A few weeks back, ESPN.com ran a fan poll asking people to pick who they thought was the best team in the NFC.
I wasn’t able to find the exact numbers, but I remember the choices fans were given. They were: Falcons, Eagles, Packers, Giants, Saints, Other.
Missing from that list? The Bears.
The day after the Bears-Dolphins game, ESPN.com ran a poll that asked the following: “What was more true about Thursday night’s shutout of the Dolphins by the Bears?”
Results: 70 percent said the most true part of the game was that the Dolphins offense was really bad. 30 percent said it was that the Bears defense was really good. The only state that the Bears carried was, obviously, Illinois.
Now, I understand these are just fan polls and are in no way scientific. I also understand that most fans are idiots. (Good way to grow a readership – calling your readers idiots).
But I think these polls are a microcosm of how the Bears have been treated throughout the season by both non-Bears fans and the media as a whole. Until last week’s dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears were treated as a team that has found incredible luck and were ultimately doomed to fail.
I was one of those proponents. Not anymore.
The Bears have something the 2001 version of the team didn’t have. They have something the 2005, or even the 2006 version didn’t have.
This team has an offense.
I’m not saying they have an explosive offense. I’m not saying it’s going to set records or that Mike Martz is a genius and Jay Cutler is the second coming. Matt Forte is serviceable, the receiving corp is lacking and the offensive line is suspect.
But the thing is, even with all of those factors, this year’s offense is STILL better than any Bears offense in recent memory. They’re not amazing, but they do enough to get the job done.
And with that defense, it’s more than enough.
If the Bears hang on to win the NFC North, name one team that would have an advantage over them at Soldier Field. Obviously not the Eagles. Not the Packers. If they get a home game in the first round, it’s a win. Simple as that. That sets up the Bears to potentially go into Atlanta or wherever and spring an upset. You don’t think Martz would love the chance to unleash Devin Hester, Johnny Knox & Co. on turf like the 1999 Rams? Think again.
That’s why you have to make the Bears the favorites to win the NFC. I think at this point, there are five teams in the NFC with a definitive chance of going to the Super Bowl. The Bears, Falcons, Saints, Packers and Eagles. The Bears have already beaten two of those teams.
Additionally, they’re the most healthy team in the NFL right now. Going into their week 12 against the Eagles, they had NOBODY appear on the injury report. That’s unheard of in most weeks, let alone 3/4 of the way through the season. It’s pretty clear that the combination of good fortunes, a good-enough offense and a dominant defense have done wonders for the Bears, and there’s no reason it can’t continue into January.
Of course, now that the Bears have beaten the Eagles, pundits are jumping on the bandwagon. Fans had better hope it doesn’t get too crowded.
Week 13 picks:
Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles (-8.5)
Now departing: The NFL MVP Bandwagon. All Michael Vick supporters please exit to the left. Thank you. Eagles to win, Texans to beat spread.
Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)
The interim coach rush lasts for exactly two weeks. Vikings to win and cover.
Chicago Bears (-5) at Detroit Lions
This smells like a trap game sandwiched between the Eagles and Patriots. Bears to win, Lions to beat spread.
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (-4.5)
When I jump off of a team’s bandwagon, I jump really, really far. Brown to win outright.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
This has to be the first time in NFL history that a team beats another by 20 points, then they play three weeks later and the winning team is still a nearly 10 point underdog. Chiefs to win and cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (no line)
I think this game has no line because we don’t know if Kerry Collins or Rusty Smith will be starting for the Titans. It doesn’t matter. Jaguars to win outright.
New Orleans Saints (-7) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Saints are getting less publicity for any Super Bowl Champion that is playing well ever. That’s a very good thing for them. Saints to win and cover.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-10)
My pick in this game is totally contingent on the fact that the Packers don’t win close games, so it has to be a blowout. Packers to win and cover.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-7)
Eli Manning’s receivers make him. Without them, he’s an average NFL quarterback. Giants to win, Redskins to beat spread.
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers (-13)
Anybody surprised at what the Chargers are doing? Chargers to win, Raiders to beat spread.
Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Divisional road games late in the season are games No. 1 seeds have to win. Falcons to win and cover.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (-6)
The Seahawks are easily the most frustrating team to pick all season. In fact, let me just revise that and say the entire NFC West is. Seahawks to win and cover.
Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts (-5.5)
This is the week Peyton Manning & Co. get back on track. Right? Colts to win and cover.
St. Louis Rams (-3.5) at Arizona Cardinals
I think I’m going to pick the Rams this week. What do you think about that, Derek Anderson? “That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s fine.” Rams to win and cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
Ben Roethlisberger is immobile and the Steelers offensive line is suspect. ‘Nuff said. Ravens to win and cover.
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-3.5)
Complete toss-up game that I have no idea how to pick. Patriots to win and cover.
Week 12 – 10-6 (6-10 against spread)
Overall: 100-74 (85-86-3 against spread)