After the 40-23 thrashing delivered to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football, the Chicago Bears now sit atop the NFC North with a 3-0 record. After three straight victories to start the Marc Trestman era in Chicago, is it finally time to take the Bears seriously?
The Bears have been able to overcome adversity in each contest—rallying when needed and playing with enough moxie to generate the win.
The Bears are balanced, and that's a dangerous thing http://t.co/LospkhJxkc— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) September 23, 2013
That can be difficult to accomplish so early into the reign of a new regime. However, the Bears have shown a great amount of character and have jelled quickly as a team. They have seemingly bought in to Trestman's message.
The decision on whether to take the Bears seriously in 2013 comes down to three different factors.
Strength of Wins
The Bears began the season in dramatic fashion. After falling behind 21-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals midway through the third quarter, the Bears clenched victory from the jaws of defeat. A perfectly placed 19-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall secured a 1-0 start for Chicago.
In Week 2, the Bears took on their division rival, the Minnesota Vikings. After a back-and-forth game, Cutler was at it again—this time completing a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett with just 10 seconds left to seal the 31-30 victory.
Finally, the Bears traveled east to take on the Steelers in Week 3 Sunday night. Despite the final score reflecting a blowout, Pittsburgh managed to get within four points of the Bears with 10-plus minutes left in the game. Again, Chicago showed strong resolve, rallying and scoring 13 unanswered points to end the game.
3-0. Trestman joins Halas and Armstrong as only head coaches to win first three games with #Bears— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) September 23, 2013
All three of these matchups featured a victorious team that does not crumble in the face of adversity. It appears as though the Bears are more than capable of rising to the challenge and overcoming obstacles as a team.
The Bears are now one of only seven undefeated teams remaining in 2013.
Glancing over the remaining schedule for the Bears, one thing stands out: It does not look nearly as daunting as it did just a few weeks ago. Now that we are three games into the season, we can begin to judge the strength of schedule based on recent performances—not those of last season.
Out of the 13 remaining games on the schedule, only five are against teams with winning records currently.
Morale and momentum goes a long way in the NFL, and Chicago will continue to benefit from its own resolve going forward. With perceived contenders on the schedule (e.g. New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins) collapsing and tempers flaring, the Bears remain collected.
Looking back at their close contests over the first three weeks and recognizing how they have been able to overcome these imposing challenges gives the Bears an immeasurable boost and advantage going forward.
State of the Division
Obviously, what cannot be overlooked is the competition within the NFC North. Behind the Bears are the Detroit Lions at 2-1, the Packers at 1-2, and the Vikings at 0-3.
The Lions have been a surprise this season. Their offense is certainly one of the most dynamic in the league, but is it good enough to overcome the often suspect play of their defense? After finishing 2012 at 4-12, Detroit still has plenty of questions that remain unanswered.
Another surprise this year has been the Packers—though for unfortunate reasons.
After another trip to the playoffs in 2012 and superstar Aaron Rodgers still at the helm, Green Bay was thought to be the class of the NFC North by most everyone. Upon fumbling away their Week 3 game to Cincinnati and continuing to deal with significant injuries, the Packers remain a bit of a mystery going forward.
Minnesota's shortcomings seem to fall heavily on the arm of Christian Ponder. The third-year quarterback is simply not getting it done in the Twin Cities, and it may be time for a change under center. Losing to a decimated Cleveland Browns team does not bode well for the future of the team. Adrian Peterson can only do so much.
At this time, it seems as though the division is the Bears' to lose.
After taking all of this into account, it appears as though the Bears must absolutely be taken seriously. Sure, it is difficult to get on board right from the start with a team that has made significant coaching changes. But the Bears have shown that the changes made in Chicago have been well received and easily implemented.
The 2013 Chicago Bears are for real.