Last night the New Orleans Saints put the rest of the NFC contenders on notice; any playoff scenario you envision requires you to prepare to play the defending NFL champions. The current wisdom had the Atlanta Falcons unbeatable in the Georgia Dome, and that Matt Ryan can win any game in the final minutes.
Both of those notions have been put to rest by Drew Brees and an unrelenting Saints defense. Brees has patience, poise, and moves like a waterbug, evading defenders who could get ahold of him, but could seldom wrap him up.
Drew Brees showed a lot of confidence, even after being intercepted on consecutive possessions. A rushed dump off pass that he should have thrown into the cheap seats was returned for a touchdown that accounted for half of Atlanta's points on the evening.
Their defense kept 'Matty Ice' to a very tepid 77.9 quarterback rating, with 148 passing yards.
With the Falcons closing out their season in the Georgia Dome against the 2-13 Carolina Panthers, they're still a pretty safe bet to retain the number one seed, but if they were to lose and N.O. beat the Buccaneers they'd trade seeds and New Orleans would be well positioned to repeat as NFC champions, at the very least.
Tonight the postponed Minnesota Vikings - Philadelphia Eagles game takes place. The Eagles won the NFC East this week, by virtue of the New York Giants being dismantled by the Green Bay Packers, the Bears final regular season opponent.
With a Vikings win, the Bears would be assured of having no worse than the second seed. Adrian Peterson is probable for this game, but don't expect the Vikes and rookie quarterback Joe Webb to do Chicago's heavy lifting tonight.
With their season for all intents over, it may seem that forcing the Minnesota Vikings to stay in their Philadelphia hotel rooms two extra days is a hardship. But don't forget these are pampered professional athletes. The news out of the Vikings camp is that each player has been treated to two, that's right, TWO in-room movies, courtesy of the organization.
We'll have more updates to the playoff picture in Week 16, assuming that it ever ends. Keep looking here for all your playoff and Bears news and updates.