Given all the talk about the Bears' upcoming strength of schedule, you'd think they were playing nothing but road games with the eight best teams in the NFL.
Yes, things are about to get a lot tougher for the Bears. Their remaining eight opponents are a combined 42-27; their first eight are currently 27-39. And it's been since Week 2 that the Bears have played someone who presently has a winning record; they've got six of them lined up in a row, starting with the 7-1 Texans and the 6-2 49ers back to back.
So what? By taking care of business against lesser opponents the way they did, the 7-1 Bears are in a position where they don't have to win at a high rate from here on out to make the playoffs. They might have to go 4-4 the rest of the way, and may even need to go 5-3 to be safe in a loaded NFC. A 5-3 finish is probably the minimum the Bears can do if they want to win the NFC North and secure a first-round bye. But the Bears are in a great spot.
I don't know how they'll fare against the Texans and the 49ers. They're better defensively than anyone the Bears have played so far; the only team you can argue as an exception is Dallas. But the Bears are in a position where they certainly don't have to win both games. They may need to beat the 49ers for home field. Losing either game won't seriously damage their playoff chances, and even if they lose both, they'll still be in pretty good shape.
Beyond that, the Bears get two meetings with Minnesota wedged around a home game with Seattle. Barring a Jay Cutler injury between now and then, they'll be favored in all three of those games with the longshot possible exception of the Dec. 9 game at Minnesota
Meeting No. 2 with Green Bay follows that stretch. Given the way the Bears' defense played the last time the teams met, I'm actually looking forward to that one. If Cutler and the offense show up, it should at least be a game. The NFC North title may, in effect, be on the line, but again, the odds are that the Bears can lose and still be in decent shape for a playoff berth.
The Bears have to finish with two road games, but they're against the free-falling and likely to be playing out the string Cardinals and a Lions team their defense already shut down once.
I don't expect a 7-1 second half from the Bears. In another very original thought, I don't expect their defense to continue to keep scoring touchdowns the way it has, either. Fun 31-point blowouts like the one the Bears just enjoyed at Tennessee probably won't happen much from here on out.
But if you're going to suggest that the Bears are going to collapse and their season is going to be derailed because they've got some real teams coming up, I think you're nuts. They're up 2.5 games on the Seahawks and Vikings, who are tied for the sixth NFC playoff spot. Neither of those teams are terribly likely to reel off a bunch of wins in a row, even if the Bears do slip up. At this point, the Bears surpassing the Falcons and holding off the 49ers and Packers for the No. 1 seed in the NFC seems more likely to me than them missing the playoffs altogether.