BOURBONNAIS, Ill. By a couple of different accounting systems, the Bears should be a playoff team in 2012.
First there was ProFootballTalk.coms ranking of all 32 NFL teams that posted the Bears at No. 11. The Packers were No. 1, Patriots No. 2, Giants No. 3, and down at No. 13 were the Detroit Lions (which is borderline significant because it creates howls from the multitudes who forget that the Bears were ahead of the Lions in wild-carding before Jay Cutler was hurt).
Coincidentally perhaps, the Bears come in at No. 11 (tied with the Lions) in the Associated Press AP Pro32 that is put together with voting from a panel of 10 that includes buddy Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune, along with Clark Judge at CBSSports.com, Bob Glauber of Newsday, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com, and former NFL players Chris Collinsworth, Rich Gannon and John Lynch, among others.
A couple of notables here:
The NFC North is the toughest division in the NFL. The Packers, Bears and Lions are in the top 13 on both scorecards; no other division has more than two.
The collapse of 2011 that left the Bears at 8-8 also left them with a schedule that leaves out the Giants, Saints, Falcons and Eagles. The Bears have the Packers twice, the 49ers (4), Texans (6) and thats it from the top 10, partly because the rotation has the Bears playing the AFC South, where only the Texans were better than 9-7 last season.
Most interesting perhaps: There are few Super (as in Bowl) teams right now. The Packers, Patriots, Giants, even the 49ers and Ravens, down through No. 5. After that, teams like the Saints with their coaching and player issues from the bounty situation, Eagles (8-8), Broncos (8-8) even with Peyton Manning, Cowboys (8-8) will not be serious parts of many Super Bowl conversations at this point.