Following the demolishing of the Miami Dolphins, and a chance for players to rest-up with the weekend off, the Bears are now regrouping and beginning to look on to Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
After kickoff at 3:15 Sunday, both teams will be playing for an 8-3 record. While many Bears fans have been riding high on the team's three-game winning streak, even naysayers would have to start buying into the team if they are able to contain Vick and ground the Eagles' offensive attack.
The Bears have been criticized for spotty play, lack of discipline, and inept coaching at various points throughout the season. Yet, despite these glaring disadvantages, the Bears have still put up a 7-3 record. I have been a naysayer for most of the year, expecting at every possible turn early on for the team to implode, crumbling apart and leaving us fans with a long and painful season to endure.
This has not been the case. The Bears have seemingly improved for, at minimum, three weeks in a row now, and the timing of this improvement is immaculate, as it leads up to the team's best test since beating Green Bay early on in week three. A few weeks ago I was dreading this upcoming matchup at Soldier Field, but with the team seemingly on the rise, this appears to be the perfect time for the Bears to be tested.
Remaining naysayers have loudly been clamoring that the Bears have no actual wins to hang their hats on. They will say that Green Bay gave the Bears the game in week three with an atrocious collection of penalties, and that last week's win against Miami is unimpressive because of the injuries suffered to the Dolphins. Such doom-and-gloomers will also say that the win against Dallas does not count for anything because they have since turned into an abomination, despite what was expected of them when they lost to the Bears in week two.
That leaves Bears fans with wins against the Lions, Panthers, Bills, and Vikings, whose combined records come to 8-32. Clearly, when one is not allowed to count any of the team's "good" wins, this 7-3 team is pretty depressing... when you choose to spin things that way. To these naysayers, from whom I have only recently departed, I call to you to look at things a bit differently; then you can actually enjoy whatever success the Bears experience this year... and if they end up blowing it all, you can always claim you knew it from the start.
First off, near the beginning of the season, I would have had the Bears losing to the Packers with nearly any amount of penalty yards going the Bears' way. Likewise, I expected to see the healthy, don't forget that Romo was still around and the team had only lost once when the Bears came to town, Cowboys easily handle the Bears in Dallas. The Cowboys didn't know they were a suck-fest team yet, and I'm sure they were attempting to beat the Bears that day.
Would any of us have expected the Bears to beat even a mediocre 5-4 Miami team on the road after how the team performed in losses to the Seahawks and the Redskins? My point is that the Bears have won games that they shouldn't have, or at least games that people doubting the team should not have expected them to win. Bad teams lose the types of games that the Bears have won. So, we know they are not a bad team.
The Bears are undefeated within their division (at 3-0) and have an outstanding 4-1 road record [see standings]. The defense is arguably fantastic; leading the NFL in fewest points against (146), although that number is tied with, guess who, the Packers, allowing the third fewest total yards per game (290.4) and second fewest rushing yards per game (78.0) in the entire league. They rank as a +3 in the turnover battle, despite lessening, but still frequent, interceptions thrown by Cutler, and the offense has shown recent signs of stability.
While it may not yet be fair to call this team a great team, the defense certainly is great and the special teams play has once again risen to the dynamic caliber that we have grown used to here in Chicago. The offense has shown the ability to be spectacular in spurts, so the bits of consistency that it has shown in recent weeks is a trend that should make fans happy. If those spectacular bursts could somehow be combined with a stable consistency, then everything would be gravy. But in today's NFL, being great on both sides of the ball is no longer a necessity.
The Bears can compete with any team in the league and come out on top. There is no team that is so balanced on both sides of the ball that I could actually say the Bears would not stand a chance against them. To their credit, the Bears' defense could easily carry the team to a playoff birth, regardless of how the offense plays. If the offense is able to continue improving while finding ways to successfully incorporate some of the high-powered passing plays of Mike Martz, then something special may indeed be on the horizon.
In the meantime, everything we have witnessed thus far this season points to the Bears being a very good team; one whose defense can single-handedly win the game, but with enough talent offensively to make teams gameplan over both sides of the ball. There is no need to crap on this team when it is simply unnecessary. The Bears are 7-3, no matter how you feel about it, and, for those of us claiming that is an unproven and meaningless 7-3, you have a game to be excited about on Sunday.
The Bears defense will be tested against the high-powered Eagle offense. Philadelphia's offense ranks second in the NFL in total yards per game (399.4) and third in rushing yards per game (150.8).Michael Vick currently owns a 108.8 QB rating and has thrown for 799 yards earning him six TDs, while also piling up 375 rushing yards, good for five more TDs.
With both team's battling it out for an 8-3 record, this is sure to be a game that was worth of moving up to the 3:15 start time spotlight. I expect to see the Bears' speedy defense set the Eagles' offense back and manage, but not shut down, Vick at QB. Look for the Bears to take the game by forcing two to three game-changing turnovers, and if the offense can stay on the field by mixing it up with the run and keeping their own turnover ratio low, the Bears will have one more impressive win to add to 2010's resume.
What will the nay-sayers come up with to point to after the Bears win this game? My bet goes to the Bears playing at home. I can hear callers on sports radio already: "If da Bearsss had tu plaay da Eaglesss athome it would haff been a diff'rent storee miy friendss..." Even if the Bears lost somehow, should we not be happy that the team then would be sitting at 7-4? Many of us had them at 4-7 by this point in the season, so I'll take it.
Sunday will be a challenge, and a good way to try and figure out exactly how good the Bears are. If they win, they must be considered among to the two or three elite teams in the NFC. If they lose, they still are certainly in contention for a playoff spot and could easily lift everyone's spirits once again with wins against the Patriots or Jets. Fans had plenty of reasons to doubt the team entering this season, but those reasons continue to diminish. I said I'd believe the Bears were a good team once I saw it... well, as we've been seeing it for a little while now, there is no reason to continue doubting it.
My point: either way, win or lose against the Eagles, the Bears are one of the better teams in the NFC. Just because we don't know exactly how good they are is no reason to meatball-ishlly pretend they are a bad team. So, I call unto you, all nay-sayers, doubters, haters, meatballs, and half-blind critics: join the ranks of Bear supporters! You will simply enjoy yourselves more, and nothing will stop any of us from saying we doubted them the whole time if they fail anyways.
No matter what, all of us will have to just wait to see how everything plays out, but I am finally on-board the Bears Confidence Express, and I will take them 27 to 17 over Philly this Sunday.
(Note: If the Bears do lose now, I will take the blame as it will have obviously been my first official score pick of the season jinxing the Bears. If this is the case, I apologize in advance.)