Jon Gruden's unimpeded enthusiasm usually operates a notch or two above normal human capacity, but it's a safe bet those inside Soldier Field on Monday night will be able to channel a good portion of the announcer's unparalleled excitement. It's been 26 seasons since the Bears last won the Super Bowl, and Chicago is starving for another. As the Lions come to town for a pivotal Week 7 showdown, there's a developing sense that this is the closest the Bears have been since their run of dominance in the '80s.
This isn't as much a litmus test of the Bears' true worth as it a gauge of their resolve. The Bears are rolling and have their eyes locked on a 7-1 start. Anything less will qualify as a disappointment. Which is to say: the Bears have no excuse to lose this game. If Chicago really is the best team in the NFL, they'll prove it by rightfully discarding an inferior squad on their home turf under the warming glow of a national audience. This doesn't inherently feel like a statement game, but it can turn into one if the Bears deliver another powerful performance.
The NFL has been firmly entrenched in the parity era for long enough to ensure nothing is ever as easy as it seems, and it would be decidedly Bears-like to lay an egg in front of the entire world. Hell, they did it in Week 2. But with excitement swirling and opportunity knocking, I'd like to think these Bears won't be privy to falling victim to the same proximity mines that tripped up the teams that came before them. This outfit is talented and healthy and is getting closer to operating on all cylinders. The Bears are showing signs that perhaps all of the preseason Super Bowl hype wasn't so ridiculous. Their case will be built one impressive victory at a time, and there's time like the present to keep the momentum rolling.
Prediction: Bears in a walk.
Even when the Bears are playing well and have all the momentum in the world, they still make you uneasy.
The 2006 Bears went 13-3 en route to a Super Bowl, but they're still a team that featured a QB controversy, a starter who posted a QB rating of zero in Week 17, and an offense so shaky, you couldn't help but wait for the other shoe to drop. Spoiler alert: it did.
When the Bears traded for Jay Cutler, Chicago won the off-season, changed the entire culture of the team, and gave fans a tangible hope that never before existed. The franchise savior went on to throw 4 INTs in his Week 1 debut, and, in a way, expectations were tapered forever. Sure, we let our guards down when the Bears hosted the NFC Championship game a season later, but that proved disastrous (goodbye, knee!). Last year's team was one of the hottest in the NFL until another injury (hello, thumb!) threw a wrench in the gears.
But every season is a new slate. And this one saw the Bears burst out of the gates with a route over the Colts only to crash and burn less than a week later on Thursday Night Football in Green Bay. Cutler melted down -- the sky was falling, yet again.
But a three-game win streak later (and that makes it sound modest; blowout streak is more accurate), the Bears are back in the pole position. They waxed the Cowboys on the road on Monday Night Football, lead the NFC North, and are even being called the best team in the NFL by one prominent writer.
This is, typically, when everything falls apart.
So that's why this Monday is important. I'm not even going to call it a test, because, at this point, I think the Bears are simply better than that. This is a superior team hosting a structurally unsound division opponent at home under the lights. There's a reason Chicago is favored by 6.5 in Vegas.
So yeah: it's time to close the door on the middle-to-upper tier and embrace being truly elite. It's finally, finally, finally the Bears' time.
You're *still* nervous? Well, I understand.
I can cite those facts, but I can't properly digest them. Let's just say I'm not going to delete the Week 4 win vs. the Cowboys before kickoff on Monday.
Bonus predictions: Jim Schwartz will act like an asshat on the sidelines, regardless of the outcome.
Now, look at this:
Xanax Threat Level: 1/8th a bar.