Note: Make sure you stop by tomorrow morning. There will be significant picks contest bonus potential for the Thanksgiving games.
I have been receiving multiple Tweets and emails all basically alluding to the same idea: the 2012 season for the Chicago Bears is not "over" but expectations for that season have been lowered immensely. My only question is a simple one: why?
What did we learn Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers that we did not already know? We know the Bears were not a legitimate playoff threat without Jay Cutler playing quarterback. We know the offensive line will not hold up, unless given significant assistance, against the best pass rushes in the sport. We know Lovie Smith's defenses, even when playing their best, are prone to a disastrous night or two along the way. (2006 Dolphins, anyone?) We know the head coach is a solid leader of men but rarely gets the best of the top tier head coaches in the league. And I believe we have learned over the course of this season's first ten games that Mike Tice is a fun interview and a somewhat awful offensive coordinator.
But suddenly, because the Bears have caught in the standings by the prohibitive preseason Super Bowl favorite, the alien spacecraft has settled above the Lakefront with its death beam pointed directly at Soldier Field. Rahm has declared a state of emergency. Production on the new season of Boss has been delayed. There is a sign on the front door of the Green Mill Lounge reading "How Can You Think of Jazz at a Time Like This?"
Remember, this is the new NFL. There are not great teams on a consistent week-to-week basic in the regular season. Houston needed two scores in overtime to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Super Bowl champion Giants were trounced in Cincinnati the last time they took the field. Did you see Green Bay and Atlanta win Sunday? Did either impress you even remotely? The Patriots run a tight end specific offense and may not have a healthy tight end on the field for a month. I'm not arguing the Bears are a great team. They're not. Not with Tice calling the plays and those five fellas up front blocking. What I am arguing is there are NO great teams anywhere to be found in the NFL these days.
To make Monday night the game by which you judge the season seems foolish. If the defense does not show up, as they did not against Colin Kaepernick and the boys, the Bears don't have a chance to beat a good team without their starting quarterback. This Bears club, perhaps more than any other team in the sport, can not erase large deficits because they can't protect the passer down for down over the long haul of a second half.
The 2012 Bears have a specific identity. They play ferocious defense, turn you over, keep the game close and blow your doors off in the fourth quarter with a quarterback who has dominated late. Will that identity hold through the duration of the regular season and into January? We don't have to guess. Minnesota and Seattle are their prime competitors for the wild card spot in the NFC and they are three of the next four dates on the calendar. Green Bay is the fourth, at Soldier Field, to possibly decide the division title. If the Bears go 3-1 over these next four nobody will remember the Monday night meltdown.
And then we'll see where expectations sit.