ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 19: Fullback Chris Gronkowski #44 of the Dallas Cowboys flips after a tackle by Zackary Bowman #35 of the Chicago Bears at Cowboys Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chris Gronkowski;Zackary Bowman
At the beginning of the season, it seemed like the Bears had one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. After all, they had to face the Cowboys -- a playoff team in '09 -- early on, the NFC North champ Vikings twice, the Packers twice, plus the Giants, Jets and the perennially great Patriots.
Sure, they had a few cake walks, like the Eagles, who were still deciding on a quarterback, as well as the Lions, but the Bears had to win against some tough teams to get to the playoffs.
That thinking was so five months ago. No NFL pundit could have expected that the Cowboys would implode under Wade Phillips, that the Packers starters would miss a combined 206 games due to injury, or that the Vikings would have more drama than a year of "Days of Our Lives."
In September, would you have thought that though he played for two different Bears opponents, that Chicago would never see Randy Moss? Or that Michael Vick would become a viable MVP candidate? Or that the Giants would fail to reach the playoffs?
The wind-up is that the Bears went from having one of the toughest schedules in the NFL to one of the easiest. Though they played four teams in the top 10 of ESPN's Power Rankings (Patriots, Eagles, Jets and Packers), they also played six of the worst 10 (Dolphins, Vikings, Lions, Redskins, Bills and Panthers.) The Bears finished sixth in the power rankings after starting the season ranked 21st.
Thank goodness this isn't college football. Strength of schedule matters when discussing the possible outcome of the games, but once the playoffs start, it doesn't count for much.