If the 2009 Chicago Bears have their eyes on the third division title of the Lovie Smith era, they must beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. No question about it. You can't fancy yourselves a contender and lose a road game you're favored to win against a team sans their starting quarterback and best defensive player. It's not allowed.
It's about more than Hawk health, however. The Bears have a lot to prove. The 2008 Bears only won three consecutive games once all season - in December. A win Sunday would give them the opportunity to achieve that goal next week, at home, against the Lions. Outside of December, they never won back-to-back games that did not involve the Detroit. A successful NFL season is about consistency and improvement. The '09 Bears should improve steadily. But will they be consistent?
As Zach Zaidman points out, they're also 3-9 away from home over their last twelve. Aside from humiliating losses at Atlanta, Green Bay and Minnesota last season, the Bears also refused to show up defensively with their playoff aspirations on the line in Houston. They're only impressive road victory all season came in Indianapolis on opening night. They tend to suffer meltdowns late and commit a load of pre-snap penalties. Depleted or not, they can't afford to face long yardage on offense or give a terrific receiving corps extra opportunities to make plays.
Must-wins come in different shades. The Tennessee Titans must beat the New York Jets to rescue a drowning season. The Green Bay Packers must beat the St. Louis Rams because they're the St. Louis Rams and the Pack is under tremendous scrutiny. The Carolina Panthers must beat the Dallas Cowboys or last season's conference #2 seed will be competing for the #2 pick in the draft. The Bears don't face such dire straits. They could salvage starting 1-2 but salvage what?