Bears schedule not as scary as advertised
Maybe running back Matt Forte (22) and the Bears won't have as difficult a time with the second-half schedule as many suspect.
For at least a month now, the concern has been about how difficult the Bears' schedule would become after the Tennessee game.
But is that really the case?
Next up is Houston at home Sunday night. Like the Bears, the 7-1 Texans' only loss is to Green Bay.
Houston's signature victory was over Denver (31-25) in Week 3 before the Broncos got their stuff together, and discounting a blowout of a banged-up Baltimore squad a couple of weeks ago, Houston hasn't looked all that special.
Coming off the bye week Sunday, the Texans barely handled Buffalo (3-5) at home. They led 7-6 at the half, by 5 after three quarters and eventually won by an uninspiring 21-9, with the Bills squandering numerous red-zone opportunities.
After Houston it's a Monday night game in San Francisco, and the 49ers are legit, especially on defense. Credit QB Alex Smith for the way he played in Arizona against a tough Cards defense last week, but Smith is a game manager and can be had if the Bears pressure him.
The next two are Minnesota and Seattle at home, with what amounts to a pair of rookie quarterbacks playing on the road at Soldier Field against a defense that takes the football away like no other team in the NFL.
Christian Ponder is barely more than a first-year QB, and the Vikings are 1-3 since starting the season 4-1.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson has more guts than ability at this stage, and while Seattle's defense is strong, the Seahawks (5-4) are 1-4 when playing away from the very friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.
After that, the Bears go to Minnesota and get Green Bay at home.
The Packers are 6-3 heading into the bye after winning four straight, and, of course, they ought to be 7-2 if not for Roger Goodell's officiating gift to Seattle.
But the Packers are having another absurd injury season, and as deep as they've proven to be the last few years, they might not be in very good shape by the time they face the Bears in Chicago on Dec. 16.
Aaron Rodgers is the best in the game, but the Green Bay defense is in disarray and injuries will catch up to them.
The Bears finish the season with road games in Arizona and Detroit.
The Cardinals are a mess offensively and have lost five straight going into the bye after starting the season 4-0. They have Larry Fitzgerald on offense and not much else, with a terrible offensive line and problems at QB.
The Bears know they'll have their hands full in Detroit, but you add it all up and while the Bears aren't going 15-1, the supposedly daunting schedule doesn't look to be so despite concerns to the contrary.
Injuries will decide a lot between now and the end of the season, but going into the second half of the schedule, and all things being equal, the Bears have every right to think about homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
Give Atlanta (8-0) credit for winning close games by avoiding mistakes. QB Matt Ryan, in particular, is playing very smart football, and the Falcons are doing the little things well.
But the Falcons have become a pass-first team. It wasn't working the other way in the postseason, so the change was understandable. But if they go on the road to a bad-weather site like Chicago in January, they will need their rushing attack.
For what it's worth, they pounded Dallas with the running game when they needed it Sunday night, which is a very good sign for Atlanta.
Defensively, the Falcons are not as good statistically as they were a year ago, but their pre-snap disguise is giving teams fits, and they're giving up fewer points per game in 2012.
So while they may not look as pretty as their record, people around the NFL look at the Bears and probably say the same thing.
New York lost to an underrated and improving Pittsburgh team at home after a terrible and distracting week of work in the wake of Sandy. Though the Giants are still an amazing fourth-quarter team because of Eli Manning, they couldn't get it done Sunday.
The Giants will be a factor in the NFC postseason again, but it will be very difficult to repeat.
The best play-by-play man in Bulls history, Jim Durham, passed away Sunday at 65. His excitement for the game was amazing even when the Bulls were bad, and it was thrilling to hear him on radio when they were good, like during their incredible stretch run in 1977.
I can still hear him screaming, "He dunked it! He dunked it over Jabbar!" when Artis Gilmore stuffed it in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's face. His Michael Jordan calls were legendary, none more so than the Cleveland series winner in '89, and Bulls broadcasts were never as good after Durham left in 1991.
He was still the voice of NBA radio, the best hoops announcer I've ever heard, and he will be missed.
How many QBs in the NFL would you take over Andrew Luck? Not two years from now, but right now?
NFL Network's Michael Irvin, on Andrew Luck: "He has a grasp on every aspect of the game."
And finally …
TBS' Conan O'Brien: "The International Olympic Committee is investigating Lance Armstrong for the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics. A little tip for the IOC: You might want to take a peek at the guys with gold and silver."
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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