It is interesting to see the NFL and how much change there has been since the pre-season “power rankings” across conferences to where we are today. Here were the “top 5″ from one pre-season list – you can see how much the prognosticators were favoring past years and putting faith in programs that seem to stack up long term positive outcomes.
- Seattle Seahawks
- Denver Broncos
- New Orleans Saints
- New England Patriots
- San Francisco 49ers
But here is a recent “power rankings” list and their top five:
- Denver Broncos
- Dallas Cowboys
- Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Indianapolis Colts
And it isn’t as if those pre-season “top 5″ just slid down a bit… Seattle is at #11, New Orleans is at #20 (lower even than the Bears!), the Patriots are at #9 (still in the hunt), and San Francisco is at #13.
On the flip side – no one saw the Dallas Cowboys coming on, and they are now at #2 (remember that humiliating loss AT HOME to the 49ers where the “home” crowd was mostly 49er fans?). The Eagles are also coming on strong and I don’t want to talk about the Packers we all know how they are playing right now with Aaron Rogers throwing out of his mind.
The NFL now is a very competitive league and I think that there are few teams (except for Lovie’s woeful Tampa Bay Bucs and the “commitment to excellence” Raiders) that we can seriously count out of even being dangerous on a given weekend.
While people (myself included) were expecting great things out of a suddenly healthy defense and with new draft picks, based on the success of the prior years’ draft class, these things mostly haven’t materialized. No one expected the random linebackers we picked up off the waiver wire to do so well one game, and then our returning starters to get whipped the following game. And seeing our #1 pick on defense on the stationary bike was also a killer.
The Dolphins and Bills are much better squads than they have fielded in prior years, and while losing to them seems ridiculous (at home no less), it isn’t so crazy seeing how they’ve played recently. The play calls of the Dolphins also seemed to be killing us as well (outcoached).
The NFL is almost all injuries now. If Rogers gets hurt (we only need one cheap shot people, come on) the Packers fall to the middle of the pack instantly. Don’t forget that the Bears are semi hobbled with both Marshall and Jeffrey and the defense is severely banged up.
These aren’t excuses and they don’t mollify the pain of seeing our home team Bears get beat by middle of the pack squads. But pretty much everyone was wrong on everything football wise going into this season except for the Broncos, and it isn’t too late for the Broncos to lose it based on one key injury.
I think the NFL seems to be much more competitive top to bottom and it seems like many squads are well coached and dangerous all the time. The Bears have won some games they had no business winning and they’ve lost some heartbreakers. They are a middle of the pack team now, and they are subject to the whim of injuries more than ever and none of their competitors can be taken for granted.
Back to Dan’s theme of “tanking” when the season is lost, that seems to be the strategy being employed by the Vikings, which will make them much more dangerous in the future. Today the Lions stand as difficult foes due to their top QB and WR as well as what might be the best defense in football and we have seen Rogers just slaughter teams like the Bears that don’t lay a hand on him.
I guess one positive is that lots of cities that never thought they had a chance can watch some exciting football, because their teams can be playing down to the wire against teams where previously the outcome seemed to be pre-ordained. None of this is solace to us Bears’ fans however, as we watch what seemed to be a promising season undone by home losses while our main divisional competitors (Lions and Packers) get stronger every day.