The Houston Texans are 7-3 and are tied for the best record in the AFC. They have a two-game advantage in the AFC South over the Tennessee Titans and have taken full advantage of the fact that the Indianapolis Colts are winless without Peyton Manning under center.
The Chicago Bears are 7-3 but are in third place in their division, with the 10-0 Green Bay Packers and the 7-3 Detroit Lions ahead of them. Nonetheless, the Bears had won five straight games and during that stretch had looked like one of the top teams in the NFC.
Both teams face the same exact situation now. The Texans' starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, suffered a foot injury two weeks ago. The Bears' starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, broke his thumb last week. Both quarterbacks are supposed to miss the rest of the regular season, with a chance at returning for postseason play -- that is, if their backups can do just enough to lead their teams there. The situation has to be especially crushing to Texans fans, who hoped Houston could make the postseason for the first time in team history.
Have we seen two situations like this in recent history? Two of the best teams in the NFL have their playoff hopes potentially shattered by their starting quarterback suffering an injury? (Maybe it's slightly reminiscent of when Tim Couch went down in Week 17 and forced Kelly Holcomb into action, but not for this duration of games remaining with top-tier quarterbacks). The Texans turn to Matt Leinart, a guy who struggled in Arizona to be productive but still has some value. The Bears turn to Caleb Hanie, who has very little NFL experience. The Texans are still in decent position to make the playoffs because they play in a weak division. The Bears are still in decent position to make the playoffs because they play great defense. Both teams might have the best running games in the league.
These will be two teams you have to follow closely the rest of the season. The story for the Bears might get even more interesting. After the success that Tim Tebow has had as the Broncos' starter (4-1 this season), Denver released veteran quarterback Kyle Orton yesterday. Orton began his career with the Bears, and that includes a playoff appearance. While he has no attachment or familiarity with the Bears' current system, Pro Football Talk is reporting that Orton pushed for his release from the Broncos in hopes that he could land with the Bears. Wouldn't that be something. Adding to that, the Bears play the Broncos in Denver on December 11. Come on, Chicago -- take a shot on Orton.
What do you think? Will Houston and/or Chicago still make the playoffs?