When the Chicago Bears visited the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in early October, they were totally outplayed by the once-hapless Lions in front of a national audience. It wasn't a great day to be a Bears fan. But the team has been on a roll since that game, and when the Bears host the Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday, they'll have a chance to tie Detroit for second-place in the NFC North.
After losing to Detroit 24-13 on Oct. 10, the Bears were staring at a 2-3 record through their first five games. The offensive line was struggling once again, the secondary was having serious issues against the pass, and it seemed like the Bears wouldn't be able to repeat their unexpected success from last season. Then the Bears faced the Minnesota Vikings, got their mojo back, and have since won consecutive games away from home against NFC contenders from Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
In just a few short weeks, the Bears have climbed back from the fringes to be a full-fledged contender. In order to truly exert themselves as a legitimate threat later in the season, though, they'll have to get by the rival Lions this week. Detroit still sits in second place in the NFC North at 6-2, a game ahead of the 5-3 Bears, and a win this week would stretch that lead to two games and give the Lions a season sweep over Chicago.
Expect the Lions to be prepared, too, as they're coming off a bye week of rest and beat the Denver Broncos 45-10 in their most recent contest. They lost consecutive games to San Francisco and Atlanta preceding that game, though, so there are still some questions revolving their ability to beat top-level teams. Another win against Chicago this week would go a long way towards softening those concerns.
Over the past four weeks, the Bears have played three very good games, showing that they're still contenders in the NFC this season. They'll need to keep that momentum going on Sunday if they don't want to take a big step backwards.
For more on Sunday's game, check out Windy City Gridiron, SB Nation's Chicago Bears blog, and Pride of Detroit, SB Nation's Detroit Lions blog. Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for more updates.