Bears Heading Into Early Critical Stretch of Season

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

4-1 would be a lot better than 3-2. An obvious statement to be sure, but the Bears stand to gain a lot from beating the Saints on Sunday afternoon.

When the Bears head into Soldier Field to take on the Saints, they'll be tied with the Lions at 3-1 in the division (with the Lions holding the tiebreaker for the lead). When they leave, they'll either be 4-1 or 3-2.

Simple math, sure. However, that one win could make some significant gains for the Bears.

  • Keep in mind the Lions head to Lambeau to take on the 1-2 Packers, another huge divisional game. If the Lions take down the Packers, that pushes the Lions to 4-1, but it also pushes the Packers to 1-3. Maybe that means the Packers aren't as significant a threat this season, or maybe it means the Lions are actually really, really good to go on the road to win in Green Bay. Or maybe it's some combination of neither. Either way, it would put the Packers on a significant disadvantage this early in the year, though the Lions would be 4-1 - again, tied with the 4-1 Bears (should the Bears win; purely hypothetically speaking).
  • That 4-1/4-1 tie could be overcome by the second Bears-Lions tilt, which with a Bears' win would separate the records again and give the Bears back the overall lead.
  • Should the Packers win that game against Detroit, the Lions would be 3-2, and the Bears would have the division lead back with a game to go against the Lions later and two against the Packers.

Keep in mind that after Sunday against the Saints, the Bears have the (currently-winless) New York Giants on Thursday night with the 1-3 Washington Redskins the following week, then the first game against the Packers following the bye with the Lions and Ravens following soon after, which is a pretty critical stretch of games during which a losing streak really can't be afforded.

The Lions (after Green Bay) get the Browns, Bengals and Cowboys heading into their bye and the rematch against the Bears. Afterwards, they get the Steelers and Buccaneers before welcoming Green Bay to town.

No, neither of those right now look like overly-intimidating sections of the schedule.

But with the Bears at 3-1 currently, heading into the bye and that first Packers game, they (best-case scenario) could be 5-2 or 6-1. You could say the same about the Lions, potentially (7-1, 6-2, 5-3, etc., but you get the idea). And the Packers could still be lurking, with games against the Bears, Lions, Ravens, Browns and Vikings ahead - opportunities to make up division ground in a hurry.

Of course, it's too early to write off games to come, and no one's claiming victories before they're earned. But if the Bears are going to continue an NFC North title push, shaking off last week's game against the Lions and coming out hot against the undefeated Saints would be an ideal place to start. One way or another, the Bears will have an opportunity in the North with the result of the Lions/Packers game - and a win against the Saints can make taking that opportunity a lot easier.

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