Three years ago, the Chicago Bears, led by a dominant defense and an incompetent quarterback, marched into the playoffs with a bye week to start and as the #1 seed in the NFC. It took overtime for them to beat Seattle 27-24, avoiding a huge potential upset. If you recall, Seattle only advanced because Tony Romo dropped the snap on a short 19 yard field goal (shorter than an extra point!) which would have put the Cowboys ahead 23-21 with only 1:19 left in the game.
The Bears then dismantled the New Orleans Saints 39-14 despite 354 yards passing from Drew Brees and 132 yards rushing from Reggie Bush. Meanwhile the Indianapolis Colts won their third straight playoff game of the year 38-34 over the Patriots. It would be the Bears and the Colts in the Super Bowl.
So the Bears beat the Saints and then played the Colts for the championship. That was the last playoff game the Bears PLAYED. As you know, the Saints and the Colts played each other for the Super Bowl this year. The Saints didn't make the playoffs the next year and the Colts lost a close one to the Chargers. The next year, the same thing happened: no Saints and the Colts lost in the first round.
Different story this year though, but not for the Bears. And next year? I wouldn't bet against the Saints or Colts and wouldn't bet on the Bears making the playoffs. Divergent paths indeed.