Right when he was finally beginning to live up to expectations for the red-hot Bears, Jay Cutler is in jeopardy of losing the rest of his season, according to multiple reports.

Cutler stepped up with a great performance with Matt Forte struggling Sunday against San Diego, as the Bears won their fifth straight game to keep pace with Detroit in the playoff race. But he reportedly broke his right thumb while being blocked after throwing a fourth-quarter interception to San Diego’s Antoine Cason.

Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports that Cutler will miss 6-8 weeks, which would keep him out until the playoffs in the best-case scenario.

The irony is that, back in September, Cutler wondered aloud whether he’d make it through the season because he was taking an unprecedented number of hits. But as we pointed out earlier today, his offensive line has done a fantastic job keeping their quarterback upright in recent weeks. Cutler, who was sacked 11 times in the first two weeks of the season, has taken only five sacks during Chicago’s current five-game winning streak.

Now it appears he won’t make it through the season, with a playoff appearance very much in doubt. But the injury had nothing to do with his highly-scrutinized line. Instead, it came as the direct result of his own mistake.

Now, unless they look for a veteran free agent like Jake Delhomme or Trent Edwards, the Bears will be stuck with the inexperienced Caleb Hanie as they battle for a playoff spot in the deep NFC. Hanie, who went undrafted out of Colorado State in 2008, has thrown 14 regular-season passes in his career. But you’ll remember him best for his cameo appearance in last year’s NFC championship game. After Cutler went down with a knee injury, Hanie completed 13 of 20 passes in the second half of a 21-14 loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay.

Here’s a look at Chicago’s schedule the rest of the way:

Week 12: at Oakland
Week 13: vs. Kansas City
Week 14: at Denver
Week 15: vs. Seattle
Week 16: at Green Bay
Week 17: at Minnesota

They can probably beat Kansas City, Seattle and Minnesota and get an extra win against either Oakland or Denver with Hanie at quarterback, which would be enough to grab a wild-card spot. But there’s no guarantee that Cutler could be back in time for wild-card weekend. Can a Hanie-led Bears team win on the road in January?

For that reason, sticking with the status quo is risky. But with the options on the open market very limited and the trade deadline passed, the Bears’ options are severely limited.

Unless they decide to pursue a certain gunslinger who’s had a ton of experience in the NFC North and is now spending his days in Mississippi. (Sorry, had to throw it out there.)