Chicago Bears: Power Rankings

The Chicago Bears took a huge fall last week in ESPN.com's Power Rankings, but made a similar move the other way Tuesday in the latest edition, coming off the club's 28-20 come-from-behind victory at San Francisco.

ESPN's Power Panel, which is comprised of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities, handed down the most dramatic drop last week in the Power Rankings to the Bears. But this time around, the group gave the Bears some love, ranking them at No. 11. Yet they still rank just second in the division behind the Green Bay Packers (No. 8).

The Detroit Lions checked in at No. 18, falling five slots from 13th. The Minnesota Vikings rounded out the division No. 26 after a 17th ranking last week.

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall felt pundits panicked after the club's season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills in which the club allowed 193 yards rushing.

"It felt like 60 percent of Chicago, of Illinois, started panicking," he said Monday during "The Brandon Marshall Show" on ESPN 1000. "It felt that [the feeling was], 'Our season's over.'"

In the loss to the Bills, the Bears reeled off 427 yards of offense, but committed a trio of turnovers which led to points by the opponent.

Chicago appeared to be headed down a similar road against the 49ers, as it trailed 17-0 late in the first half. The truth is the score should've been even more lopsided. Still, the Bears rallied to score 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter.

Marshall led the charge with a trio of scoring receptions, and Bears coach Marc Trestman considered the win against the 49ers one his team can build on moving forward through the schedule. At 1-1, the Bears play two of their next three on the road, with a home matchup sandwiched in between against the Packers.

"As I told the team, as you go through this marathon of a football season, you're going to have opportunities to gain some backbone," Trestman said. "I think this really helped us and will help us [moving forward]. The bottom line is we'll go back to work. That was the message in the locker room is the reason we're able to get to this point is we went back to work last week [after the loss], focused on each and every day in practice. We're going to do the same thing. We're going to get some rest. We've got an extra day of rest this week with the Monday night game [against the New York Jets], and we're going to go back to work and try to get better as a football team, one day at a time."
The Chicago Bears deservedly took a tumble in the latest edition of ESPN.com's NFL Power Rankings, falling eight spots from No. 10 to No. 18 after the club's 23-20 overtime loss in the season opener to the Buffalo Bills.

ESPN's Power Panel, which is made up of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities, handed down the most dramatic drop in the Power Rankings to the Bears.

Here's what ESPN Stats & Information had to say about the Bears: "Not much improvement on 2013's league-worst rush defense. Chicago allowed 8.2 yards per rush between the tackles, including a 38-yard Fred Jackson rush to set up the winning field goal."

In all, the Bears surrendered 193 yards on the ground with 85 of those yards coming on just two attempts.

By virtue of Week 1 victories, every other team in the NFC North ranks above the Bears. The Packers rank highest among divisional foes at No. 8, followed by the Detroit Lions at No. 13. The Minnesota Vikings hold the No. 17 spot in the Power Rankings, just above the Bears.

At Halas Hall, the Bears certainly expressed disappointment on Monday about how the defense performed. But the players stressed the importance of not holding on to the club's Week 1 heartbreaker as they prepare for Sunday night's matchup on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.

"The biggest thing is just going back, making corrections, and moving on to the next week," defensive end Willie Young said. "It's too early to start blowing your top and losing focus of what's important here."

Quarterback Jay Cutler shared similar sentiments Monday during "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000.

"We're gonna be fine," Cutler said. "When you expect to win a game and it doesn't happen, especially a home opener, everyone's gonna be in panic mode," Cutler said. "But I know leaving the office today, everyone was in good spirits. We've got some really good football players."

Power Rankings: No. 15 Chicago Bears

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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A weekly examination of the Bears' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 13 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears dropped the regular-season finale at home to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and fell two spots in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings to No. 15.

Coming off one of their worst losses in franchise history, the Bears put forth a valiant effort against the Packers and held a two-point lead with less than a minute to play. Then, on fourth down with 46 seconds remaining, Aaron Rodgers shut the Bears out of the postseason with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.

Chicago’s No. 15 final ranking might seem a tad low, but it's right about where it needs to be. Because of a horrid defense, the Bears lacked consistency on a game-to-game basis. But at this point, the Bears appear to be a team trending up, not down, especially if the personnel department finds a way to upgrade the talent on defense.

Coming off a 2012 campaign in which the defense ranked No. 5 overall and in the top 10 against the run and the pass, the Bears gave up the most rushing yards (2,583) and points (478) in franchise history. Injuries played a significant role in the decline.

Our initial prediction for the Bears was 8-8, and many wondered why it could be so low for a team coming off a 10-6 season. A new coaching staff, new players and new schemes aren’t easy for teams to adjust to, and the initial prediction didn't even account for the defense's falling so hard in 2013. So the Bears performed slightly above average considering all the adversity they faced.

Elsewhere in the division, the Lions dropped a spot to 21st after their season-ending implosion that culminated in the firing of Jim Schwartz. The Minnesota Vikings, who fired coach Leslie Frazier, moved up one spot to No. 24, and the Packers moved up four slots to 13th.

The Bears received three votes for No. 14, one each for 16th, 17th and 18th.
A weekly examination of the Bears' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 13 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears stayed at 13th in the ESPN.com Power Rankings after suffering a 54-11 loss on Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles, which qualified as one of the worst losses in franchise history.

Although the Bears didn’t move in the rankings, they should have after their performance against the Eagles. Sure, Chicago leads the division, but its first-place standing is basically by default due to losses by the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.

The situation sets up a showdown Sunday between the Bears and the Packers at Soldier Field that will decide the NFC North winner and a postseason spot. But based on the way those teams have performed in recent weeks, the winner of Sunday’s game isn’t likely to stay in the playoffs for very long.

Against the Eagles, Chicago’s pitiful run defense reared its ugly head again as the Bears gave up 291 yards on the ground. The team’s usually reliable offense fared just as badly, with the revamped protection allowing quarterback Jay Cutler to absorb five sacks as the group scored just 11 points (it entered the contest averaging 29 per game). Bears coach Marc Trestman said they’ll burn the tape from that shellacking, forget about the debacle and focus on the Packers, which is probably the best course of action at this point.

Going into Sunday’s game, the Bears had racked up more than 400 yards of offense in back-to-back games, and the defense was showing signs it could at least rise to the level of mediocrity. But the horrid showing at Philadelphia erased all of that. The No. 13 spot in the Power Rankings is a gift.

Elsewhere in the division, the Lions, predictably, fell three spots to 20th, while the Packers dropped a spot to 17th. The Minnesota Vikings fell one spot to 24th.

The Bears had three votes for the No. 13 spot, two for 14th and one for No. 16.
A weekly examination of the Bears' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 13 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears remained at No. 13 in the ESPN.com Power Rankings after a 38-31 win on Sunday over the Cleveland Browns.

Although the Bears didn’t move in the rankings, the club hopped up a spot where it counts the most: the NFC North standings. Chicago now sits atop the division after Detroit’s 18-16 loss to Baltimore, meaning the Bears now control their own postseason destiny.

That development comes at a time when the Bears appear poised to play some of their best football.

Jay Cutler returned to lead an offense that was already rolling Sunday at Cleveland, and the defense is starting to show signs of life, in part because defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff is finally beginning to settle in along with rookie linebackers Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, while defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is beginning to catch a groove as a playcaller.

In back-to-back outings, the Bears have put up more than 400 yards of offense, and the defense has shut down two of the game’s best receivers over the same span. (The defense should also be getting back veteran linebacker Lance Briggs in time for Sunday's matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.)

As we said last week, for a good portion of the season, the Lions have helped along the Bears by slipping in what appeared to be winnable games. That’s exactly what the Lions did Monday night in falling to the Ravens, while the Bears took care of business against the Browns. Chicago needs to keep up the momentum Sunday night at Philadelphia.

Elsewhere in the division, the Lions dropped five spots to No. 17, while the Packers -- now in second place in the NFC North -- moved up two spots to 16th. The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, jumped up four spots from No. 27 to 23rd.

The Bears received one 11th-place vote, two for 12th, one for 14th and two for 15th.

Chicago closes out back-to-back road games Sunday at Philadelphia before hosting the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field for the regular-season finale.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 15 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears moved up two spots in the ESPN.com Power Rankings from No. 15 to No. 13 after Monday night’s 45-28 destruction of the Dallas Cowboys.

The meager climb seems to be about right for the Bears, considering they faced a Cowboys defense that was actually worse than their own struggling unit. With the win, the Bears moved to within a half-game of first place in the NFC North, behind the Detroit Lions. So Chicago still needs some help to advance to the postseason, and the club likely will get it if it can just maintain the momentum down the stretch.

For a good portion of the season, the Lions have helped along the Bears by slipping in what appeared to be winnable games. Detroit, which remained at No. 12 in this week’s rankings, lost at Philadelphia on Sunday to bring the Bears right back into the NFC North race. The Lions face Baltimore and the New York Giants over the next two weeks before playing the finale at Minnesota on Dec. 29. So there’s a good chance the Bears can make up some ground on the Lions, but they must keep winning.

They’ll also need to figure out what to do at quarterback once Jay Cutler is medically cleared to play. Cutler returned to the practice field last week and took part in two workouts but was declared out for Monday’s game. In relief, backup Josh McCown produced his third 300-yard passing day in throwing for four touchdowns, in addition to rushing for a fifth.

Bears coach Marc Trestman reiterated that Cutler is the starter once he’s medically cleared, but it’s difficult to argue with McCown’s hot hand at this point. The club could also be getting back linebacker Lance Briggs, who hasn’t played since Oct. 20.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Atlanta Falcons to win their first game without quarterback Aaron Rodgers to move up a spot from No. 19 to No. 18, but signs point to the quarterback returning soon.

Minnesota, meanwhile, despite running back Adrian Peterson suffering a foot injury, moved up a spot from No. 28 to No. 27.

The Bears received one 12-place vote, two for 13, two for 15 and one for No. 16.

Chicago plays the first of back-to-back road games on Sunday at Cleveland before a matchup at Philadelphia. The Bears close the regular season hosting the Packers on Dec. 29.

Power Rankings: No. 14 Chicago Bears

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
12:00
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A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 10 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears maintained their spot atop the division by default but fell four spots in the ESPN.com Power Rankings to No. 14, the club’s lowest spot since the start of the season.

Given the team’s continued struggles on defense, the injuries and the fact it hasn’t shown any evidence that things will improve, the Bears probably deserve to be in this spot. A road matchup at Minnesota on Dec. 1, followed by a Monday night game with the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9, could result in a further dip if the team doesn’t find a way to stop the bleeding on defense.

Because of Detroit’s loss to Tampa Bay, the Bears still possess a legitimate chance to win the NFC North. But for the club to make the playoffs, that might need to be the Bears' route to the postseason because their conference record (3-5) is among the worst of the current wild-card contenders.

On a positive note, the Bears could be welcoming the return of quarterback Jay Cutler for the Monday night contest against the Cowboys. Already ruled out for Sunday, Cutler said he expects to be back in the lineup by that game. The club is still without linebacker Lance Briggs, and the statuses of defensive tackle Stephen Paea and running back Matt Forte for Sunday remain in question.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the division-leading Lions dropped two spots to 13th in this week’s rankings, while the Green Bay Packers fell two spots to 17th. The Packers have fallen two slots in each of the last three weeks, with quarterback with Aaron Rodgers out. Green Bay was on a three-game skid before its 26-26 tie with the Minnesota Vikings, which rose three spots to No. 28.

The Bears received two 13th-place votes from the panelists, two for No. 14, one for No. 15 and one for No. 18.

Chicago’s struggling defense seemed to be showing improvement in the two outings going into Sunday’s loss to the Rams, but the unit took a major step back, and its inability to complement the club’s powerful offense will continue to cause problems. Offensively, the Bears continue to move the ball with relative ease, but against the Rams, they made game-changing mistakes such as Forte’s fumble on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage that led to a touchdown and a 14-0 deficit.

The Bears can’t expect to win games playing from behind, which is exactly what the team has done in each of the last two weeks.

Power Rankings: No. 10 Chicago Bears

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
12:15
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A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 11 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Despite attrition continuing to take a toll on the roster, the Chicago Bears put on a gritty showing in adverse weather conditions Sunday to best the Baltimore Ravens in overtime, which helped the club move up a spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings from No. 11 to No. 10.

More importantly, the Bears seized a share of the division lead by virtue of Detroit’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chicago still needs another slip-up from the Lions against Tampa Bay on Sunday coupled with a win over St. Louis to take control of the NFC North.

With six games remaining, it’s there for the taking.

What bodes well for the future is the Bears have learned to play with the entire roster due to all the injuries in so many key spots. They’ve demonstrated they can get the job done without Jay Cutler, Charles Tillman or Lance Briggs in the lineup through a combination of strong coaching and several young players stepping up to fill the void. The Bears expect a few of the key contributors to return soon. So that, coupled with the strength of the depth gaining experience now, should be beneficial down the stretch.

Elsewhere in the division, the division-leading Lions dropped two spots to 11th in this week’s rankings, while the Green Bay Packers fell another two spots to 15th after a 27-13 loss to the No. 22-ranked Giants. The Packers have fallen two slots in each of the last two weeks, and the free fall could continue until the club gains stability at quarterback with Aaron Rodgers out. Green Bay is currently on a three-game skid.

Minnesota, meanwhile, dropped another spot from 30th to 31st after a 41-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Just two of the six panelists gave the Bears a top-10 vote, while two put in votes for No. 11 and two put the club at No. 12.

Chicago’s struggling defense continues to improve, which might be attributed to defensive coordinator Mel Tucker opting to orchestrate from the sideline instead of the coaches’ booth. Offensively, the Bears improved the rushing attack against the Ravens, and quarterback Josh McCown continues to perform efficiently. Even with Cutler out for another week, and all the injuries on defense, the Bears appear to be ascending.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 9 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears dropped two spots in the ESPN.com Power Rankings from ninth to No. 11 after a 21-19 loss at Soldier Field on Sunday that significantly hurt the team’s prospects in the NFC playoff picture.

In addition, the Bears lost quarterback Jay Cutler indefinitely, and on Monday the club placed cornerback Charles Tillman on injured reserve with the designation to return. Although those injuries could turn out to be major blows, the Bears provided at least a sliver of hope they can get through them with their performance in Sunday’s loss.

Detroit entered the game ranked No. 6 in scoring, yet the Bears held the Lions to six points below their 27.1-point average, and limited their No. 2 passing offense to nearly 100 yards fewer than their average, in addition to forcing a turnover. On offense, with Cutler limited due to a high ankle sprain, the Bears finished with two 100-yard receivers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.

With a backup quarterback starting this week in Josh McCown, the Bears must now win five of their final seven for a legitimate shot at advancing to the postseason, and four of those games come on the road.

Elsewhere in the division, the Lions moved up two spots from 11th to ninth in this week’s rankings, while the Green Bay Packers fell from No. 11 to 13th after a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers could fall even further in the coming weeks as they continue to play without Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a broken collarbone in a Nov. 4 loss to the Bears.

Minnesota, meanwhile, stayed at No. 30 despite their win over the Washington Redskins.

Four of the six panelists gave the Bears 11th-place votes, while two put in votes for No. 12 and No. 13.

The team’s struggling defense has shown signs of life in the past two outings, but obviously it will be difficult to fill the void left by Tillman’s absence. Offensively, the Bears need to shore up a rushing attack that averaged just 1.9 yards per attempt against the Lions. Given some of the issues the team faces, its standing at No. 11 seems a tad generous.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 13 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears hit the idle portion of their schedule last week but still fell back from No. 13 in last week’s ESPN.com Power Rankings to 14th as injury concerns and three losses in four games continue to put a damper on the club’s 3-0 start.

With quarterback Jay Cutler expected to miss a minimum of four weeks and Lance Briggs likely out a minimum of five weeks, the Bears face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday night, and the club could slip even further down the rankings. After the matchup with the Packers, the Bears face the Lions and Ravens before a Nov. 24 outing at St. Louis.

Elsewhere in the division, two NFC North teams are now in the top 10. Detroit moved up from 11th to 10th in this week’s rankings after it defeated the No. 13 Cowboys with some late-game heroics from Matthew Stafford. The Packers also jumped one spot from ninth to eighth after a 44-31 win against the No. 30 Minnesota Vikings.

Three of the panelists obviously still believe in the Bears, as two gave the team 12th-place votes, with another voting No. 11. The other three voters placed the Bears between No. 14 and No. 16.

At this point, it’s still a little difficult to evaluate Chicago. But how the team fares against the Packers without Cutler and Briggs will provide a clearer picture of how the rest of the season might go. Even with Cutler and Briggs in the lineup, it appears the Bears are a middle-of-the-road team worthy of a ranking between 13th and 16th.

Without them, if the Bears win two of the next three, they should be in fairly good shape for a run at the postseason.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 10 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears fell back three spots in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings from No. 10 to 13 after their 45-41 loss on Sunday to the Washington Redskins, and could find themselves in that slot or lower for at least the next month with quarterback Jay Cutler out due to a torn groin muscle.

A slow start on offense combined with horrid play on defense doomed the Bears to their third loss in four games, and the outlook doesn’t get much brighter with the team facing the Green Bay Packers coming off the bye week on "Monday Night Football," followed by back-to-back outings against the Lions and Ravens. Intensifying the ruggedness of the upcoming schedule is the fact that the club’s struggling defense will be without veteran linebacker Lance Briggs for at least the next six weeks.

Counting nickel corner Kelvin Hayden, the Bears have now lost five key contributors from the defense.

Elsewhere in the division, Green Bay remained at ninth in the Power Rankings after its 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, while the Lions stay at No. 11 after coming undone in the final minute in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Minnesota dropped a spot to 30th after quarterback Josh Freeman underwhelmed in his debut as the starter in the Vikings' loss to the New York Giants, who secured their first victory of the season.

Chicago’s fall to No. 13 is certainly deserved. The highest vote the Bears received was No. 11 with the rest of the panelists voting to move the team from 12th through 14. While the week off gives the Bears extra prep time for the Packers and an opportunity to heal some nagging injuries, the losses of Cutler and Briggs will be difficult to overcome. And remember, the Bears will have to do that for at least the next three games without Cutler, and at least five without Briggs.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 10 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Chicago’s victory over the winless New York Giants on Thursday night didn’t inspire much confidence among panelists voting for ESPN.com’s Power Rankings, as the team stood pat at No. 10. But that’s right about where the Bears should be at this point.

The club rebounded from a 26-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints (No. 3) and snapped a two-game losing streak with the win over the Giants, but the injury-riddled defense struggled. The Bears lost their third starter on defense when middle linebacker D.J. Williams tore a pectoral tendon in the third quarter, and the front four is a patchwork group that now features starting defensive end Corey Wootton inside at tackle.

Luckily after the matchup Sunday at Washington, the Bears receive a much-needed week off.

Three NFC North squads occupy Slots 9 through 11 with the Packers at No. 9, Chicago at No. 10 and the Detroit Lions at No. 11.

The Minnesota Vikings come in this week at No. 29.

Chicago certainly deserves a spot in top 10, but the question at this point is whether it can remain there given the injury situation on defense. All but one of the six ESPN.com panelists gave the Bears votes in the top 10. One submitted an 11th-place vote.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 9 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The panelists voting for ESPN.com’s Power Rankings apparently haven’t lost faith in the Chicago Bears even though the team has lost consecutive games.

After falling 26-18 to the New Orleans Saints (No. 2) on Sunday, the Bears dropped only one spot from ninth to No. 10, and still rank as tops in the NFC North, with the Green Bay Packers lurking at No. 11 and the Detroit Lions sitting at 12th.

The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, check in at 28th.

At this point, it’s debatable whether Chicago deserves to stay in the top 10, but for the club to remain competitive in two consecutive defeats despite a combined five turnovers is something of a feat. Through the first five contests -- even the first three victories -- the Bears still haven’t played a complete game.

The Bears show signs of improvement, which gives them the look of an ascending team instead of one that has reached its peak. So that’s encouraging.

Of the six ESPN.com panelists, four voted the Bears out of the top 10 (three 11th-place votes and one for 10th), while two gave the team eighth- and ninth-place votes, respectively.
A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 9 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

No change for the Chicago Bears in this week’s edition of ESPN.com’s Power Rankings, despite the club putting together its second consecutive come-from-behind victory, this time over the 23rd-ranked Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears rank No. 9, three spots behind the No. 6 Green Bay Packers, which defeated the No. 24 Washington Redskins 38-20. It’s interesting how Green Bay's win over a struggling Redskins team moved them up a spot, while the Bears stood pat after a victory over a higher-ranked Vikings team.

But four of ESPN.com’s panelists voted for the Bears to move up, while two actually wanted to move the Bears back a slot or two. The Bears received one sixth-place vote, one seventh, and two No. 8s, but remained at No. 9 because of one 10th-place vote and one 11th.

It’s too early to say whether the Bears should be ranked higher than No. 9. From my vantage point, this spot seems about fair (although they should be higher).

Chicago owns sole possession of first place in the NFC North, yet ranks below the Packers in the Power Rankings. But it’s important to consider Green Bay dropped its Week 1 matchup to the No. 3 San Francisco 49ers.

Power Rankings: Bears rise to No. 5

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
5:39
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The Chicago Bears inched up a spot in the latest edition of ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings on Tuesday, moving from sixth to No. 5 after Monday night’s 13-7 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Chicago’s move up the rankings represents rises by every team in the NFC North except for the Lions, which remained at No. 19. The Green Bay Packers came up a spot from eighth to No. 7, while the Minnesota Vikings moved up one notch from last week to No. 9.

The Bears certainly deserved to move up after another strong defensive performance coming out of the week off, in which they forced four turnovers while sacking Matthew Stafford three times. Charles Tillman headlined the defense’s outing with a lockdown performance on Calvin Johnson, who caught three passes for 34 yards despite being targeted 11 times.

In the upcoming weeks, Chicago sits in position to seize a few opportunities to move up even further given that two of the club’s next four opponents – the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers -- rank just above the Bears (the Texans are No. 2 and the 49ers are No.4)

Seven teams, including the Lions, maintained their rankings from the previous week. The Atlanta Falcons stayed at No. 1 while Denver and Philadelphia held the No. 12 and 13 spots. Cleveland, Jacksonville and Kansas City held the last three slots in the rankings.

The panel of voters consists of ESPN.com’s John Clayton and Ashley Fox, NFC East blogger Dan Graziano, AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley and NFC West blogger Mike Sando.

In his comments on the Bears, Graziano said, “There’s no other defense in the league right now that makes life more consistently miserable for its opponents.”

Stafford learned that firsthand Monday night, when he wasn’t able to put his team on the board until 30 seconds remained in the game. Potentially more concerning for opponents is the fact Chicago’s defense hasn’t shown any signs of a decline. In fact, it appears the unit is still improving.

So what do you guys say? Is Chicago worthy of the fifth spot? Should the team be higher, lower?

Let us know what you think.

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