Normally power rankings are interesting exercises and conversation-starters. Sometimes they’re worth a deeper look, though, for any number of reasons.
In this case, the Bears’ rank No. 12 on Pro Football Talk’s Preseason Power Rankings. The accompanying analysis was put together by Mike Wilkening, a member of Mike Florio’s outstanding staff that is plugged into pretty much everything NFL on an all-day basis.
PFT’s specific positioning of the Bears at 12th isn’t necessarily the point, whether they’re actually better than the Arizona Cardinals (11th) or really not as good as the Philadelphia Eagles (13th), who pasted them in Game 15 last season.
The bigger point is that the NFC is the dominant conference at this point in league history, and that is potentially ominous. One of the reasons (there were many others) the 1985 Bears reached and won just one Super Bowl was that the team had the timing misfortune to be in the mix of one of the great periods of NFC dominance: Bill Walsh’s 49ers, Bill Parcells’ Giants, Joe Gibbs’ Washington teams. The ’85 Bears didn’t need to slip very far to be set upon by true sharks.
An implication of the PFT rankings is that the current Bears are sitting on the edge of the playoffs in a hugely competitive NFC. That indeed is a precarious spot given the failures to get there in all but one year since 2006. Twelve teams do make the playoffs each season. But using the work of the PFT staff for discussion purposes, of the Top 13 in this ranking, eight are from the NFC.
That means the Bears, who have six of their 16 games against teams in PFT’s Top 10, could be quite good – 10-6 or better, for instance – and miss the NFC postseason, as they did in 2012, as Arizona did last year, as New York and Tampa Bay did in 2010.
Year 10-6+* 10-6 P.O.’s*
2009 6 6
2010 7 5
2011 5 5
2012 7 6
2013 7 6
*Teams 10-6 or better for the season; that made the playoffs.