Bears know Bills will be no pushover
The Bills are the NFL's only winless team, but there's no chance the 4-3 Bears will be looking past them when they square off Sunday at Toronto's Rogers Centre.
It's not just that the Bears are on a two-game losing streak, have lost three of their last four games and need some momentum before they embark on the difficult part of their schedule.
It's more that the Bills are not playing like an 0-7 team.
"I don't even look at teams' records," said Bears running back Matt Forte. "It's the NFL. Everybody is good, so I don't worry about records."
The Bills have lost each of their last two games in overtime by 3 points, to Baltimore and Kansas City, both of which are 5-2 and in first place in their respective divisions.
"We realize (the Bills) haven't won a game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But watching them on video, they will get your attention."
The Bills' problems stopping the run they're last in the NFL have been well documented, but they're No. 6 in passing yards allowed and No. 9 in average gain per running play.
"They're playing better," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "They've got talent. I'm worried about the offense. They move the ball well. They have good running backs. The offensive line plays well together. And the quarterback's throwing it good.
"So it's a big challenge for us on the road. We'll see how good we are."
In the five games that Ryan Fitzpatrick has started at quarterback, the Bills are averaging 22.8 points after scoring a total of 17 in the first two games. Fitzpatrick's 91.1 passer rating is 11th in the NFL, and he has thrown 12 TD passes vs. 5 interceptions.
"Fitzpatrick has done a great job since they moved him in," Smith said. "He's a tough guy. I don't know if I've seen him slide. He won't run out of bounds. He just has a running back mentality, which is good to have at the quarterback position."
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Harvard product is the Bills' second-leading rusher with 159 yards on 22 attempts for a 7.2-yard average.
"Just watch them on film," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "They're playing a lot better the last couple games than earlier on. They're running the ball real well."
Underrated Fred Jackson is the Bills' starting running back, but rookie C.J. Spiller adds a big-play dimension. He's averaging 25.4 yards on kickoff returns and, together with punt returner Roscoe Parrish, he gives the Bills a formidable duo. Parish leads the AFC with an 11.4-yard average.
"They're not what their record is," said Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris. "They're a good team. They're a dangerous team. They're not terrible at all. They look good on film. They lose close games in overtime against good teams. You just can't let them get a victory."
A loss for the Bears would be more than embarrassing; it also could leave them with a better record than just five teams in the tightly bunched NFC.
With five of their next eight games against teams with winning records, plus two against the underachieving but dangerous Minnesota Vikings, the Bears cannot afford a loss.
"This next stretch in November will determine quite a bit," Smith said. "We feel like we're in great shape to make our run. We have all of our guys that we feel comfortable with. We're in good health."
But a loss Sunday could leave the Bears on the critical list.
•Follow Bob LeGere's Bears reports via Twitter@BobLeGere. Check out his blog, Bear Essentials, at DailyHerald.com.