By Dave Wischnowsky–
Last Sunday, after the Bears upended Philly, I was eating crow.
Seven days later, after watching them struggle to beat the better-but-still-bad Lions, I was about ready to cough it back up.
Who the heck are the 2010 Chicago Bears, anyway?
I don’t think Interpol could identify these guys.
I mean, here we are, in December, three-quarters of the way through the NFL regular season, and – in spite of a 9-3 record that has them perched atop the NFC North – I can honestly say that I still don’t know if the Bears are a good team.
Or if they’re not.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NFL team so difficult to peg after 12 games. But, no matter how shaky they look in many of their wins, there’s no arguing against their record: 9-3 which is an impressive ledger regardless of who you’re playing. And for the past five weeks the Bears have played – and beaten – every team they’ve faced.
On Sunday after they rallied to eke out a 24-20 victory at Ford Field, one of my friends described the Bears as “good, not great.” But in this year’s NFL, that just might be good enough.
Just last season, the Indianapolis Colts opened up the year 14-0, while New Orleans rattled off 13 straight victories to start. Throughout 2009, it was clear that the NFL had not just one juggernaut – a la the 18-0 Patriots of 2007 – but two. And both the Colts and the Saints went on to reach the Super Bowl.
This season, however, the NFL is a whole different animal.
A pretty lame one, it seems.
There are no true powerhouses. Heck, Kansas City was the league’s last unbeaten – way back when it was 3-0. The next week, the Chiefs lost in Indianapolis and the NFL was left without a 4-0 club for the first time since 1970.
The league just isn’t great in 2010. Heck, it might not even be good. But that fact that could very well allow the Bears to keep conjuring up victories deep into the playoffs.
This evening on Monday Night Football, the 9-2 Patriots and the 9-2 Jets – the two AFC squads among Chicago’s final four opponents – square off in New England. I suppose the Pats and Jets are more or less considered the NFL’s two best teams (Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Atlanta could also stake claims). But the thing is, I’d say they’re also good, not great.
Just like the Bears.
I’ve decided I’m at a point this season where nothing that the Bears do – win, lose, heck, even draw – over the final four weeks will surprise me. There’s no figuring this bunch out, so I’m not even going to try.
It’s easier to just sit back and watch things unfold.
Four seasons ago, during Chicago’s march to the Super Bowl, Arizona coach Dennis Green famously said, “The Bears are who we thought they were.”
This year, I don’t have a clue who I think they are.
But what I do think is that, this time, with the NFL’s mediocrity, it might not matter.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.