Bears coach Matt Nagy

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Gabriel: 10 Wins Should Be Magic Number For Bears

The Bears need to earn two more wins in a tricky schedule down the stretch.

Greg Gabriel
December 05, 2018 - 11:20 am
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(670 The Score) Twice this year, the Bears have lost road games against beatable opponents after quality winning streaks.

On Oct. 14, Chicago fell 31-28 in overtime at Miami after a three-game winning streak. On Sunday, the Bears fell 30-27 in overtime to the Giants on the road after a five-game winning streak. 

There were mitigating factors in each loss. The heat and humidity in Miami was cited as the reason for the Bears' poor play in that loss. Starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being sidelined with a shoulder injury and backup Chase Daniel's ensuing shaky play was a factor in why the Bears played uneven football Sunday.

While those points hold merit, I'm calling hogwash on those serving as primary reasons and excusing the defeats. What mattered more? On both occasions, the Bears lacked the physicality and intensity needed to win in the NFL, traits that have accompanied them in each of their wins amid an 8-4 start.

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Many observers have downplayed the loss to the Giants in recent days. They're wrong to do so. While many may not want to believe it, the Bears are flirting with trouble. They're no lock or near-lock to win the NFC North or even reach the playoffs now, given some of the recent shortcomings that have been on display and their remaining schedule. 

The Bears have a 1.5-game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North. They host the Rams (11-1) and Packers (4-7-1) in the next two weeks, then finish with road games against the 49ers (2-10) and Vikings (6-5-1). The Bears will certainly be favored against the Packers and 49ers, but San Francisco is the only game that I view as a "gimme." Despite their struggles, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay will provide a formidable challenge at Soldier Field.

The Bears need to get to 10-6 to be safe. That's the key down the stretch: get to 10 wins.

If they drop three of their final four to finish at 9-7 -- that would presumably include a loss in the regular-season finale at Minnesota -- the Bears would be in real jeopardy of losing the division to the Vikings, whose remaining schedule looks like this: at Seahawks, vs. Dolphins, at Lions and vs. Bears.

As of today, the Seahawks (7-5) and Vikings hold the two NFC wild-card spots, with the Panthers, Eagles and Redskins trailing at 6-6.

The Seahawks have two tough matchups (vs. Vikings, vs. Chiefs) and two favorable games (at 49ers, vs. Cardinals) remaining. A 10-6 mark is reasonable for them to achieve. One of the Panthers/Eagles/Redskins could reasonably get to 9-7, and the Bears' goal should be to stay clear of them and out of any tiebreaker scenario.

Helping the Bears' case is that they hold the tiebreaker over the Seahawks via a head-to-head win and also the fact that (barring a tie) the Minnesota-Seattle game this Monday night will produce a loss that helps Chicago on either the NFC North or wild-card scene. 

The Bears could've breathed easy had they beaten the Giants on Sunday. Instead, the pressure had been ramped up as they still need two more victories. The loss at New York was a reminder that no contest can be taken for granted for Chicago, even one against a struggling San Francisco team. And a defining hallmark of Rodgers' career has been beating the Bears, so the Packers game will be as tricky as always.

We've found out a lot about the Bears three-quarters of the way through the regular season. Down the stretch, we'll find out even more about their character and the coaching chops of Matt Nagy and his staff. Because the challenge now is to find two more wins in the final four regular-season games.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.​​​​