Sunday the Chicago Bears cross the border into the land of moose meat and shady prostitutes lingering outside check cashing establishments a mile from the Niagara Falls casinos. (I may or may not have firsthand information on this.) They face the winless but gutsy Buffalo Bills. A team that has turned a corner in their 2010 campaign. A team that has taken two superior opponents, in consecutive weeks, on the road, into overtime.
And if the Bears come back to the states with a .500 record, hanging the Bills their first win of the year, the hourglass will have flipped on Jerry, Lovie and the boys. This is a not a must-win game for the 2010 season. That was two weeks ago against the Washington Redskins. This is a must-win for an organization regime that has designs on signing a new lease on their swanky Chicagoland estates.
If Lovie Smith's Chicago Bears lose this week to the Buffalo Bills, he'll cease to be a concern for fans and media. His name (as well as Jerry Angelo's) will be replaced on the airwaves by Bill Parcells, John Fox, Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher. If the Bears lose to the Bills this week, there is no hope for Lovie Smith. No possible winning streak to ignite the fans. No brilliant performance capable of convincing the McCaskey family he's the man for the job. If the Bears lose to the Bills this week, the only question that will remain is whether or not the Bears will fall below the Vikings and Lions in the standings as the season progresses.
And the bye week does not help matters. Fair or not, most analysts use a team's performance in the aftermath of the bye to accurately evaluate a coach's ability to adjust mid-season and inspire his team on the field. We should know about ten minutes into Sunday's contest whether or not Lovie's voice has been lost on the 53 men who have been charged with keeping his paychecks coming. With the Bears, it usually doesn't take much longer than that.