Chicago Bears Could Be A Dark Horse In NFC North

Could the Chicago Bears come back and win the NFC North despite having a 2-6 record? Some may consider it unlikely to happen, but the Bears can put themselves in a good position if they can whittle off victories in the next two games. First up for the Chicago Bears are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is a beatable opponent.

Nine weeks into the NFL season and very few teams have distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack thus far. Aside from the Dallas Cowboys and perhaps the Seattle Seahawks, the rest of the teams in the NFC are all bunched up together.

Everyone expects that the NFC East will field two playoff teams, including the divisional winner. That leaves the remaining three NFC divisions and one more wild card spot. Chances are good that either the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, or the second place NFC North team will get the other wild card spot.

Amazingly, the Chicago Bears will factor in the NFC playoff picture somehow, even at 2-6.

Of all the NFC divisions, the NFC North is the one where a favorite is anyone’s guess. For now the Minnesota Vikings sit atop the NFC North with a 5-3 record. In a close race for the division crown, the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are second and third, with a full game separating each team. The Bears are in last place, but somehow they are primed for a big run.

Three of the Bears’ eight final games are against their NFC North rivals. Take out the Tennessee Titans and you will find that the rest of the Bears’ schedule includes seven NFC opponents in total. How it all sets up, the Bears can somewhat control their destiny, and after a couple of consecutive wins the road becomes less foggy.

The significance of the next Bears’ two games cannot be understated. They are both road games that will require the Bears to travel halfway across the country to play.

What kind of team the Bears are will be revealed in the next two games. Each game, against the Buccaneers and New York Giants, will test the Bears’ defense some. Good news for the Bears is that help is on the way.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Rich Campbell is reporting that the Chicago Bears will have several stars returning for the game against the Buccaneers. Pro Bowl offensive linemen Kyle Long and Josh Sitton will be on hand.

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The timing for their return is great because the Bears have a bye week to work some things out. Long and Sitton got a chance to work with quarterback Jay Cutler in an effort to get some needed chemistry. Long and Sitton also get to develop some rapport with rookie running back Jordan Howard. Howard is second in rushing yards amongst all of the rookie running backs this season.

A healthy offensive line and the emergence of Howard as a potential top-tier tailback makes the Bears and Jay Cutler dangerous.

Not only will Long and Sitton return, but so will starting nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Many people will argue that Goldman is the Bears’ best defender. If nothing else, he is a disruptive force. And Goldman wrecking havoc opens up opportunities for the inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman to help out on pass coverage.

While the presence of Goldman will free up Trevathan and Freeman, the return of defensive captain Pernell McPhee will generate some overall nastiness amongst the Bears’ pass rushers.

Pernell McPhee wants the Bears’ defense to play with more passion (courtesy of ESPN).

“Monday, I told the guys the main thing was to stay pissed off. Guys need to know where we are and where we can go. The sky’s the limit; only thing we’ve got to do is stay focused.”

The Bears’ defense staying focused could translate into wins. Confidence could build after a couple of victories. Facing the Buccaneers will offer the Chicago Bears a challenge.

Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans is a matchup nightmare for most teams. The Bears will have to limit his targets by harassing Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston.

After the game versus the Buccaneers, the Bears hit the road to take on the New York Giants.

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If the Bears can survive the Buccaneers and Giants, they can draw closer to an even record versus the Titans. Doing so would make the Bears 5-6 with three of their last five games being NFC North rivals. The Bears could essentially control their own destiny from there.

If the Chicago Bears want to test the improbable, now is a good time to do it. The NFC North is coming back to the Bears.

After starting the season 5-0, the Minnesota Vikings have lost three straight, and there are problems that are getting exposed. The Vikings offensive line is beat up and the running game is nonexistent. They could easily continue to slide if the holes are not fixed.

The perennial NFC North contender, the Green Bay Packers do not have a running game either. Plus, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not looking like himself. Without some balance on offense the Packers are asking for trouble.

That leaves the Detroit Lions, whom the Bears defeated early in the season. No one knows if the Lions are a good team or a lucky team. At least there are some positive vibes surrounding the 5-4 team.

When it shakes down, the Chicago Bears could possibly be the team left standing. They will take on a one-game-at-a-time approach, but the makings are there for the Chicago Bears to get hot, while taking control of a couple of tie-breakers in the event that they play their way into the wild card race also.

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