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MNF presents opportunity for Bears

The Chicago Bears have started the season 1-1 and face another tough road test tonight when they visit the New York Jets. If the Bears want to be a team that can compete for the division title, this is a game they must win.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears gutted out a gritty road victory out west last week when they beat the San Francisco 49ers 28-20. The Bears overcame a 17-0 deficit and outscored the 49ers 28-3 from the waning seconds of the first half to the end of the game.

The game showed that the team is mentally tough and able to battle through injuries and adversity in a hostile environment. It is an extremely positive win for an organization that is trying to get over the hump and back into the playoffs, as well as establish a consistent winning culture under their second-year head coach Marc Trestman.

Good teams win on the road. Great teams come from behind. It's still too early to tell if the Bears fall into either of those categories. Through two games the defense has had moments of brilliance and some familiar lapses in their assignments.

The offense bounced back from a poor week one showing and a slow start last week to finish strong, but the run game hasn't been there and the same old questions about Jay Cutler's inconsistency lurk.

The fact is that if the Bears want to be in contention for the NFC North division title at the end of the season and they want to be a big-time contender, those are games they need to win. They've done that. Now they need to take advantage of missteps by division foes.

This last item has been the team's shortcoming the last two years.

In 2012, the Bears entered Week 17 9-6 and needed a win over the Lions and a Vikings loss in order to make the playoffs, a scenario necessitated by the Bears' losses to the Vikings and Packers in weeks 14 and 15.

Last season, with the division theirs for the win in Week 16 against the Eagles, the Bears laid a gigantic egg and were trounced 54-11. This after earlier in the day the Green Bay Packers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and struggled through a 2-5-1 stretch with Aaron Rodgers out.

In Week 17, with a final shot at taking the division and getting into the playoffs, the Bears defense had crucial errors en route to a 33-28 loss at the hands of the hated green and gold.

It is still very early in the season and there is a lot of football left to be played but the Bears have a chance tonight to really get a head start on the division lead.

The Green Bay Packers lost yesterday on the road to the Detroit Lions 19-7. The Bears will have to worry about the Lions, but that's further down the schedule. Right now the Bears have a chance to defeat an opponent that the Packers already defeated (doesn't hurt their record against common opponents) and gives them an early game up on the Packers in the division, just six days before they pay a visit to Soldier Field on Sunday.

The Bears should absolutely not be looking ahead at all to the Packers. The Jets pose a whole host of problems for the Bears on their own; strong running game, option-run game and a strong defensive line.

But if the Bears want to get a head start in the division and continue to notch wins in their front-loaded schedule, they need to take care of business tonight and then the Bears' goals will begin to be in sight.