Bears

Pack backing up to the NFC North

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Pack backing up to the NFC North

The Bears quest to narrow the gap between themselves and the Green Bay Packers in particular, IDd by none other then Chairman George McCaskey immediately after last season, may be getting easier without the Bears doing anything.

The Packers may be doing a significant share of the work.

The best and least expensive way to overtake the Packers is for Green Bay to start slipping, which is what some assessments believe was exposed during the playoffs by the New York Giants.

The growing spat between the team and Jermichael Finley over whether Finley is a tight end or wide receiver (he says the latter) is straining relations with someone viewed as an Aaron Rodgers go-to guy. Franchise tags are never popular and if Finley is tagged at the far-cheaper tight-end figure of about 5.5 million, he will be Unhappy No. 1.

Unhappy No. 2 already is center Scott Wells, a linchpin in Rodgers protection but who is at odds with the team over his value heading into unrestricted free agency. Bob McGinn, one of the top NFL writers and a longtime sage covering the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, flat states that the best guess is that the Packers will be playing with a new center next season."

Significant? This is a reigning Pro Bowl center at issue here.

Bob went into greater detail in January looking at the decline and fall of the Green Bay defense over last season, and the main target was GM Ted Thompson, the chief architect of what was a Super Bowl winner in 2010 and expected to be at least a finalist in 2011.

A garish contract for an overrated A.J. Hawk, letting underrated defensive end Cullen Jenkins escape to Philadelphia, and a succession of fall-offs in performance conspired to make the Packers very beatable on defense, which they werent in 2010.

Case in point: Kahlil Bell ran for 121 yards and Josh McCown passed for 242 when the Bears went to Lambeau on Christmas Day.

And defensive coordinator Dom Capers lost his 3-4 genius label.

"Some of those who coordinated and coached offenses against Green Bay this season pointed out that Capers fire-zone scheme wasnt exactly hard to figure out, either, Bob wrote.

(Somewhere Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli are smiling.)

The Bears wont wait for the Packers to back all the way up to the division. But its happening.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

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USA TODAY

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

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USA Today

NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall

Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams. 

Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs? 

The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD. 

Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week? 

You can take a look here and see where they landed.