As you watch the Detroit Lions give the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys everything they can handle in more during the first half of their game Sunday at Ford Field, you have to pause and wonder how far off the Bears are from their division rival as well as the elite in the conference. It’s something worth pondering over the final three games of the season as the Bears (5-8) look for some momentum heading into the offseason.
Remember, Green Bay has credited much of its success to the four games it won to close out 2006. But who will be there to step up for the Bears remains unanswered. Defensive tackles Anthony Adams (right elbow) and Antonio Garay (right ankle) are out for the remainder of the season as the Sun-Times reported Saturday.
Despite what you’ve heard previously, cornerback Nathan Vasher is now talking injured reserve. Of course, if the Bears are not going to bring in someone to replace him, they wouldn’t even have to place him on IR to shut him down.
``I would understand it [if they played me on IR],’’ Vasher said. ``Until we’re mathematically out of it, I’m not going to be out of it, our team isn’t going to be out of it and we’re going to give it our best shot to get in.’’
The Bears are not mathematically out of it, but with a 2-7 record against NFC opponents, they’re not clinging to hope. There isn’t legitimate help on the street in terms of free agents, and Babatunde Oshinowo is expected to be promoted from the practice squad to hep at defensive tackle.
Just like the Bears dominated NFC Pro Bowl balloting a year ago as the class of the conference, the Cowboys and Packers are dominating with fan balloting on nfl.com closing Tuesday. Four Bears players are tops at their position led by returner Devin Hester, who has 446,643 votes, almost 400,000 more than his nearest competition.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (252,640), defensive tackle Tommie Harris (161,222) and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo (167,116) are in position for a trip to Honolulu provided they get support in the balloting of players and coaches, which counts one-third each like the fan voting.
Center Olin Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, is third and in fourth are outside linebacker Lance Briggs, kicker Robbie Gould and punter Brad Maynard. The biggest omission for the Bears is defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who is having his finest season since 2003. Ogunleye, who has been in on a takeaway in five consecutive games, is not ranked in the top five. New York’s Osi Umenyiora, Green Bay’s Aaron Kampman, Carolina’s Julius Peppers and the Dallas pair of Chris Canty and Marcus Spears round out the top five.
With the Bears’ defense in the bottom third in nearly every category of significance, how much worse off would it be without weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs?