Bears have minimal leeway in tight NFC North race

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With all due respect to some of the two- and three-deep divisions in the NFL, there is no more thoroughly competitive division in football today than the NFC North.

And that leaves the slimmest margin of error possible for the Bears the remainder of the season.

With the Bears not playing until Monday night this week — curse them for being good last year! — Bears fans got the opportunity to sit and watch football from around the league on Sunday. What they saw were three big victories from the Packers, Lions and Vikings, which dropped the Bears into fourth place in the NFC North — albeit momentarily.

Packers stay perfect, drop the Broncos

The Packers already have both a head-to-head and divisional tiebreaker advantage over the Bears. They advanced to 3-0 on the season with a home victory over the Broncos. Any chance of our old friend, Vic Fangio, pulling off the upset were squashed down the stretch as the Packers were just too much to handle.

The Broncos defense managed to hold Aaron Rodgers to 235 passing yards and the Packers’ run game to 77 yards — numbers relatively similar to what the Bears held Green Bay to in Week 1 — but a lack of offense from the Broncos did them in (sound familiar?). Three turnovers didn’t help, either.

The Bears are going to be chasing the Packers all season because I don’t see this green and gold locomotive slowing down much.

Lions steal road victory from the Eagles

Either the Lions are better than I thought they’d be this offseason, or the Eagles are not the juggernaut that many had predicted.

I’m guessing a little bit of both is true.

Jamal Agnew had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the Lions defense kept the Eagles in check as they slugged out a tight victory. Neither offense looked all that impressive, although the Eagles’ diversified run game was effective.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford delivered the ball to 9 different receivers, none having a bigger effect on the game than Marvin Jones Jr., who caught 6 balls for 101 yards and a score.

Vikings pound the Raiders

This game offered Bears fans the opportunity to scout the Bears’ next two opponents. After playing the Redskins this week, the Bears host the Vikings next week before traveling to London to take on the Raiders.

Although the Raiders are not the doormat as anticipated, they still have plenty of holes, which the Vikings exploited.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is having a terrific season. Whether he can stay healthy for a full season to see it come to fruition is the big question. He rushed for 110 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown run against the Raiders. He also caught 4 balls for 33 yards. Quarterback Kirk Cousins — one of the most overrated players in all of football, in my humble opinion — managed just 174 yards passing. But no worries for them; as a team, the Vikings rushed for 211 total yards.

Monday night showdown with the Redskins a critical game

I’ve never been one to hype “must-win” games. I think that’s an overblown, overused cliché. To me, “must win” means something dramatic will happen if you lose.

For instance, a playoff game is “must win” because if you lose, your season is over. That’s pretty dramatic. Another “must-win” scenario is when a loss will mathematically eliminate you from the playoff chase. That’s a dramatic situation as well.

Losing a Week 3 game to a bad opponent is not dramatic. It drops them one game behind those ahead of them, but with plenty of time to catch up.

However, I will call the Redskins game critical, because of the tightness in the NFC North this year. It’s both urgent and important that the Bears pull off the road victory. Even though a loss won’t eliminate them from the divisional or playoff race, every game matters. The Bears don’t want to play out the season from the cellar, looking up the backsides of their divisional opponents.

Former high school and college kicker. Lifelong Chicago Bears fan. I've been writing about the navy blue and burnt orange since 2007. You can follow on Twitter, like it on Facebook, or email me.