For the first time since they dominated the Falcons in Week One, there is unvarnished optimism about the Bears and their chances of returning to the playoffs.
That feeling, and much more, will be on the line Sunday.
The Bears have won three games in a row, beating potential playoff contenders in the Buccaneers and Eagles away from Soldier Field during the streak, and they can move into a tie for second place in the NFC North with a win on Sunday.
Yet, for all the hope that has been restored over the past month after a shaky 2-3 start, it can fade quickly if the Lions complete the season sweep of the Bears.
This might not be a true must-win game, but the consequences of losing will be considerable. The Lions already beat the Bears in convincing fashion in Week Five. A Lions win Sunday would give Detroit a tiebreaker should they finish the season with the same record as the Bears.
A loss for the Bears means their path to the playoffs narrows. The margin for error, already slim, would be reduced even more. What does it say about the Bears' chances of accomplishing something significant this season if they can't handle a fellow playoff contender on their own turf in a game where they are seeking revenge for an early-season loss?
Beating the Eagles on Monday night was a statement, but defeating Detroit would be a much more substantial proclamation of where they stand in the NFC. Defeating the Bucs in London and the Eagles in a game that might have sealed Philadelphia's fate this season — those are good wins. But of the five teams the Bears have beaten this season, only one (Atlanta) has a record above .500.
We know the Bears can be good, but we're about to have a much better sense of whether the changes made since they lost to the Lions will make them great.
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