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Monday, October 15, 2012
Bill Barnwell Reverse Jinx
Okay, what the hell? Longtime Bears hater, Grantland columnist, and living-in-his-mom's-basement enthusiast Bill Barnwell just released his week six NFL rankings...
"1. Chicago Bears (4-1) Yes, that's right, the Bears. The same Bears who capitulated in Green Bay in Week 2 and briefly became a national punch line because Jay Cutler threw four interceptions. That's a rough loss, but it also came in a game where Matt Forte left with an injury during the opening drive of the second half. That forced the Bears to change their offense on the fly and integrate Michael Bush into the starting lineup without many practice reps. As you might expect, the Bears are significantly better with Forte around; he's averaged a full 4.7 yards per carry this year, well ahead of backups Bush (3.6 yards per pop) and Kahlil Bell (2.7). When Forte is around, there's nothing the Bears don't do well. They're proficient running the ball, adequate throwing it, and well above-average in all facets of defense and special teams. The emergence of Henry Melton and Shea McClellin as secondary pass rushers has freed up space for Julius Peppers, while Tim Jennings has had a career year in five games at cornerback: He's set or tied career highs in interceptions (four) and passes defended (10) with 11 games left to go.
And while everybody else has a close call or two on their résumé, the Bears have been dominant in their four wins this season. In their three wins against average-or-better competition — the Colts, Cowboys, and Rams — Chicago won by a minimum of 16 points. Their one game against a cream puff, the Jaguars, resulted in a 41-3 shellacking. Every other team on this list, besides perhaps the Texans, had at least one game in which a change on one play would turn their win into a loss. That hasn't been true for the Bears. They've had some luck in producing five defensive touchdowns in five games this year, but the defense would still be good and the margins of victory would still be impressive without the bonus touchdowns from the defense.
If you want to hop on the Bears bandwagon (a place where I admittedly have to hide, myself), now's the time. Over the next three weeks, Chicago is home for games against the Lions and Panthers before traveling to Tennessee. At that point, the Bears might very well be 7-1, but their schedule will become something resembling punishment: Their next six games include matchups against the Seahawks (thankfully, in Chicago), Texans, Packers, 49ers, and a home-and-home with the Vikings. They might not have the best record in football by the time they're through with that month and a half of hell, but if they can go 3-3 or 4-2 across that stretch, I wouldn't budge them from this spot.
Of course, it also probably says something about how flawed even the league's best teams are that the team I chose for the top spot on this list is the one that was out of sight and on a bye this week. The Bears could very well lose to the Lions next Monday night and create an AFC East–esque logjam in the NFC North, and we'll all have to revisit this whole conceit again. Until that upset happens, the best team in football resides in the Windy City."