To paraphrase the great Van Morrison, "Have I told you lately how much I hate goddamn bye weeks?" Well I hate bye weeks, especially this early in the season. I understand it comes at a perfect time for the ailing Bears but I was just getting into the flow and rhythm of my Sunday routine and here comes the NFL to put me on the bench. It sucks.
There's a lot of things we know about this 2009 team (Cutler terrific, Forte steady) and many things we're beginning to learn (Knox a developing star, pass rush improved). But when I'm asked how good this team is my token response has become that there's too much I don't know. Too much we can't know after only four games. Like what? Like this...
Is Al Afalava any good?
Be honest, do you know? Afalava became one of the stories of training camp and has been all-but-invisible in his starting role through the first four games. No one's written about him and I haven't heard Lovie mention his name in a single post-game press conference. Dan Pompei's coaches' tape analysis of the safeties opens with, "No impact plays here." The Bears haven't been gashed by any long runs...so that's good.
Can Orlando Pace block an elite pass rusher?
Bob Legere gets more specific: can he block Jared Allen? There's a lot of season ahead for Orlando and both Atlanta and Cincinnati - in the next two ballgames - pose very specific threats on the outside. Most were concerned with his durability heading into the year but struggles against the speed of Aaron Curry left me wondering if this guy can still line up opposite a big-time end keep the blindside secure. Until he does it, how do you know?
Can the Bears play a complete game?
They've yet to lead a game at the half and yet to lose a second half. The defense gave up 21 first-half points to the Detroit Lions and they've given up 27 second-half points all season. The offense struggles to get into a rhythm early and seems invincible with the game on the line late. You just wonder how good this team can be if they show up for all four quarters.