The hits start coming Sunday when the Bears go full pads for the first time on Day 3 of training camp in Bourbonnais. It will mark a deeper scratch of the surface in determining the improvement level of the defense, but it won't come close to providing the kind of answers we'll get when preseason action starts or when the regular season kicks off in six weeks or even the night of October 26, when they're on the plane ride home from Foxboro after facing Tom Brady and the Patriots, heading into the bye week at the exact halfway point of their schedule.
There are those who believe Mel Tucker's revamped defense must work its way into the top half of the league to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender, after the fall from third in 2012 to 30th last fall. There's no statistical evidence of that. As a matter of fact, it runs to the contrary with so many variables involved. How good is your offense to compensate for any defensive shortcomings? How do you matchup in each round if you earn a playoff spot? Will you get a bounce? Who'll make a big play?
[CAMPING OUT: Alshon Jeffery, Bears D produce gems on Day 2]
Below are the last eight Super Bowl matchups, dating back to the Bears and Colts in Super Bowl XLI. Just two top seeds have taken home the Lombardi Trophy in that span, and seven of the eight losers have been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
It's somewhat ironic (and painful for Bears fans) that the only champion in this eight-year span that's ranked in the top 10 both offensively & defensively (based on yards-per-game) is the 2010 Packers team, the team the Bears edged out for the division title, allowed them to squeeze into the playoffs with a Week 17 loss at Lambeau Field and then lose the rematch in the NFC Championshp Game at Soldier Field three weeks later. There are the fourth- and fifth-seeded Giants teams that twice knocked off top-seeded New England coming out of the AFC. And there's the statistically-mediocre Ravens team that found a way to put it all together two years ago, with their late-season momentum and aging, Last Hurrah Defense.
So, no scientific or statistical revelations here, just some food for thought that no team HAS to finish here or there. Their conference playoff seeds are in parentheses, followed by their respective regular season offensive and defensive ranks in the entire league.
|2013||Seattle (1)||18||1||Denver (1)||1||19|
|2012||Baltimore (4)||16||17||San Francisco (2)||11||3|
|2011||N.Y. Giants (4)||8||27||New England (1)||2||31|
|2010||Green Bay (6)||9||5||Pittsburgh (2)||14||2|
|2009||New Orleans (1)||1||25||Indianapolis (1)||9||18|
|2008||Pittsburgh (2)||22||1||Arizona (4)||4||19|
|2007||N.Y. Giants (5)||16||7||New England (1)||1||4|
|2006||Indianapolis (3)||3||21||Chicago Bears (1)||15||5|