The Chicago Bears are very much in contention following a 3-0 September that culminated in Sunday afternoon's comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. And you can never count out a team led by quarterback Nick Foles, who drove that 16-point comeback and has a Super Bowl MVP, four playoff victories and the third-highest-rated single season in NFL history on his resume.
Two of Chicago's three wins have come in improbable fashion. In addition to Week 3's 30-26 victory, it also overcame three quarters of poor play to beat the banged-up Detroit Lions despite facing a 17-point second-half deficit in Week 1.
However, the Lions and Falcons are all-time chokers.
The Bears' three opponents are a combined 1-8 this season. They nearly lost in Week 2 to a New York Giants team that has been outscored 62-25 in its other two outings.
The Lions didn't have top receiver Kenny Golladay and were in rough shape in the secondary two weeks ago, the Giants lost superstar running back Saquon Barkley early in their meeting, and the Falcons were without future Hall of Fame wideout Julio Jones in Week 3.
And so the Bears are 3-0 despite the fact they've surrendered more first downs than they've gained, despite the fact their turnover margin is even and despite the fact they've taken more penalties than their shorthanded opponents.
It's not remotely sustainable, especially with running back Tarik Cohen now likely out for the remainder of the season due to what they fear is a torn ACL.
Now the schedule becomes a lot more arduous, as well.
Their next two games come against playoff contenders in the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who are a combined 4-0 the last two weeks), and they're one month away from the start of a brutal five-game run in which they face the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers (they draw Green Bay twice down the home stretch).
Can we completely rule out a run with Foles leading the offense and megastar Khalil Mack headlining on defense? Of course not. Foles, in particular, has established himself as somewhat of a football unicorn and somebody you simply don't want to bet against.
That said, while Foles was magical when he threw 27 touchdown passes to two interceptions with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, and while he was legendary when he posted a 115.7 passer rating in place of an injured Carson Wentz in the 2017 playoffs, the 31-year-old has never experienced consistent productivity for an extended stretch at any point in his nine-year pro career.
He's never been successful outside of Philadelphia, and both the Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars have opted to go in different directions at quarterback the last two offseasons. He's never started even a dozen games in a single season, and his 6.5 yards-per-attempt average between 2017 and 2019 ranked 39th among 44 passers with at least 400 attempts during that stretch.
Foles might be more trustworthy than Mitchell Trubisky, who was benched midway through Sunday's victory despite inconsistent but altogether decent play in the first two weeks of the season. He could get hot and carry the Bears to an extra win or two between now and Week 17.
With that in mind and the playoff field expanding to seven teams per conference, a Bears squad that has at least established some cushion at 3-0 should remain in the postseason picture throughout the year.
But Foles will at times be a liability, Trubisky's presence (and head coach Matt Nagy's unusually quick Week 3 hook) could become distracting, and the schedule is about to become a lot less forgiving.
For a team with a lack of depth at the offensive skill positions and diminished defensive talent surrounding Mack, that could be a problem. Even though they were 2-0, the Bears entered Week 3 ranked below the league median in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders, and Sunday's mistake-riddled skin-of-their-teeth victory over a fragile opponent isn't likely to change that significantly.
This is a mediocre team with a perfect record. Expect a correction before long.