Chicago Bears

Arkush: Bears just might be the real deal

Bears running back Jordan Howard rushes during the first half against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Bears running back Jordan Howard rushes during the first half against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Let’s be honest here. Everybody’s job is better when it’s fun, and of course, I enjoy my job more when the Bears enjoy theirs.

And the reason my job is fun right now is the same reason you’re having a lot more fun following them: For the first time in a long time, the Bears are actually good, and any objective analysis says they likely are going to get better.

Which leads us directly to the subject of the moment right now from the outside looking in as a segment of the national press has chosen this week to suggest these guys really aren’t that good.

Are these first-place Bears a legitimate playoff contender and a threat to do some damage in January?

Or are they pretenders, the product of a cupcake schedule that has seen them face only two teams with winning records, New England and Miami, both of which beat them?

Of course Nagy believes in his guys, but he also knows they are going to have to start answering the doubters now.

“This is gonna be real now,” he said Wednesday. “For us to play three games in 12 days, and then two games within 80-something hours apart, that’s gonna test you.

“This is when it’s really important to focus in on the details of that stuff, and so it starts at home with Detroit. And having two more games after that being divisional, it’ll test us. We’ll see where we’re at.”

What seems apparent to me is that most of these folks outside Chicago who suddenly are feeling the need to rain on the Bears’ parade are only looking at the schedule and the stats sheet and not actually watching them play.

It is fair to question the caliber of the Bears’ competition, but you can’t call them out without acknowledging that they’re not only beating those teams, they convincingly beat a solid Seattle bunch and destroyed all the rest but the Cardinals.

As Nagy said, “Their effort and their ability to play fast are the two biggest things.”

You also have to consider that even the bad teams in the NFL have some good football players, and when you study the tape and see how guys such as Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Khalil Mack – when he was healthy – are dominating in their one-on-one matchups, there really is no question that the Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Questions about the offense are harder to answer.

As their young leader, Mitch Trubisky, said Wednesday, “We’re halfway through the season now, and we’ve got three big divisional opponents coming up, and we kind of know where we’re at as a team.

“There’s a lot of opportunity up ahead, so we’ve got to just take them one game at a time and take advantage of every opportunity we get.”

Trubisky is not a finished product – or even close – but he’s shown enough traits to justify the Bears’ hopes for him, and he clearly is making progress.

That he’s played without his top receiver and probably the team’s best offensive player in Allen Robinson the past three weeks and starting tight end Adam Shaheen all season certainly have slowed the offense’s progress.

Add the fact that the offensive line was only average before it lost its best player, Kyle Long, and doubts about that side of the ball are justified.

Throw in that the offense played its worst game of the year this past Sunday against the best defense it’s seen in Buffalo.

These Bears have made a huge leap from 8-24 in the past two seasons to the top half of the league, and their defense will beat some very good teams.

But it’s just as clear that the offense isn’t yet ready to swap paint with teams like the Saints, Rams, Chiefs, Chargers or Patriots.

Ultimately, their final grade will be dictated by the progress the offense makes in the next eight weeks.

What they are now is well ahead of schedule, and while they’re not contenders yet, they’re certainly not pretenders, and folks calling them such need to open their eyes and work a little harder at their jobs.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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