With two weeks left in the NFL season, the top spot in the NFC North division belongs to a team with the worst run defense in the NFL. A team which allowed a record tying 6 100+ yard runners in a row. A team playing without their top three Pro Bowl defensive players.
Your Chicago Bears.
That’s right, as difficult as it might be to accept without constantly looking up and waiting for the other shoe to drop, the Bears sit alone in first place in the NFC North with the Lions’ loss to Baltimore on Monday Night Football. A loss that was clinched with a 61 yard field goal at the end of regulation. In the five games since the Lions beat the Bears and all but had their spot atop the division solidified, they have gone 1-4. In a season we thought was lost with injuries to Cutler, Briggs, Tillman, Melton, Collins, Williams, the list goes on, the Lions have done what the Lions do best, choke. Now the Bears and the Aaron Rogers-less Packers are both in contention for the division with only two games remaining in the season. A Bears win in Philadelphia on Sunday and a Lions and Packers loss clinches the division for the Bears. And while it’s difficult to trust the Bears not to disappoint us all while our hopes are high, it is a distinct possibility with the way the Lions have been playing and with Aaron Rogers still not cleared to return. The Eagles will be looking to bounce back from a huge loss to last place Minnesota, and they bring the best rushing offense in the NFL with them against a Bears team still unable to stop the run.
Worse yet, there’s still the possibility of a Week 17 match-up with Green Bay that brings me back to memories of 2010 when the Packers beat the Bears to get them into the playoffs, and then went on to eliminate Chicago. With this win and the Lions’ loss, the Bears have put hope back in all of us, and it is really hard to accept given the emotional rollercoaster we’ve gone through all season.
It has been a long time since the Bears have been challenged by a true playoff caliber team, and this Eagles game will be a really good indication of where the Bears truly are. My gut is that we’ll see the true Bears this week—an offense with dynamic flashes, a defense with too many holes and unable to come up with big stops in big moments. I see a high scoring game where the team whose defense can come up with the big stop late in the game will win it – and the Bears’ defense has been known to give up late-game full length of the field scoring drives. I don’t think losing this game will completely soil their chances of a playoff berth due simply to the choke-jobs in Detroit – however a loss will tell us that this is still not a team ready to compete for a championship, something we’ve known since early in the season but have been too distracted by the offense to notice. A win goes a long way – it’ll mean that they finally figured out how not to get run all over – but I don’t trust the Bears defense to surprise us suddenly this late in the year. I fear for the worst but, like I do every week, will be watching and hoping for the best.