Editor's Note: This post was written before Sunday's NFL games, so keep that in mind with standings, statistics, etc.
After coming from behind to win in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row (this most recent time in especially dramatic fashion), the Chicago Bears now are 2-0 as they head into their week three matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
In what may turn into a weekly feature for us here at Da Bear Necessities (especially if you guys like it... feel free to leave some feedback), we're going to take an overall look at where the Bears stand through week two of the NFL season.
We're going to look at the NFL standings in regards to the Bears, examine how the remaining schedule is looking, examine the Bears' injury situation, look at the Bears' statistical leaders, check out Bears grades and statistics from Pro Football Focus (I highly recommend a premium subscription), etc.
So, let's get to it.
However, not only do the Bears have sole possession of first place in the NFC North, but they would also be the No. 1 seed in the NFC if the playoffs began today. That's based on some extremely limited tiebreaker scenarios, of course.
And let's be honest here- The Green Bay Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North until another team (*cough* *the Bears* *cough*) can prove otherwise. And so far the Packers' only loss came at San Francisco, a situation where I'd personally pick the visitor to lose every time this season. Additionally, the North featured three 10+ win teams (Packers, Bears, and Minnesota Vikings) last year, and the Detroit Lions look very improved this year. So, we know the North is going to be a big-time battle, but the Bears are off to a great start there, at least.
As for the NFC in general, well, it's loaded (outside of the NFC East, apparently). There are going to be some very good NFC teams left out of the playoffs this year (remember the Bears were left out with a 10-6 record last year). But, again, the Bears couldn't be in a better position through two weeks there.
Week 3- at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2); Sunday Night Football
Week 4- at Detroit Lions (1-1)
Week 5- vs New Orleans Saints (2-0)
Week 6- vs New York Giants (0-2); Thursday Night Football
Week 7- at Washington Redskins (0-2); Thursday Night Football
Week 8- BYE
Week 9- at Green Bay Packers (1-1); Monday Night Football
Week 10- vs Detroit Lions (1-1)
Week 11- vs Baltimore Ravens (1-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night
Week 12- at St. Louis Rams (1-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night
Week 13- at Minnesota Vikings (0-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night
Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (1-1); Monday Night Football
Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (0-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night, but... lol
Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (1-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night
Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (1-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night
The schedule difficulty doesn't appear too much different right now than it did coming into the season, although the games against the Steelers, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins look a bit easier on the surface, as those teams are all off to 0-2 starts after being considered playoff contenders entering the season.
Additionally, the Browns have already punted their 2013 season after trading their best offensive player in second-year running back Trent Richardson, but I think we all considered that the easiest road game on paper for the Bears before the trade anyway.
When looking at Bears games that could possibly be flexed to Sunday Night Football, the finale against the Packers is certainly the leader. That game between the league's greatest rivalry could be a NFC North championship decider. Really, the only game in that group we can count out already for a potential flexing would be the Browns one.
Bears' Injury Report
UPDATE: Charles Tillman is active for Sunday night's game.
The Bears have been extremely fortunate to have their entire 53-man roster available for their first two games of the season, and it appears likely that it will remain that way heading into their week three game against the Steelers (a team that has been hit hard by injuries).
Charles Tillman (knee) is listed as questionable for the game, but was able to practice (albeit in limited fashion) on Friday, and we've already seen Peanut play through health issues this season. In week one against the Bengals, Peanut dealt with heat exhaustion and even vomited twice during the game, before returning to play. His knee was also bothering him entering week two against the Vikings, but he played through it. In fact, Peanut has played in 115 snaps on defense through the first two games, good for sixth on the team (and only nine snaps behind anyone else).
So, you'd have to think there's better than the "50%" tag the 'questionable' status brings, for Peanut to suit up vs the Steelers.
The only other player listed on the Bears' injury report are all 'probable' to play Sunday night: Brandon Marshall (back), Martellus Bennett (shoulder), and Kyle Long (back). They all had full participation in Friday's practice.
And looking further than just week, there are no players the Bears are waiting for to potentially return down the road. You couldn't realistically ask for a more fortunate health situation going into the third game of the season. Fingers crossed it stays that way...
Bears' Statistical Leaders
Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Pro Football 'Signature Stats' in bold; statistical ranks among NFL players based on prior to Sunday's games.
Jay Cutler: 48-71, 67.6 Completion % (9th), 534 Yards, 7.3 Yards/Attempt, 267 Yards/Game, 5 TD (Tied for 5th), 3 INT (4th-most), 95.6 QB Rating (10th), 96.2 PFF QB Rating (5th).
Rushing Stats (Running Backs Only)
Matt Forte: 39 Carries (Tied for 7th), 138 Yards, 3.5 Yards/Carry, 1 TD (Tied for 8th), 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost (Tied for 2nd-most), 9 1st Downs, 41.0 PFF Elusive Rating (7th).
Michael Bush: 8 Carries, 15 Yards, 1.8 Yards/Carry, 0 Fumbles, 1 1st Down.
Receiving Stats (Top 4)
Brandon Marshall: 15 Receptions (Tied for 7th), 20 Targets, 217 Yards (8th), 14.5 Yards/Reception, 2 TD (Tied for 8th), 108.3 Yards/Game (8th), 21 Yards After Catch, 9 1st Downs, 0 Drops, 122.3 PFF WR Rating (10th).
Matt Forte: 14 Receptions, 16 Targets, 114 Yards, 8.1 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 57 Yards/Game, 21 Yards After Catch, 4 1st Downs, 2 Drops.
Martellus Bennett: 10 Receptions, 16 Targets, 125 Yards, 12.5 Yards/Reception, 3 TD, 62.5 Yards/Game, 21 Yards After Catch, 9 1st Downs, 1 Drop.
Alshon Jeffery: 6 Receptions, 13 Targets, 53 Yards, 8.8 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 26.5 Yards/Game, 17 Yards After Catch, 3 1st Downs, 1 Drop.
Tackle Stats (Top 4)
Lance Briggs: 17 Tackles (12 Solo, 5 Ast); 12.5 PFF Run Stop Percentage (1st Among 4-3 Outside Linebackers).
Major Wright: 17 Tackles (11 Solo, 6 Ast).
James Anderson: 14 Tackles (11 Solo, 3 Ast).
Tim Jennings: 12 Tackles (10 Solo, 2 Ast).
Corey Wootton: 1 Sack.
Shea McClellin: 0.5 Sack.
Stephen Paea: 0.5 Sack.
Charles Tillman: 2 Interceptions (Tied for 1st), 2 Pass Deflections.
Special Teams Stats
Devin Hester: 6 Kick Returns, 280 Yards (2nd; was 1st before Eagles-Chiefs week 3 opener Thursday night), 46.7 AVG (1st); 2 Punt Returns, 1 Yard, 0.5 AVG;
Robbie Gould: 2-2 On Field Goals, Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st).
Adam Podlesh: 8 Punts, 343 Yards, 42.9 AVG, Long Punt Of 54 Yards, 4 Punts Inside The 20.
Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus
Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week two.
Note: Grade ranks based on games before Sunday:
Bears Cumulative Grades
Offense Overall: +14.0 (7th)
Passing Offense: +12.7 (5th)
Rushing Offense: -1.0 (17th)
Pass Blocking: -0.1 (18th)
Run Blocking: -1.6 (12th)
Offensive Penalties: +4.0 (87th)
Defense Overall: -12.8 (27th)
Run Defense: -7.5 (26th)
Pass Rush: -13.7 (31st)
Pass Coverage: +5.0 (6th)
Defensive Penalties: +3.4 (Tied for 7th)
Special Teams: +9.8 (11th)
And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...
Bears Individual Players Grades
Top 4 Overall Grades On Offense:
1. QB Jay Cutler, +6.6 (4th)
2. G Matt Slauson, + 5.4 (4th)
3. C Roberto Garza, +4.3 (5th)
4. WR Brandon Marshall, +3.7 (9th)
Bottom 4 Overall Grades On Offense:
1. LT Jermon Bushrod, -3.0.
2. TE Martellus Bennett, -1.5
3. RB Michael Bush, -1.1
4. FB Tony Fiammetta, -0.8
Top 4 Overall Grades On Defense:
T-1. LB James Anderson, +2.9 (Tied for 4th among 4-3 Outside Linebackers)
T-1. LB Lance Briggs, +2.9 (Tied for 4th among 4-3 Outside Linebackers)
T-3. DT Stephen Paea, +2.2
T-3. CB Tim Jennings, +2.2
Bottom 4 Overall Grades On Defense:
1. DT Henry Melton, -6.4
2. S Major Wright, -4.0
3. DE Shea McClellin, -3.1
4. DE Julius Peppers, -2.6
Top 2 Overall Grades On Special Teams:
1. K Robbie Gould, +4.1
2. LB Blake Costanzo, +4.0
Bottom 2 Overall Grades On Special Teams:
1. S Anthony Walters, -2.5
2. CB Isaiah Frey, -1.0
As you can see, the offense has graded very well, particularly in the passing game. But the defense, outside of the pass coverage, has graded quite poorly. That's especially the case with the pass-rush, where it ranks only below the Green Bay Packers in PFF's cumulatie grading (hey, at least there's that).
Jay Cutler has graded exceptionally well, ranking only behind Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers (again, coming into Sunday). The interior offensive line grades are also encouraging, with Matt Slauson looking like a very nice value signing by Bears general manager Phil Emery in the offseason, and Roberto Garza is performing much better than anticipated thus far at the age of 34.
Big free-agent signing Jermon Bushrod, however, has graded poorly, although he's been responsible for one sack allowed, and even that one you can greatly argue was Cutler's fault anyway.
I've mentioned a bit on Twitter over the first two weeks how great James Anderson has looked in pass coverage, and PFF's grades reflect that. The veteran outside linebacker has a +4.5 grade in pass coverage, tops among 4-3 outside linebackers (Lance Briggs comes in second at +2.5).
Henry Melton doesn't just have the worst overall grade from PFF on the Bears, but the worst grade from PFF of any defensive tackle- and by a lot. PFF's next-worst grade after Melton for defensive tackles is a -3.7, for Broncos defensive tackle Mitch Unrein. However, keep in mind that Melton missed basically the entire presason after suffering a concussion in the preseason opener, so it's understandable that he's started slow. Hopefully he'll get it going Sunday night, and if he doesn't get it going soon, he may not get anywhere close to the mega-deal he was hoping for this upcoming offseason.
Keep in mind with all the above grades- We're just 1/8 through the 2013 season, and most every player has some really good weeks, as well as some really bad ones. We don't get a very good read on how each player is performing for a few more weeks.
Our Overall Take
Realistically, you couldn't ask for things to be going much better for the Bears through two weeks. When you're undefeated and alone in first place in the division, there's little room to complain.
Yes, the pass-rush and overall play from the defensive line has been very disappointing. Yes, the defense has allowed some big plays. But you know what? Every team out there has a notable issue or two right now. A champion is not made in September. You don't want to peak at this point. The good teams will learn from their mistakes and work to get better (as best as their talent allows, anyway) in areas they're struggling.
And if you told me coming into the year that the Bears' main area of struggles had to do with defensive line after week two, I would've been thrilled, because, on paper, the defensive line is arguably the strength of the team. I have a hard time believing that Julius Peppers and Henry Melton, for example, went from studs to duds in a few months. I'm not saying it isn't possible, but in all likelihood, those players will be impact performers from the Bears in 2013.
The passing game and creativity in the play-calling from Marc Trestman has been very encouraging, and that's with just a small dose of the playbook unveiled. We haven't even seen much out of the run game either, and that will open up the offense even more.
Oh, and that guy Devin Hester is looking like his old self as a returner. We know how much of a game-changer he can be when he's right. We saw it against the Vikings. Without his franchise-record-setting game as a returner, there's no way the Bears are 2-0 right now.
So, again, all things considered, you have to be quite happy with where the Bears stand heading into Sunday night's game in Pittsburgh. Hopefully we can say the same thing come Monday.
Get the latest DBN updates by following us on Facebook & Twitter.