This week's power rankings are part of the NFL playoff scenarios StoryStream™ because the Bears have now clinched a playoff spot and are maneuvering for playoff positioning rather than trying to get in. It's the Bears' first playoff spot (and division title) since the Super Bowl year of 2006 and likely has saved the jobs of both coach Lovie Smith and GM Jerry Angelo (if you're one of the torches and pitchforks group that wanted them both fired, you may still want that, although the playoff spot probably has you happy at least for now).
As usual in this space, we examine the Bears' spot both on SB Nation Atlanta's Unbiased Power Rankings, a favorite since they rank teams strictly numerically, and also SI.com's Peter King's Fine Fifteen, which is posted before the Monday Night Football game.
The Unbiased Power Rankings rank the Bears seventh, and also at the present time give them the third seed in the NFC playoffs. That would have them hosting a game on wild-card weekend; according to SB Nation Atlanta, their opponent would be the wild card Giants. The Bears still do have a chance to be the No. 2 seed, which would give them a needed weekend off and have them hosting a game on the divisional playoff weekend, either Jan. 15 or 16. They cannot have the No. 1 seed; even if they finish with the same record as the Falcons, currently at the top, Atlanta has the tiebreaker (conference record).
The bumps in the road are the Jets and Packers. Playing the Packers is always tough, especially in Green Bay, but on Jan. 2, the season's final day, the Packers might be playing for their playoff lives. And the Jets are coming into Soldier Field off a huge upset of the Steelers in Pittsburgh, as well as knowing that by beating the Bears, they would clinch a playoff spot of their own.
King's Fine Fifteen ranks the Bears ninth, and I suspect after the win over the Vikings last night, he'd probably move them ahead of the Chargers into eighth place. Of the Bears, King wrote (before Monday's game):
Great job on the NFL Matchup show Sunday morning, detailing how offensive coordinator Mike Martz is building solid pockets and quick throws for Jay Cutler to prosper in. He'll have to do that tonight, with wind-chill temps around zero, to beat the Vikes.
That's exactly what they did, in one of the more convincing wins of the year. The Bears can't let up, either, in their last two regular season games. They have to keep up the pressure, both to be playoff-ready and to possibly improve their playoff seed.