Should the Bears lose to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, they could draft as high as sixth in the first round, and the lowest they could draft would be ninth. Their pick could fall as low as 12th with a win.
The Bears have nothing to gain by winning.
It certainly wouldn’t change Ryan Pace’s mind in any way about the futures of the people on his coaching staff or in his front office.
On the other hand, the Minnesota Vikings can guarantee themselves a bye in the first round of the playoffs and a home game in the divisional round with a win. They could even play the NFC title game at home should the Eagles lose in the divisional round.
A loss could mean the Vikings would have to win three games on the road with no time off to get to the Super Bowl.
The Vikings still could earn the bye and some home-field advantages with a loss if the Falcons or Saints win their games Sunday, but the Vikings and Bears will kick off at noon while the Falcons-Panthers and Saints-Bucs games won’t start until 3:25 p.m.
The Vikings cannot afford to risk losing to the Bears on Sunday. They are a significantly better team than the Bears, and they are playing at home.
Add the fact that right guard Kyle Long is on injured reserve, and left guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bobby Massie are almost certain to be inactive. What do you expect to happen?
As much as I’d love to give you a unit-by-by unit series of matchups analyzing the Bears’ chances of an upset, it is a waste of time.
The Bears are going to get beat, and the only thing that will keep it short of beat badly is if the Vikings get up by enough early to start resting people.
The Vikings are first in the NFL in total defense and first in fewest points allowed but, a bit surprisingly, are 15th in QB sack percentage.
Nonetheless, Minnesota defensive ends Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison form one of the more fearsome pass-rushing trios in the league. Should this get out of hand early, even though John Fox is likely coaching his last game with the Bears, he should strongly consider sitting Mitch Trubisky if his patchwork O-line is unable to do its job.
As much as Trubisky still needs reps, they won’t be productive reps if he’s running for his life, and the only way things could get worse for Fox is if the exclamation point on his Bears career is a serious injury to the most important player on the team.
No, you can’t play that way in the NFL under almost any circumstances, but Sunday’s are going to be highly unusual.
What will be worth watching is how well left tackle Charles Leno Jr. holds up against Griffen – assuming Griffen stays in the game – to confirm or dispute my belief that one of the Bears’ two greatest needs is an upgrade at Leno’s position.
Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright are veteran receivers who can make their cases with Pace that they should be retained if they can make themselves available against one of the league’s best secondaries.
Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara along with linebacker Christian Jones will be worth watching, as this game will be their final auditions off which Pace will decide whether to work to keep them, while other teams will decide how high they should take the bidding if they can.
Those three are the only important free-agent decisions the Bears have this year, but Jonathan Bullard, Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Kwiatkoski and Adrian Amos are other players whose performances might have some impact on how Pace reshapes his roster this offseason.
At the end of the day, the only important thing for the Bears on Sunday in Minnesota will be to leave healthy.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.