by much. The Cardinals started the season with something of a controversy between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, and have also thrown Ryan Lindley in the mix. It's unlikely that any of these players are the answer.
They boast one of the NFL's top defenses against the pass, and if they hope to win on Sunday, they'll need to force Jay Cutler into making mistakes. But if the Bears play it smart, they'll lean on Matt Forte, as the Cardinals have one of the league's worst rushing defenses.
Meet the Bears
After starting 7-1, the Bears are now 8-6, and they need help to make the playoffs. Their defense was called the best in the NFL early on in the season, and looked to be nearing NFL-record levels of turnovers, but they've been few and far between on their recent skid.
Fortunately, against the Cardinals, this defense might be able to get some momentum going. Injuries have plagued them, but their secondary is still in good shape, and if they can force Arizona's quarterback (whoever it may be) into throwing interceptions, they could pick up some solid traction heading into Week 17, which many believe is another easy game for Chicago.
Local Takes: Cardinals
Tyler Nickel of Revenge of the Birds wrote about the strong play of Arizona's offensive line and the test they'll face on Sunday.
I would think that the Cardinals' line, given the good streak they are on, will be able to contain the Bears for most of the day, especially since Melton is not likely to play. Still, you can never really count on an offensive line this inconsistent to perform every game at a high level.
Local Takes: Bears
Over at Windy City Gridiron, they talk about how history is on their side, given the most recent Super Bowls and the late-entry teams that played in them (and won them).
Do you realize that four of the last five Super Bowls had a team in it that was one of the last teams into the postseason? Not only that but last two Super Bowls were won by teams who got in on the last day of the season?
Follow the Fun
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Is Ryan Lindley really THAT bad? sbn.to/TdWxLQ
— Revenge of the Birds (@revengeofbirds) December 22, 2012
While the Cardinals do present some interesting challenges, especially on the defensive side of the ball, the Bears want this one more. It's entirely likely that the Bears win out and set themselves up for the playoffs. Whether or not they actually make it depends on some other factors entirely.
The pick: Bears win, 28-14
The Bears opened as 5.5-point favorites, and can be had as favorites of close to a touchdown on some books, according to OddsShark.