Are the Chicago Bears Just Benefiting from a Soft Schedule?

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws the ball while playing the Carolina Panthers on October 28, 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
John Gress/Getty Images

The 2012 Chicago Bears are one of the best teams in the NFL with a 7-1 record, but could the hot start for the leader of the NFC North simply be a result of weak competition? 

Chicago certainly looks great on paper. The Bears average 30 points per game, and the offense has had its moments this season.

But it's the defense that has shined. 

Defensively the Bears give up only 15 points per game, which places them only behind the San Francisco 49ers as the best scoring defense in the NFL. The unit gives up only 88 yards rushing per game and only 319 total yards per contest. 

What makes the Bears an elite team is the fact that the defense has already intercepted 17 passes—and returned seven of those for touchdowns. 

Leading the way for the Bears defense are two of the game's top cornerbacks: veteran Charles Tillman and the emerging Tim Jennings. Tillman has two interceptions and has returned both for touchdowns. Jennings has six interceptions and one touchdown. 

Quarterback Jay Cutler and the offense have struggled at times during the first half of the season, but the team's elite defense has helped put up enough points for the Bears to win games against what appears to be a weak schedule. 

So far the Bears have played just two teams with a winning record, the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts. Chicago beat up on Indianapolis 41-21 against a rookie quarterback in his first NFL game, but were embarrassed a few days later by the Packers, 23-10. 

Conversely, the games the Bears have won have been against some seemingly mediocre opposition:

  Opponent                                                     Record                             
St. Louis Rams 3-5
Dallas Cowboys 3-5
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-7
Detroit Lions 4-4
Carolina Panthers  2-6
Tennessee Titans  3-6

The Bears have clearly had a soft schedule to date, and have even dropped a game against a quality opponent. With that being said, the Bears are winning the games they are supposed to—a great sign. 

Chicago has a lot going for it right now, including an easy schedule. That ends starting in Week 10 as the Houston Texans (7-1) travel to Chicago. The Bears also have matchups looming with the 49ers (6-2), the Packers (6-3) and the Minnesota Vikings (5-4) twice. 

We're going to find out very quickly if the Bears are legit or not. One thing's for sure—the defense won't be able to carry a mediocre offense much longer, especially against a tough second half of the schedule. 

As of now the Bears record is a product of an easy schedule and a great defense. But now Chicago will be hitting the difficult part of its schedule, and we'll see if the first half of the season has simply been a fluke.