Power Rankings: No. 14 Chicago Bears

A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 10 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Chicago Bears maintained their spot atop the division by default but fell four spots in the ESPN.com Power Rankings to No. 14, the club’s lowest spot since the start of the season.

Given the team’s continued struggles on defense, the injuries and the fact it hasn’t shown any evidence that things will improve, the Bears probably deserve to be in this spot. A road matchup at Minnesota on Dec. 1, followed by a Monday night game with the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9, could result in a further dip if the team doesn’t find a way to stop the bleeding on defense.

Because of Detroit’s loss to Tampa Bay, the Bears still possess a legitimate chance to win the NFC North. But for the club to make the playoffs, that might need to be the Bears' route to the postseason because their conference record (3-5) is among the worst of the current wild-card contenders.

On a positive note, the Bears could be welcoming the return of quarterback Jay Cutler for the Monday night contest against the Cowboys. Already ruled out for Sunday, Cutler said he expects to be back in the lineup by that game. The club is still without linebacker Lance Briggs, and the statuses of defensive tackle Stephen Paea and running back Matt Forte for Sunday remain in question.

Elsewhere in the NFC North, the division-leading Lions dropped two spots to 13th in this week’s rankings, while the Green Bay Packers fell two spots to 17th. The Packers have fallen two slots in each of the last three weeks, with quarterback with Aaron Rodgers out. Green Bay was on a three-game skid before its 26-26 tie with the Minnesota Vikings, which rose three spots to No. 28.

The Bears received two 13th-place votes from the panelists, two for No. 14, one for No. 15 and one for No. 18.

Chicago’s struggling defense seemed to be showing improvement in the two outings going into Sunday’s loss to the Rams, but the unit took a major step back, and its inability to complement the club’s powerful offense will continue to cause problems. Offensively, the Bears continue to move the ball with relative ease, but against the Rams, they made game-changing mistakes such as Forte’s fumble on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage that led to a touchdown and a 14-0 deficit.

The Bears can’t expect to win games playing from behind, which is exactly what the team has done in each of the last two weeks.