Maybe it’s the cynical Chicago sports fan in me – that’s what waiting 104 years for a Cubs’ World Series will do to you – but with the Chicago Bears flying high at 7-2, I can’t help but feel the other shoe is about to drop.
The standings never really tell the whole story, and in the case of the Bears, they might be outright lying to our faces. For instance, 7-2 doesn’t share how they escaped with a one-point victory against the hapless Carolina Panthers. It also doesn’t divulge the three red-zone turnovers Chicago needed to beat the Detroit Lions 13-7. Needless to say, I know 7-2 is just a leprechaun’s whisker away from really being 5-4.
But does it really matter how it happened, the fact is the Bears are 7-2 and in control of the NFC North division. So what is refraining me from reserving my Bourbon Street hotel for February right now? I can see what the Bears have looming on their horizon.
The next five games on Chicago’s schedule are all against would-be playoff teams. After mother-nature remained undefeated in their Sunday-night loss to the Houston Texans, Chicago has to travel for a Monday-night matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are allowing a league-leading 14.1 points per game to opposing offenses.
But don’t worry, after that all they have to look forward to is another matchup with the Green Bay Packer – who already beat Chicago 23-10 earlier this season – a showdown with the Seattle Seahawks, and let us not forget about the two games yet to be played against Adrian Peterson and the rival Minnesota Vikings.
All this would be considered tough-sledding for a team at 100 percent, but after Jay Cutler left Sunday-night with a concussion, the status of the Bears’ quarterback is anything but definitive at this point.
Head coach, Lovie Smith, said of their sudden quarterback situation, “It's tough, but that's why you bring in a veteran like Jason Campbell, who's played ball. In the NFL a lot of injuries happen and you have to be ready. Jason is a pro. He's been getting excellent work. If you're the backup, you're normally going against the [No.] 1 defense the entire week, so you're getting good work.
While Campbell has been a competent starting quarterback in the NFL before – holding a career QB Rating of 82.6 – he looked very shaky when called upon to replace Cutler on Sunday. Campbell completed 11 of 19 passes for 94 yards, however, when asked to author a potential game-winning drive, the eight-year veteran showed a serious inability to get the ball down the field – opting instead for the easy dump-off passes underneath.
It is hard for Bears’ fan to not immediately remember last season when Chicago started 7-3 before Jay Cutler was injured and Chicago would go on to lose their next five games and miss out on the postseason all together. Seemingly, trying to stop this type of skid again is why the Bears signed Jason Campbell in the offseason, but with the hardest part of their schedule laid out before them, he is going to have to show more than he did against Houston if they have any chance of outrunning the Green Bay Packers, who have suddenly just appeared in Chicago’s rear-view mirror at 6-3.
The Monday night game is key; if the Bears can somehow manage to travel to San Francisco, take the Alcatraz tour, hit up Fisherman’s Wharf and make it back home with a bag of souvenirs that includes a (W), then everything should be alright. But if their California itinerary looks more like: have your foot run over by a runaway Trolley car, get flashed by a streaking hippie and let Frank Gore rush for a buck-fifty, then the dominos might soon start to fall in the wrong direction.
The goal has to be 3-2 over their next five games, anything less than that and the playoffs might become a real question mark again.