Nothing matters without context, which I suppose is another way of saying that everything is relative. As you debated this week's "Have at It" topic on the Chicago Bears' 4-1 record, many of you landed with nbetweennownthen: "Find me one NFC team that is 'for real.' Then I'll compare them to the Bears. Since that doesn't exist right now, yes, they are for real."
Regardless of how it's happened, four wins in five games means the Bears have produced better bottom-line results than all but one team in the NFC. Daabrs1 noted the Bears are 4-1 without playing a great game yet, with a new offensive coordinator and with their offensive line in constant flux.
Throughout their offensive struggles, wrote jmrushton, the Bears' defense has proved good enough to keep them in any game. Jmrushton: "Their special teams are always good to astounding. If the offense gets better, and there's no reason to think that with a brand new system and coaching staff that it won't, yes, the Bears are a contender."
If the offense can settle down, wrote abeeson20, the Bears would be "teetering on being dominant."
Not everyone was ready to jump aboard the Bears bandwagon. Classy_e was one: "Their offense is underwhelming, which I think is well illustrated by their 3rd down conversion percentage. Also, they have beaten only one team with more than one win. The combined record of Bears opponents they have defeated is 5-14. Until the Bears either start dominating these sub-par teams 2008 Patriots style, or defeat good teams, I cannot believe they are for real."
YouspellgodMARK is nervous about the number of unsettled positions the Bears are dealing with. It's nice that they were able to win under those circumstances. But the bottom line, according to youspellgodMARK, is that Chicago:
A) still hasn't settled on a starting D-line
B) is still waiting for a rookie to get healthy and possibly become a starting safety
C) is trying to figure out what the proper run: pass balance is on offense (and it almost certainly won't be 50:50 for the Bears this year)
D) still hasn't settled on a starting O-line
My take? I think it's fair to at least debate the long-term merits of a team that won one game because of an arcane NFL rule, another when its opponent committed 18 penalties and a third despite four interceptions by its starting quarterback. There's nothing wrong with using those facts to take a closer look.
But when we do that, I think we see a team that has already created an identity for itself. The Bears' defense has displayed enough consistency to suggest it will be a strong, if not dominant, force all season. That evidence alone is enough to suggest the Bears have some staying power.
Since we started this blog, I've never had much luck predicting the Bears. I thought they would be down in 2008, elite in 2009 and terrible this season. Anything I say about their future should be considered accordingly.
So I'll put it this way: Of the four NFC North teams, the Bears have the clearest path to grabbing permanent control of the division. With two home games and a matchup with the Buffalo Bills on their horizon, it's reasonable to think the Bears will be 6-2 or 7-1 by the midpoint of the season. That seems pretty real to me.