1) The Bears have lost three games against good teams and won two games against bad teams. Where do you think this team actually stands among the NFL?
I think somehow the Bears are managing to be considered among the league's average teams, which a complete surprise given the shape of the roster. The Bears are having to put together a make-shift offensive line and wide receiver corps thanks to injuries, and are super thin in 80% of their roster spots on both sides of the ball. Each week it seems like we're one more injury away from closing down shop, then another injury occurs... And they manage to make adjustments and compete. This is 100% due to the coaching of John Fox and coordinators Adam Gase and Vic Fangio. They are creating some incredible gameplans each week, putting their players in position to be successful, and limiting exposure to personnel liabilities.
2) Chicago's defense seems to have drastically improved over the past two weeks, what would you say was the main reason for that?
There's a lot to that. For one, DT Jeremiah Ratliff has been back after missing the first four games of the season, and has provided a much-needed pop from that defensive line. With the trade of Jared Allen a few weeks ago, we've gotten more guys in rotation off the edge, and Pernell McPhee and Willie Young have made an impact. Plus, cornerback Tracy Porter makes a big difference when he's on the field (he missed two games in a row with injury as well). When you combine those factors with Vic Fangio's scheme and gameplan, the defense is doing a pretty good job.
3) What is the biggest reason for the Bears' offensive struggles so far?
The offense has been surprisingly efficient this season, despite missing their top wideouts and offensive linemen for most of the season with injuries. (Of course, I'm pretending that the game and a half that Jay Cutler was injured didn't happen, and that Jimmy Clausen didn't lead the Bears to 10 punts on 10 possessions versus the Seahawks a few weeks ago.) Credit that to Adam Gase creating great schemes each week, Jay Cutler playing the best football of his career, and the ever-steady Matt Forte doing his thing week after week. Things are starting to really jell on the offensive side of the football, despite the depleted offensive line and wide receiver corps.
4) With the Bears still adjusting to the new regime, which players do you believe will be cornerstones for the "New" Bears?
There's not a lot, to be honest. The previous regime, led by former general manager Phil Emery, completed disrupted the roster, and not in a good way. New GM Ryan Pace has done a good job of piecing together a roster in his short time in Chicago, but there aren't too many cornerstones on the roster right now. Of the few that we have, I would definitely say Kyle Long on offense-- he's a beast whether he's playing guard or tackle-- and we have high hopes for rookie wide receiver Kevin White when he returns from leg surgery. Of course, Matt Forte is Mr. Dependable, and one of his backups, Jeremy Langford, could be the running back of the future. On the defensive side of the ball, safety Adrian Amos is a name to watch, and of course Pernell McPhee is still only 26 years old.
5) What about this Bears team has been the biggest surprise to you?
Probably how much the players have responded to the new coaching staff. Fox, Gase, and Fangio are getting way more out of this unit than I expected in their first year, and the players are really buying in to what they are selling. Hell, even Jay Cutler and Adam Gase had a big embrace/ bro hug after the last game when they came back against the Chiefs. The mojo and chemistry that was ruined by Phil Emery and Marc Trestman has been quickly repaired by these coaches, and it's been really fun to watch.
Bonus: What is your prediction for Sunday?
Last week my gut told me that the Bears would beat the Chiefs, despite the logic telling me they wouldn't. I actually went with my gut and called the Bears upset, and felt pretty good about that. This week it's flip-flopped. My head says the Bears will be able to handle the Lions and walk away with the win, but I'm not feeling too good about it. Something worries me about this game. But since I'm allowed to be a homer and expected to be biased, I'll go ahead and go against my instinct-- Bears 24, Lions 17
Thanks to Dane Noble for his responses. Be sure to check out Windy City Gridiron for full coverage on the Chicago Bears.