You can't learn anything from the first quarter of the season. Nothing. Zero. The Baltimore Ravens were the best team in football after three meaningless wins. Patriots. Loss. Bengals. Loss. The New York Giants are currently the cream of the crop, having beaten the crappy Redskins, bad Cowboys, awful Bucs, piss poor Chiefs and beyond-miserable Raiders. Minnesota is riding high at 5-0 as well, with their win at San Francisco suddenly look far-less impressive.
The truth is we don't know now. But we start knowing soon. And for the Chicago Bears...real soon. I'd always thought the Atlanta game would be the first real litmus test of the 2009 season (I picked them to the conference's number one seed) but I never suspected that it'd be followed by a similarly daunting task in Cincinnati. It is. If the Bears split these next two, they should be able to do enough down the stretch to keep themselves in the hunt. Win both and they could be en route to something. (Losing both makes 8-8 a grim reality.)
It starts with Atlanta. Against a San Francisco defense that Tony Siragusa said reminded him of his 2000 Super Bowl Ravens (I couldn't believe he said it either), Ryan/Turner/White put up almost five hundred yards of total offense in a 45-10 shellacking. They run it. They throw it. They block it. They do all three well. If the Bears can go on the road and beat these Falcons, it'll be their first real accomplishment of the 2009 season.
And the Bears need only look at the tape of yesterday's game against the 49ers to understand what will happen if they turn in one of their trademark mail-in-job first halves against Atlanta. Points. Piles of them. Quickly.