I was sitting on a stool at The Copper Kettle, my local in Woodside, Queens, and a liquored up friend of mine, a mumbling Irishman known as “Mel” who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, turned my way. “You know I think you’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said, referring to the Chicago Bears. He actually said, “Joe, binky broofer soul” but I got where his brain was going.
I did what I always do when that particular suggestion is made (and it’s happening more often these days). “We’ll see,” I said. It wasn’t a response out of modesty or fan humility. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid a jinx. In other words, it wasn’t bullshit. It was about altering expectations. That can take time.
I came into this season, especially after the acquisition of Khalil Mack, believing the Bears could weasel their way into the postseason if the quarterback and offense came along by midseason. After watching the Bears dismantle the Vikings from a Paris hotel room in the middle of the night, those expectations changed to a division title. The Bears were clearly the best team in the NFC North. They needed to finish the season atop the table. They did.
Now, with two weeks to go in the regular season, there are only a pair of teams in the NFC with better records than the Bears: the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. And I’m no longer convinced the Bears can’t beat both of them. In any building.