The Bears are coming off their bye week at 4-1 and in as good a position as you could hope for when it comes to the division crown.
The Bears divisional foes were in action this weekend and despite that two of the three won their games, the Bears now have sole possession of first place, thanks to Washington knocking off Minnesota.
Winning the division is the second annual goal laid out by Lovie Smith, after "beat the Packers" and the Bears are on their way there. So where do the Bears stack up in the division?
Chicago Bears (4-1)
Next: vs. Detroit Lions on Monday Night
The Bears last played a week and a day ago at Jacksonville and beat them down 41-3. The Bears next game should be a good one against the Detroit Lions, who got a much-needed win yesterday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The game is big for both teams, as the Lions will want to get back to .500 and the Bears will really want to get a grip on the division. The Bears, despite leading the NFC North, are 0-1 in the division and are 2-1 against the conference. In the playoff seeding, it's imperative to have a good record against the conference and to win the division crown, the Bears will need to beat up on the other foes.
Minnesota Vikings (4-2)
Last: 38-26 loss at Washington Redskins
Next: vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Vikings have surprised many by jumping out to a 4-1 start and it has begun the "are they for real?" debate. I tend to subscribe to the "you are what your record says you are" theory. They are a pretty good team and could compete for a Wildcard spot. Christian Ponder has been surprising with his QB play, but at the end of the day he looks more like a "game manager" type QB who plays well by not making too many mistakes and keeping the team in the game. It's tough to say this team is going to be in it all year, but they have a great home field advantage and a great running game and a good defense. They are also 1-0 in the division after beating the Lions, so it's important for the Bears to keep pace and take advantage of the Vikings loss yesterday and win next Monday to keep a gap between the two teams.
Green Bay Packers (3-3)
Last: 42-24 win over the Houston Texans
Next: at St. Louis Rams
The Packers have been disappointing this year, after their 15-1 record a season ago. The big plays haven't really been there, the defense has been hit and miss and they have had some injuries. However, last night they seemed to have gotten themselves back on track with a dismantling of the previously undefeated Texans. Aaron Rodgers looked like Aaron Rodgers 2011 MVP, throwing six TDs and the defense sacked and intercepted Matt Schaub as many times as he had all season. The Packers are already one up on the Bears in the division but have a 2-2 conference record and a lackluster 1-2 road record. Their schedule in the their bye week is pretty easy, at Rams, vs. Jaguars, vs. Cardinals. The Bears need to keep grinding to keep a gap between them and the Packers and then when they get the chance in December, avenge their Thursday night loss.
Detroit Lions (2-3)
Last: 26-23 win at Philadelphia Eagles
Next: at Chicago Bears
The Lions have been disappointing to their fans hoping for the team to build off its 10-6 breakout year last season. The defense was never good and hasn't been much better, other than their defensive line. Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford haven't been what they were last year, but they both bounced back from a bad start yesterday to rebound and rally from a late deficit to an overtime win in Philly. The Lions and the Bears have had a heat rivalry the last couple years with some highly intense and closely contested games. I expect that to continue next Monday and the Bears will need to win to keep the division at bay and keep a hold of first place. The Lions are not out of anything and could certainly play spoilers to the Bears hopes. For the record, the Lions are 1-2 on the road and their net points are -11 (126 for to 137 against).
The Bears are no doubt in the drivers seat, but the season is far from over and the division is as competitive as ever and faces another competitive division is common opponents (NFC West). So much of their season depends on those games. Either way, the next 11 weeks are going to be fun as heck for Bears fans to watch.