An ugly preseason has not lingered into the opening weeks of the 2010 NFL season, but the Chicago Bears face their biggest test of the season this Monday night when they host their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers are playing great football in the early-going, ranking third in the NFL in scoring while allowing the seventh-fewest points of any team in the league.
They will be missing a key component of their offense, however, as tailback Ryan Grant will not suit up Monday night at Soldier Field; he is lost for the rest of the 2010-11 season.
In his place, Brandon Jackson will get the bulk of the carries for Green Bay, who figure to utilize their exceptional passing attack more than ever.
Aaron Rodgers has a stable of wideouts he can use, and there will be little room for error in Chicago's secondary this week.
The Bears sit at an impressive (and unexpected) 2-0, but have many people questioning if this team can maintain their positive progression against an opponent such as Green Bay.
In Chicago's opening week victory over the Detroit Lions, the Bears committed key turnovers and were bailed out by a bogus call late in the game that reversed the Lions' winning touchdown.
They were underdogs last week in Dallas, but handled the Cowboys just enough to escape Texas with a 2-0 record.
Week 3 against Green Bay will certainly provide more evidence as to where the Bears actually stand.
Are they a legitimate playoff contender, or is the 2-0 start merely a mirage?
Remember, they should have lost to Detroit, had a silly rule not been in place.
They earned the victory last week against Dallas, but it didn't come without quarterback Jay Cutler being harassed in the early-going.
Green Bay is a surefire playoff contender and Super Bowl-hopeful, so this game could indicate whether the Bears will be in the hunt or if they will simply be on the outside looking in.
In all likelihood, the Bears don't need to win Monday night against the Packers to prove their worth to the NFL world—there's still a lot of football to be played and a 2-1 record still puts them in a favorable position.
How the game unfolds will determine how we will judge the Bears this coming Tuesday.
If they are run out of the building (by ground or air), then we will have to consider the Bears a pretender, not capable of making any serious noise in the NFC.
But if they put up a fight and play with Green Bay for 60 minutes, we will at least have to acknowledge the possibility that the Bears can make it to the dance.
A win, obviously, will prove that the Bears have what it takes—provided they stay healthy and don't lose their collective minds (I'm looking at you, Lovie).
It's an exciting time, and the city of Chicago will be rocking on Monday night.
Will we feel the same excitement on Tuesday?
The Bear-ometer will be more clear then.