With an easy schedule coming up, there might be a whole lot of celebrating at Soldier Field like we saw Sunday against the Lions. Click through the gallery for 10 more observations on the Bears. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
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Updated: November 15, 2011 12:18PM
With a four-game winning streak, the Bears are 6-3 and one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Only the unbeaten Packers (8-0) and 49ers (8-1) have longer current winning streaks.
Now comes the hard part — winning with the wind at their back.
The Bears have a pretty well-defined history of playing their best with a chip on their shoulder. More than most teams, they thrive when battling some kind of slight — real or perceived — from any critic they can find, preferably local.
Lovie Smith is a master at stoking his team to prove the critics wrong, never more evident than last week when he said there was no way the Bears should be eight-point underdogs against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But after a 37-13 victory over the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears are rising in the power rankings and getting kudos from around the NFL. Even long-time local critics have, sometimes grudgingly, changed their tune and acknowledged the Bears’ success is not only because of fortuitous circumstances, but also because the Bears are a good football team.
Taking the next step, which the Bears appear capable of doing in a very mediocre NFL, might be a bigger challenge than it appears. Success is hard to sustain in any circumstance in the NFL. Some modest winning streaks have ended in surprising fashion: The New York Giants had a three-game streak ended by a home loss to the Seahawks; the Baltimore Ravens had a three-game streak ended with a loss at Jacksonville; The Kansas City Chiefs had a three-game streak ended with a 31-3 home loss to the winless Dolphins; the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers all had winning streaks of three games or more ended at home.
The Bears head into a five-game stretch of very winnable games: the Chargers (4-5) at home; at the Raiders (5-4); the Chiefs (4-5) at home; at the Broncos (4-5); and the Seahawks (3-6) at home. How can you not start thinking of the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which would keep the Bears away from a potential playoff game at New Orleans?
The hitch, of course, is that these are the Bears, and this is the NFL — where not even the Packers are a sure thing anymore. Lovie Smith has received well-deserved credit for getting the Bears this far. It might be an even more impressive accomplishment to push his team to take this seemingly easier next step. CLICK HERE for 10 more observations from the Bears-Lions game: