Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will miss the rest of the regular season with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. Even through he finished the team’s win over the hapless San Diego Chargers on Sunday, it was determined Cutler will need surgery, forcing the Bears to turn to backup Caleb Hanie.
Green Bay Packers fans no doubt remember Hanie as the third-string quarterback who almost led the Bears back in the NFC Championship game last season after Cutler hurt his vagina and the Packers knocked the completely-ineffective Todd Collins from the game.
Hanie was 13-of-20 for 153 yards in that game, but he’s never started a game in his pro career, much less in the heat of a playoff race. Coach Lovie Smith says the Bears plan to rely on their running game offensively and this is, of course, always a team that’s relied on defense, but will that be enough to get them into the playoffs?
At 7-3, the Bears weren’t going to catch the Packers for the division crown, but they had a legitimate shot at a Wild Card spot. The problem is, so do a lot of other teams. Detroit and New Orleans are also 7-3. Assume New Orleans will win the NFC South and either the Giants or Cowboys, who are both 6-4, will win the NFC East.
That leaves the Bears competing with the Lions, Falcons (6-4), Giants/Cowboys loser, and a number of 4-6 teams for one of two Wild Card spots. The Bears will probably need to win at least three of their final six games.
Their schedule breaks down like this — at Oakland, Kansas City, at Denver, Seattle, at Green Bay, at Minnesota. You can probably see two wins in there somewhere, but who knows if there are any more. A lot of that probably comes down to Hanie.
The good news for the Bears is, Cutler wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire before he went down. He’s been decent, but has only thrown for 2,319 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
If the Bears make the playoffs, Hanie isn’t going to scare anyone, but then, was Cutler really going to scare anyone? If they can pull off a Wild Card spot and don’t totally fall apart without Cutler, this is still a team I wouldn’t want to face in the playoffs.