LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Bears coach John Fox watched the NFC North race tighten during his team's bye week.
Whether it means anything in the long run for the last-place Bears depends largely on whether they healed enough during their time away and can overcome several problems both on offense and defense to make a second-half run.
"Obviously we could use a little help," Fox said Monday at Halas Hall. Sunday "might have been some. I won't know until I kind of see what we do."
The first-place Vikings lost their third straight, an overtime defeat to the Lions. Green Bay also fell, and the Bears have games left with each division opponent.
The Bears are haunted by games lost in the fourth quarter to Indianapolis and Jacksonville, or they'd be in the mix.
"Well I think again you can spend a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror," Fox said. "Even driving your car, if you spend too much time looking back then you wreck.
"So our focus is in front of us now."
The Bears are at Tampa on Sunday and anticipate a handful of injured starters returning to the lineup. They won't know more on the injury front until Wednesday, but the possibility exists that guards Josh Sitton (ankle) and Kyle Long (tricep), nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle) and cornerback Bryce Callahan will be able to start.
"I think it's a huge boost," Fox said. "As I mentioned before, if you look at what's happened to us in the first half, just at the quarterback position, it's enough to cripple a lot of teams."
Quarterback Jay Cutler returned after missing five starts to lead a victory over the Vikings Oct. 31.
They could also get back wide receiver Marquess Wilson. He has been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp with a foot injury. Monday, his evaluation period for a return began.
"Obviously getting two Pro Bowl guards back is helpful," Fox said, referring to Sitton and Long. "I think the receiver position gets a little deeper, as well as the punt returning. In the secondary, I think Bryce Callahan's been kinda hit or miss through the first half, or part of the first half. That makes us healthier in a lot of spots."
Long took note of all the players at practice who formerly had been populating the trainer's room.
"A lot of people certainly took advantage of the break," Long said. "They did what they needed to do to get their bodies right."
It would be the first time for Goldman since Week 2, when he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Eagles.
"I know we haven't won a lot, but the wins we did have, I sat out on," Goldman said. "That's the toughest part, is watching your team play and rally and you're just sitting on the sidelines watching."
Fox pointed to other problems beyond injuries that need to be fixed.
The offense struggled in the red zone and ranks 22nd at scoring touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line. The defense struggled on third downs early, but has since improved to eighth (36.7 percent).
"We are what we are and right now," Fox said. "We could (finish) 10-6 or 2-14. That's the reality math-wise. I hope we're moving more toward the first one I mentioned.
"We've got our whole half of a season left. It's like the second half of a game. A lot can happen."