Take 2: Are the Chicago Bears team to beat in the NFC North? By PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY STAFFOct. 10, 2018 Pro Football Weekly GM Hub Arkush and senior Bears writer Bob LeGere discuss whether the Bears are now the favorites to win the NFC North for the first time since 2010. [Mark Busch - firstname.lastname@example.org]ARKUSH: Robert, I didn't see this one coming, but after watching all the NFC North action last Sunday while the Bears were enjoying their weekend off, I'm not sure how we don't ask the question: Are the Bears now the team to beat in the NFC North? Yes, the Vikings came through in a must-win situation and are just a game back in the standings, and their passing game is clearly superior to the Bears, but they appear shakier in every other phase. The Packers are banged up and just not playing well, and the Lions are exploitable on both sides of the ball. Add to that, apparent friction between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, and the unknown of Everson Griffen's personal issues in Minnesota, and how those two stories impact locker rooms, and it's hard not to suggest things are really breaking the Bears' way. [Mark Busch - email@example.com]LEGERE: While I would agree the Bears have caught some breaks in the early going, Hub, and they’ve also played some very good football, I’m not ready to make them the favorites in the NFC North. They’re just one-quarter of the way through their schedule, but I believe they’ll remain contenders throughout the season on the strength of a defense that should make them competitive in every game. The Vikings and Packers appear much less formidable than they did a month ago. I still believe the Vikings have an excellent defense with or without Griffen, but you can’t replace the 43.5 sacks he racked up in the previous four seasons. In Green Bay, Rodgers’ increased whining may have impacted his performance. He has 10 TD passes and just one interception for a 100.1 passer rating, but his 52.5 QBR is the lowest of his career, and he’s already fumbled five times and been sacked 16 times. He’s also missed WRs Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. I say the Vikings are still the team to beat. [Mark Busch - firstname.lastname@example.org]ARKUSH: Can we just ignore the Lions? At 2-3 they're just half a game behind the Vikings and Packers and now have a win over Green Bay. When you plug in two of their losses by three points -- late to the 49ers with Garoppolo and two points late to the Cowboys -- isn't it at least a little too soon to write them off? As for your A-Rod note, I get your point, but I really think QBR is just a made-up, meaningless statistic. Rodgers is actually playing a tad better than he did last year before his shoulder injury and better than he did in the Packers' 10-6 2015 campaign. I think the problem there is the lack of talent on the interior of the offensive line and in the backfield, along with a defense that comes and goes. We will agree on the Vikings, though. I don't trust them off their performance the first five weeks, but they do still have two games with the Bears and, unlike the Bears, they already have the Rams out of the way. If they get a healthy Dalvin Cook back it could heal what ails their ground game. The Bears are in the hunt but still have to beat the champs, and Detroit twice. [Mark Busch - email@example.com]LEGERE: I guess I shouldn’t discount the Lions. Don’t forget, their other victory was against the Patriots. QB Matthew Stafford has been lights out since his four-pick meltdown vs. the Jets. He’s thrown for 1,099 yards with nine TDs and one interception, while completing 68.3 percent of his passes for a 108.4 passer rating. If rookie Kerryon Johnson (5.7 yards per carry) is the real deal and provides the ground game they’ve been lacking for years, the Lions could challenge in a division that appears more competitive and tightly bunched than originally thought. As for QBR vs. passer rating, both have their flaws. But five of this year’s top six in QBR are Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady; so it does have some value.