Taking a gander at NFL.com's 13 "experts'" power rankings shows that the Chicago Bears are well respected here in 2012. Of the 13 picks, the lowest spot the Bears occupy is sixth. I'm not here to debate something as trivial as power rankings, but here to ask the question: How good are the Chicago Bears?
On the surface, it's a safe bet to say they're plenty good. The Bears sit atop the NFC North with a staunch 5-1 record, are averaging over 25 points per game, and have arguably the best defense in the NFL. In light of the above, it's hard to argue that the Chicago Bears aren't good. However, are they elite? That's where the lines start to get a tad hazy.
One argument against is that the Bears haven't really played any other team that one might consider "elite" talent --except arguably the Green Bay Packers. The moral of that story is that Packers dominated the Bears. The one game that has put the Bears up against elite talent has resulted in a convincing loss. With only one game being used as a sample size, it can't be built into a pattern yet. The Bears are set to play the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans in the next month. Those games should give everyone a little more sense of just how good this Bears team may or may not be.
Something the Bears have going for them is something that might go under the radar of people who don't follow the Bears. The Bears have a long history of playing to their competition. This season has been different. Every time the Bears have played a team they "should" beat, they have done so in convincing fashion. That means something. Not only that, the middle-tier teams the Bears have played (St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions) have all gone down --St. Louis and Dallas went down especially hard. Anyone can still beat anyone, but I have more confidence in the Bears when they play an inferior opponent than I have in the past. Playing to your level of talent is a (early) sign of an elite team.
The second half of the Bears' schedule has turned into a grueling one. Following the Bears' upcoming games against the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans, the schedule turns into a two month playoff test. There is a lot to like about what the Bears are bringing to the table on a week-to-week basis, but we won't know their true mettle until we see how they handle the next month. If Houston or San Francisco goes down, the Bears might look awfully legitimate --even more so than they do now.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed the NFL throughout.Sources
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