The Chicago Bears (4-1) don't play this week, but that doesn't mean they can't move up in the standings.
While the Bears are enjoying the week off, all three of their NFC North rivals have tough road games: The Lions (1-3) travel to Philadelphia, the Vikings (4-1) visit RG3 and the Redskins, and the Packers (2-3) play the undefeated Texans on Sunday night.
In short, it could be a great weekend for the Bears. The Eagles and Texans are heavily favored to beat the Lions and Packers, and with a little help - i.e., a Skins upset of the Vikings - the Bears could potentially emerge from the weekend in sole possession of first place in the division and with three-game lead over the Packers.
Now that'd be a great off-week, and it'd be huge for the Bears.
Despite their 4-1 record and share of the division lead, the Bears need every win they can get (duh). They'll come out of the bye week with three very winnable games - Detroit, Carolina and at Tennessee (combined 6-11) - before embarking on a tough seven-week stretch that will almost certainly define their season.
That stretch includes games against six teams with winning records - Houston, at San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, at Minnesota and at Arizona - as well as games against the league's top three defenses (Seattle, San Francisco and Houston), two of the top six offenses (Detroit, San Francisco) and a grudge match with the Packers.
That'll be a stiff challenge for the Bears, who've so far faced just one team with a winning record (St. Louis).
Hopefully, the Bears are spending their bye week working on their offense, which has been wildly inconsistent and prone to slow starts. They're averaging 29.8 points per game, but just eight of those are coming in the first half. Fortunately, the defense has come through with big plays to put points on the board and spark the team.
Here's the bottom line: The Bears have the rest of their bye week, then three games against the practice squads that are the Lions, Panthers and Titans, to get their offense clicking. With their defense, the Bears don't need a great offense - although they have the potential for one - but they do need consistency.
Sources: NFL Team Statistics, NFL.com
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan.
Other Chicago Bears articles by Steve:Chicago Bears Move Up in Weekly Power Polls: A Fan's View (October 10)
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