With NFC North Matchups Looming, It's 'Real Now' For Bears

November 09, 2018 - 10:53 am
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(670 The Score) Awaiting is a stretch that could define the Bears' season. Starting Sunday, they will play three games against NFC North foes in the span of a dozen days, with first place on the line.

After hosting Detroit Sunday, Chicago will host Minnesota  in a primetime game on Nov. 18 and then visit Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. 

"This is going to be real, now," coach Matt Nagy said.

The Bears (5-3) took care of business against the lowly Jets and Bills in recent weeks, staying percentage points ahead of the Vikings (5-3-1) in what's a virtual tie in the NFC North. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (3-4-1) lurk 1.5 games behind with the toughest part of their schedule in the books.

After the Bears went 6-10, 3-13 and 5-11, respectively, in the last three seasons, nine or even 10 victories has become a realistic goal in Nagy's first season as head coach. Given the inconsistencies displayed at times by the Packers and Vikings and those two teams' tie earlier this season, 10 wins may be good enough to win the NFC North crown.

"You spend your whole training camp and whole season preparing for November and December football, hoping to get into January," receiver Allen Robinson said a day after his first practice back from a groin injury. "That's the plan. Being back healthy at the right time is definitely good.

"From day one, our main goal is to win this division. For us, we've put ourselves in a great position to do that. That's our plan, that's our focus."

Players often reference the old phrase that "division games count for two." The Bears haven't taken advantage of divisional matchups in recent seasons, struggling mightily in NFC North play. The Bears went 0-6 in the division in 2017, 2-4 in 2016 and 1-5 in 2015. The Bears are 0-1 in such games this season, collapsing in the second half of a loss to the Packers in their season opener.

The Bears believe they're a different team now -- a legitimate playoff contender with more talent scattered across the roster. Importantly, they'll back to near full health after Robinson and star outside linebacker Khalil Mack sat out the past two games.

Opportunity awaits for the Bears, who currently control their own destiny and who want to keep it that way.

"These next three games will tell a lot about who we are and where we’re headed," Trubisky said.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​