Now that I’ve had a day (or two) to chew on, regurgitate, spew and watch the dog lick up that Bears-Panthers game from Sunday I can’t help but wonder how many years Todd Collins and Jimmy Clausen set the NFL back. Collins, with his 6.2 quarterback rating, was a complete disaster, bringing back memories of 2004 Jonathan Quinn, 2006 Rex Grossman, and yes, even 2009 Jay Cutler. I thought he would fare better, but quickly found, as the Bears did, that the NFL had waved bye-bye to Todd.
Collins put his mark on Bears history in a negative way, yet the Bears somehow managed to escape Carolina with a relatively decisive win. At this point, at 4-1, the Bears seem to be on track to find themselves in the playoffs, and as the news continues to come in regarding the Packers and Vikings and their numerous injuries and issues, and as I watch the rest of the NFC play, I am left to wonder: Why not the Chicago Bears?
Why can’t this team win, not just now, but in the post-season as well? Have you seen anything from the rest of the NFC that leads you to believe that it couldn’t be the Bears year? The latest ESPN Power Rankings list the Bears as the 7th best team in the NFL and of the teams ahead of them, the Falcons are the only team representing the NFC. If you look at the NFC standings you’ll see Tampa Bay right behind Chicago and Atlanta. You’ll also find the Derek Anderson, Max Hall led Cardinals, with their combined 59.6 quarterback rating, right behind them. Yes, the same Cardinals who just beat the New Orleans Saints.
This week the Bears have yet another chance to separate themselves from the pack, figuratively and literally. The Falcons head to Philadelphia for a date with the Eagles, a game in which they will try to cement themselves as the favorites in the NFC. Tampa Bay will host the Saints, who will be desperate for a win to keep themselves from falling to .500. The Redskins, who are coming off two big wins versus the Cowboys and the Packers have a date with the Indianapolis Colts before next week’s showdown in Chicago.
The Giants will face Detroit and very well could be a team on the rise. Two of their next four match ups are with the Cowboys, but for two weeks in a row now they have looked like a completely different team than they were at the beginning of the season.
The Packers may be starting Matt Flynn at QB and are without Jermichael Finley and a handful of other starters on defense. The Vikings are host Dallas in one of the most unexpected 1-3 battles of the year.
So again, why not the Chicago Bears?
They seemingly have all the tools to win games, even if they have to do it in ugly fashion. They have a top tier defense, one that thus far has allowed only 14.8 points per game. They have a solid group on special teams with Devin Hester and Daniel Manning returning kicks and punts. Robbie Gould is 10 of 11 on field goal attempts, and if you take away the four Collins interceptions, the Bears are plus six in the turnover category and they lead the NFL with 14 takeaways.
The offense does leave some things to be desired. The most glaring deficiency is on the offensive line (not breaking news), and if there is a “because” that follows this “Why Not” question, that’s it. The Carolina Panthers were probably the only team in the NFL that the Todd Collins led Bears were going to defeat. If the line can’t keep Jay Cutler protected, a guy that already has suffered one concussion and is one hit away from something that could end his season, the Bears will go from contenders to pretenders overnight.
The Bears are working on adjustments almost weekly to improve the line:
“We are going to still play musical chairs for probably another few weeks until we get Chris [Williams] back and find out more about some of our younger players,” general manager Jerry Angelo said prior to the Panthers game. “The good news is we like the players. It is just a matter now of getting the same five on the field.”
Who knows, maybe some continuity will help this unit. But no matter who is on the field, their priority is to make sure that Cutler stays upright and stays healthy.
Lovie Smith likes to break his season into quarters, and through the first quarter the Bears were 3-1, now 4-1 to begin the second. There is every reason to believe that they could be 7-1 before their first date with the Minnesota Vikings. And while the regular season is a great stage, the real show begins in the post-season. With good reason to believe that the Bears will be part of the playoff group, and with the current landscape of the NFL, the current state of the NFC, is there really any reason to believe that the Bears can’t do something special this season? Why not?