By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
It would be easy for all of us in the toddlin’ town of Chicago to question Buffalo’s place as a weekend destination. Maybe the only reason any of us would have to travel there in a random November would be to follow our beloved Bears.
But even in a season already full of unforeseen developments for the New Monsters, it shouldn’t be that surprising that the Chicago Bears had the closest thing they’ll have to a gridiron fiesta in 2018 in the party capital of Western New York. A 41-9 party to be exact, another favorable 50 spot in a week where that number has already been on Chicago sports fans minds.
There may have been some worry that the guys would derail against the Bills, after all Buffalo can be a bad trip for Chicago athletes looking to kick it…also, no matter how low they get those Bills certainly know how to circle the wagons, don’t they, Boomer? (Man, I really don’t miss him on Sundays).
This was more like Custer’s last stand, though, or the Peter-man’s latest stand. I don’t know what it will take to get Nathan Peterman off an NFL field, or at least off the field as a quarterback, but we should be thankful the Bills didn’t have sense enough to see how outmatched they were coming into this game.
Four turnovers later and a bunch of points off turnovers later, the Bears had all they needed to secure a fifth win of this season and more.
This was quite a breezy day in the park, a well-timed one featuring an impromptu team photo in the Bills end zone, a rare group celebration for a team that is always either seemingly worried about how it can do better or playing so far above their heads that they are too charged up off success to orchestrate anything after a score.
Against the Bills — who may be closer to their Canadian counterparts in the CFL than anyone in the NFL in ability as well as geography — the Bears had as close of a preseason game as they’ve had since August. For proof, look at this nugget reported by Brad Biggs of the Tribune:
The inept Bills actually outgained the Bears 265 to 190 in total yards, but that was only because they ran 81 offensive plays to the Bears’ 46. How odd is that? It was the first time a team has scored 41 or more points with 190 or fewer yards since the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Eagles 41-10 on Oct. 2, 1966, at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field.Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune
Certainly a half-speed effort resulted from Sunday, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If the Bears needed to go all-out to beat the Bills then something would have been wrong even if the team was still 5-3 and in first place today. But instead of looking lucky in the effort, Chicago was dominant, and that could be dismissed as well given the opponent but any team that’s worth a damn in the NFL has at least one of these performances in them each season and Buffalo is the team you do such things against.
So, clear of this two week period as clear favorites, and thankfully clear of the AFC East as a whole, the Bears can now get to some real work and the major story line now is the five division games left on the ’18 calendar, including three NFC North games to come in 12 days, ending with a Thanksgiving day trip to Detroit. The Lions start the gauntlet by visiting Chicago this coming Sunday.
There’s really not much more to say about this game, it’ll be interesting to see now how the Bears respond to success — not only is a playoff spot theirs for the taking but so is the North division.
After the pain of letting the Packers off the hook in Week 1 — and with the knowledge and confidence that should have come with the five wins since — the Bears are no longer a team full of bright-eyed youth with a rookie coach feeling his way about, this is a contender now.
For what? That’s still to be determined, but the idea of establishing oneself as a Super Bowl contender over the bodies of your most hated foes should be galvanizing, as should the impending returns of Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson.
Are we looking at an 8-3 team by the time the tryptophan (or whatever) gives us the special holiday “itis” a couple Thursdays from now? We very well could be. A game like Sunday’s is proof enough.
Reviewing The Power 5
Our second quarter NFL power rankings teased an overtaking of our established No. 1, the Los Angeles Rams, cause I’m not new to this but true to this.
With enough NFL watching experience one could tell that the Rams were running low on rope to keep them, the last undefeated team in the League, out of the stew of contention the rest of the NFC is swimming in. The Packers and Seahawks did a lot to stretch the Rams in recent weeks and they were coming into an a contest with a red-hot Saints team in the Superdome.
What resulted was another high profile showdown that lived up to hype, something the NFL does as well as any league, and though the Rams kept it interesting after a rough first half they eventually fell, which should mean a fall in our power rankings unless every one else stumbles below them.
Looking at our latest five, all four teams under the Rams won convincingly this week, setting themselves up for more success down the line. There’s no reason to believe the Rams will crumble anytime soon but the Saints own a tiebreaker now, the Panthers are trying hard to keep up with them in the NFC South and the top two AFC teams are heads above their competition.
Look out for the Monday night showdown on the 19th between the Rams and the Chiefs in Mexico City, which should tell the remaining story between the current top 3, below is that game along with four other key ones between our power 5 and other contenders through the month of November.
- Chiefs vs. Rams (11/19) — May surpass Rams/Saints in offensive theatricality, if not playoff importance since they’re in opposite conferences, but potential Super Bowl matches are always tasty. On another note, its a good thing that we’re not punishing the good people of Mexico with another Raiders game.
- Panthers vs. Steelers (11/8) — Steelers are moving up, moving on from Le’Veon and currently are No. 8 in our power rankings while the Panthers should stay in the top 5 at least if they keep winning. This is the Panthers first real test since losing at Washington on 10/14.
- Texans vs. Washington (11/18) — Speaking of those slurs from the Nation’s Capital, they may wind up an 8-8 or 9-7 division champ, but if they want to stay in the power rankings they better beat a more surging team in Houston, winners of six straight. The Texans will have to work coming off a bye, which could randomize their performance on the road in two weeks.
- Bengals vs. Ravens (11/18) — A likely elimination game, the loser probably won’t be heard in the rankings or the AFC North or the AFC playoff picture for the remainder of this season.
- Seahawks vs. Panthers (11/25) — The Seahawks still have some life and a win in Charlotte will have the Zombie Hawks looking like a threat again while Carolina will be lucky to remain in the contenders mix at best if they suffer losses to both Pittsburgh and Seattle this month.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR