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Bears Mon Nov 05 2012
Hopefully you took pleasure from the joy ride while it lasted. The forced fumbles, the interceptions, the blocked punts, the touchdown returns (see previous links), all of it. Hopefully you relished every moment, because it's all downhill from here.
Despite the terribly erratic offense and the sometimes maligned special teams, watching this Bears defense demolish and demoralize opponents over the first eight weeks of the season has been truly special. Sure, this may be one of the weirdest and shakiest 7-1 teams you've ever seen, but it is what it is. The offense will always have problems as long as Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb bookend the line, and the defense will be relied upon to pick up the slack -- even in the scoring department.
Charles Tillman is still going to force a fumble here and there, but he's not going to punch the ball out four times in his career ever again. He may not even pop it out that many times through the final eight games of the season when you look at the opponents the Bears play. But Brian Billick wasn't kidding about Tillman becoming an MVP candidate after that performance. With 37 tackles, seven forced fumbles, and two interceptions returned for touchdowns, his name jumped onto the short list.
Watching yesterday's circus should've been nothing but pure entertainment. A respite from the difficulties ahead, and even more so after a suffering through the last second thriller that was last week's win over the Panthers. If you haven't seen all the highlights, I encourage you to check them out.
I've referred to the Bears upcoming schedule for weeks now, and in case you haven't looked at it recently, here it is: vs Houston (7-1), at San Francisco (6-2), vs Minnesota (5-4), vs Seattle (5-4), at Minnesota (5-4), vs Green Bay (6-3), at Arizona (4-5), and at Detroit (4-4). That's a combined record of 42-27, and quite possibly the toughest remaining schedule for any team in the NFL. Compare that to the 27-39 record of the eight teams they've played already, and it's obvious that the Bears are far from locking up a playoff spot. But they've throttled the bad teams, just as elite squads are supposed to.
The good news is that it probably only takes three more wins to get in. 10-6 should certainly do it in the NFC, and the Bears even catch a few breaks in that royal rumble. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has fallen back to earth after a hot start to the season, the Seahawks game is at Soldier Field (CenturyLink Field is unquestionably the toughest place to play in the NFL, and the Seahawks sport an inanely good record there), and Arizona is (if you can believe it) worse off than the Bears at both offensive tackle positions (and far worse at QB).
The bad news is these teams could really hurt the Bears. I don't mean just on the scoreboard, I mean physically harm the players. Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, and Arizona all sport stellar, hard-hitting defenses, and Green Bay and Detroit have already roughed up Jay Cutler pretty badly once this season. A 3-5 record to go along with the health of key starters in the last half of the season -- now we're talking about a real challenge.
But for right now, enjoy the victory chicken. It'll taste sweeter this week than it will for the rest of the season unless the Bears can pull off a dominant victory over a contender -- which seems unlikely given their one-sided play thus far. On Sunday night at 7:30pm, the real test for the Bears begins against Houston.