By opening the season at 5-3, the Bears have put themselves in the fight. While they couldn’t win the NFC North in the first half of the season, they managed to put themselves in position to win the division or, at the very least, make the playoffs. They are in the fight. Now they have to win it.
At five wins and three losses, the Bears have the same record through eight games they had in 2013, the last time they were relevant in the NFC North race. We all remember how that season ended. The Bears went 0-3 against NFC North foes — including an overtime loss to a five-win Vikings team — in their last eight games. A win in any of them would have won the division. The Bears haven’t been competitive in the NFC North since.
The 2018 Bears have five divisional games in their final eight, including each of the next three. They’re sitting at the top of the division now and need to win at least two of the next three to stay in that race. It’s impossible to say what will happen but there’s no reason to think the Bears can’t stay in this thing until the end.
Because while it wasn’t flashy, we really shouldn’t undersell what the Bears did to the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Those are bad teams, sure, but outscoring them 65-19 without Khalil Mack or Allen Robinson is, well, interesting.
The offense remains a work in progress, but scoring 24 and 27 points, without their top receiver, against two very good defenses, is certainly encouraging. As I wrote last week, they have another step to take, but they’re still fifth in points scored and 11th in points per drive.
And after two subpar performances, the defense seems to have regained its swagger. Playing Sam Darnold and Nathan Peterman helps, of course, but the Bears have been flying around the ball. It doesn’t matter who they play. If they cover that much ground, they’ll make life difficult for any opponent.
The other part of this equation is that the rest of the NFC North isn’t looking so hot.
- The Vikings have had a really wonky season and the fact that they’re still sitting at 5-3-1 is pretty impressive. Every time it seems they’ve turned the corner, they have a bad game.
- An odd thing happened with the Packers Sunday night. A team that had battled until the bitter end numerous times this season suddenly didn’t. This is possibly a coincidence, or due to playing Tom Brady in New England. It also might be because their front office waived the white flag, trading a starting defensive back for a draft pick a few days earlier. I’m not saying the Packers are going to just go away, but don’t rule it out either.
- Then, of course, there are the Lions, who have been in a weird down slide since hiring a weird coach.
The Bears still need one quality win if they want to be counted among the league’s best teams. They’ll have a chance to do just that in two weeks. A win over the Vikings would likely put them firmly in control of the division. But they have to beat the Lions first.
What makes the Bears scary is that they haven’t come close to clicking on all cylinders yet. Despite that, they’re the only team to rank in the top five in both points scored and allowed per game and one of just two teams (LA Rams) to crack the top 10 in both categories. They have a ceiling that very few teams can actually even think about approaching.
There has been a lot of talk about the Bears being a year away, but there’s no reason that should be true. They have the talent to make some noise, it’s just a matter of doing it.