The emotional leader of the Chicago Bears’ defense is going to be back in a sadly familiar position this weekend: leading from the sidelines.
Veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher is injured, yet again.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Urlacher strained his hamstring in Sunday's loss to the Seahawks. The severity of the so-called Grade 2 sprain is such that one surgeon quoted by the Tribune said a typical recovery time is in the range of four to six weeks.
Even in the best-case scenario, that costs the Bears the services of their eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker for the rest of the regular season. Fortunately for Chicago, their last month of pre-playoff action is just easy enough that they should be able to squeak into a wild-card berth.
This Sunday’s visit to Minnesota won’t be a cakewalk, but even with Urlacher playing a mediocre game, Chicago pounded the same Vikings two weeks ago. Adrian Peterson will get his yards, but it’s not impossible that struggling Christian Ponder will still have enough trouble to keep the Bears in the game.
Chicago is almost certain to lose to Green Bay the following week, but even if both the Vikings and Packers take them down, they’ll still be 8-6 and in the running for a playoff spot. That’s when luck kicks in.
The final two games for Chicago are against Arizona and Detroit, teams with a combined 8-16 record. Even more crucial, neither has the offensive personnel to take advantage of Urlacher’s absence.
Arizona’s offense has been a fiasco all season, as highlighted by last week’s embarrassing 7-6 loss to the limping Jets. The Cardinals (losers of eight in a row) aren’t going to beat Chicago, even at home.
That brings the Bears to the season-ending showdown with the Lions, normally a team that would pounce on any defensive weakness. However, Detroit has just lost two of its top three wide receivers (Titus Young and Ryan Broyles) to season-ending injuries, and even Calvin Johnson won’t be enough to overcome that disadvantage.
Once the Bears get to the playoffs—probably with Urlacher still out of commission—it’s hard to like their chances. But, by taking advantage of a favorable schedule (just as they’ve done all year), they still have a great shot to get to the postseason in spite of Urlacher’s absence.