A crazy year for the NFC North took another wild turn Monday night as the Detroit Lions lost a game that the Baltimore Ravens essentially handed them. The Lions losing a game they clearly could have, and probably should have, won is nothing new. In fact, reports are that if the Lions fail to make the playoffs, head coach Jim Schwartz will be amongst the many unemployed in the bankrupt city of Detroit.
The Lions, who have been the healthiest amongst the three teams atop the NFC North, are now facing questions not just about their head coach, but also their quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford just recently signed a long term deal with the Lions that has them tied down in cap room over the next few seasons. Yet, he has hardly played like a quarterback worthy of that type of money, although the going rate for quarterbacks is at an all-time high. Something for Bears fans to keep in mind.
The problems in Detroit have often focused on their defense, and with the addition of Reggie Bush to the backfield, the offense wasn’t supposed to be a concern. In the world of fantasy football, Stafford looks like a great quarterback, putting up astronomical numbers in yards passed and touchdowns. And that’s why it is called fantasy.
The Green Bay Packers were off to a good start before hitting a wall when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was lost to a collarbone injury he suffered at the hands of Bears defensive end Shea McClellin. The Packers have gone free-falling since, and have been unable to get any forward momentum going. Luckily for them, both the Lions and the Bears have kept the Packers in the race for the NFC North. But one thing that the Rodgers injury has done is exploit the notion that the Packers have been able to have success because they have drafted so well. Injuries to the Packers have hurt, but the injury to Rodgers has shown that in the NFL today, a solid passing game can cover up many other weaknesses around the rest of the team.
Which brings me to the Bears. Given some questionable play calling and having to watch a dreadful defense get embarrassed nearly every week, it is hard to imagine that I can sit here and be confident that the arrow is pointing up for the Bears.
I mean really, their draft picks have been hit or miss (with the exception of Kyle Long and Alshon Jeffery it has been a big pile of miss), and there really isn’t any young players playing behind a veteran that excites you about his future.
Yet, just as it has shown with the Packers, a solid passing game can get you to the top. The defense is a national joke, with safeties who are often tackling ghosts and linebackers who have had trouble pursuing runners who seemingly have no trouble getting passed their line of defense. The offensive line may look good on paper, but detailed stats will tell you they have been far from good this season.
Yet the Bears sit atop the NFC North with two game remaining, including one with the Packers the final week of the season. It has all been made possible by the adaption of the Bears front office and head coach Marc Trestman molding to the 2013 NFL. It’s a passing league, and with weapons like Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett the Bears are stacked on offense.
It’s the reason a journeyman backup quarterback could come in and grab a city’s attention while the starting quarterback was down. It’s the reason why they sit with 8 wins and just 6 losses when the defense is giving up nearly 30 points a game. It’s the reason why the Bears stand a chance at the playoffs in a division that was once thought of as a potential two wildcard option.
Given all the expiring contracts, the Bears will be in good position this offseason to begin building around the offensive weapons they have. There isn’t really anyone on this team outside of the previously mentioned offensive players that would drastically change this team next year. With that in mind, and the fact that they sit at 8-6 with that statement holding true, general manager Phil Emery has shifted the arrow up for the future of the Bears. It’s a good place to start.