Are the Bears for real?

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

A scant five weeks ago, the Chicago Bears were the roast of the town, not the toast.

There were calls from numerous quarters to fire head coach Lovie Smith on the spot.

At 4-3, the Bears were stumbling along and going nowhere, their offensive line a complete joke and quarterback Jay Cutler running for his life on just about every play.

Since that time, the Bears have put together a five-game win streak that has shot them to the top of the NFC Central with a 9-3 record, one game in front of the heavily favoured pre-season pick, the Green Bay Packers.

In Chicago, everybody is talking playoffs and whispering Super Bowl.

The Bears run to prominence, however, may be nothing more than fool's gold and they will get a reality check on Sunday when the 10-2 New England Patriots come to town.

A Patriots win not only may set the Bears back on their heels and question their overall ability, but when you look at their schedule it may well start Chicago on a four-game slide that could take them right out of the playoffs altogether.

Ridiculous? Not really.

The Bears were 4-3 when they arrived in Toronto to face the then winless Bills and looked less than stellar that game when they barely bested Buffalo by a 22-19 score.

Since that game, the Bears beat the Vikings at home, a team that was in the process of a revolt against coach Brad Childress, who has since been fired and followed that up by blanking a Miami team that was down to their third-string quarterback.

Their fourth win in a row was a legit one as they bested the red-hot Eagles 31-26 at home and followed that one up by putting forth a blah effort in their 24-20 victory over Detroit last week. So over the past five weeks they've played four stiffs and one quality team in their 5-0 run.

Over the final four weeks, though, the Bears probably have the toughest schedule in the NFL as following New England they are on the road at Minnesota against a reinvigorated Vikings team, play host to the New York Jets and close it out on the road in Green Bay.

Can you say 0-4, a 9-7 season and a wave goodbye to the playoffs?

It certainly is not a long-shot, given the quality of the opposition and the motivation those four teams will have for those games.

Naturally enough, the Bears feel good about their chances, starting Sunday against the might Patriots.

"Remember, we have them at home ... the same like Philly," Bears veteran middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said this week. "When we played Philly, everybody was saying they were the best, right? It's the same situation, and hopefully the same result.

"New England is the best team in the NFL, record-wise. But I feel like we're the best team, period. That's why I say record-wise. They have the best quarterback, numbers-wise. And everybody likes to go by numbers, right?"

If the numbers add up to four consecutive losses, however, they'll once again be howling for Smith's scalp.

WORST GAME EVER

That the Cleveland Browns will travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills this Sunday has to be viewed as some sort of warped joke as it brings together at the same site a rematch of one of the worst played games in NFL history--last year's 6-3 Cleveland victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

A year ago, the game was held in Week 5, the Browns off to a 0-4 starts while the Bills were at 1-3 and listing.

Game conditions that day were dreadful as the winds were absolutely howling making any pass attempt or kick an adventure at best and a nightmare at the worst.

Neither team could manage a touchdown on the day and the game was tied 3-3 with time running out and the Browns punting.

Bills punt returner Roscoe Parrish mishandled a bouncing ball, the Browns recovered and after running back Jamal Lewis was stopped inches from the goal line on third-and-goal from the three, backup kicker Billy Cundiff hit an 18-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining for the victory.

The highlight or the low-light of the day was the performance of then Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, who had a zero passer rating in the second half as he went 1-for-7 for seven yards with one interception.

On the day, Anderson completed just two of 17 pass attempts for 23 yards to set an NFL record for the lowest completion percentage by a quarterback (11.8%) in a win since AFL-NFL merger.

Now the two teams get to do it all over again in the snow and bitter cold.


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