There is not much criticism that can be levied this week. And that is greatly disappointing.
After walking out of Lincoln Financial Field, one of the toughest venues for an opposing team to play, with a 30-24 win over the so-called dream team Monday night, the Bears find themselves exactly where they wanted to be: right in the middle of the NFC playoff race. Jay Culter played well, Matt Forte overcame two early turnovers to show yet again why he should be paid by the Bears, and the defense stopped the all world Eagles offense (heavy sarcasm intended).
It was exactly the type of win that the Bears needed. And that is what has me concerned.
Am I suggesting that Chicago is suddenly going to power its way to the top of the NFC North? Not in the slightest. The Packers are clearly in the drivers seat, and with the benefit of good talent and a less than stellar schedule down the stretch (2 games against the Packers not withstanding) the Lions are going to be in the mix for the long haul. These two teams are your two best teams in the division through the first 8 games of the 2011 season. Period. End of story.
And then there’s the Bears.
Sitting at 5-3 is exactly what concerns me about this team. They are not at the top of the division or the conference, and as a result can fly somewhat under the radar. They are also not out of any playoff scenerio. In fact, if the playoffs were to begin today, the Bears would be the number 6 seed in the NFC. Partly due to other teams failure to capitalize on high expectations, and partly due to their resilience, Chicago continues to hang around the playoff picture. That is something to keep an eye on.
As we discussed last week on Cheesehead Radio it is my belief that the Bears are the biggest challenge to the Packers this season. Not that they are going to overtake the Packers for the division crown, but if Green Bay is still undefeated on Christmas Day when these two teams play, I could see the Bears pulling off the upset and walking out of Lambeau with a victory. Is is because they are more talented than the Packers? Absolutely not. Is it because the Bears simply know how to play the Packers? Absolutely yes. And because they continue to hang around, this game may be meaningless to the Packers in the regular season standings, but could have a huge impact on the playoff implications for the Bears.
I wonder if the situation presented itself if Mike McCarthy would have to make the same decision Lovie Smith made last season: is keeping the Bears out of the playoffs that important? Would he play his starters the entire game in what would be meaningless in the regular season standings, but help decide the overall playoff picture? Let’s hope the Bears are far in the rear view mirror by that game, and he doesn’t have to make that decision.
The longer the Bears hang around, the more I envision the Packers and the Bears meeting each other in the playoffs again. Could you handle another Packers/Bears playoff game? I think once every 70 years is enough for everyone to stomach.
Filed Under: John Rehor