A weekly examination of the Bears’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 13 | Last Week: 15 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
The meager climb seems to be about right for the Bears, considering they faced a Cowboys defense that was actually worse than their own struggling unit. With the win, the Bears moved to within a half-game of first place in the NFC North, behind the Detroit Lions. So Chicago still needs some help to advance to the postseason, and the club likely will get it if it can just maintain the momentum down the stretch.
For a good portion of the season, the Lions have helped along the Bears by slipping in what appeared to be winnable games. Detroit, which remained at No. 12 in this week’s rankings, lost at Philadelphia on Sunday to bring the Bears right back into the NFC North race. The Lions face Baltimore and the New York Giants over the next two weeks before playing the finale at Minnesota on Dec. 29. So there’s a good chance the Bears can make up some ground on the Lions, but they must keep winning.
They’ll also need to figure out what to do at quarterback once Jay Cutler is medically cleared to play. Cutler returned to the practice field last week and took part in two workouts but was declared out for Monday’s game. In relief, backup Josh McCown produced his third 300-yard passing day in throwing for four touchdowns, in addition to rushing for a fifth.
Bears coach Marc Trestman reiterated that Cutler is the starter once he’s medically cleared, but it’s difficult to argue with McCown’s hot hand at this point. The club could also be getting back linebacker Lance Briggs, who hasn’t played since Oct. 20.
Elsewhere in the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Atlanta Falcons to win their first game without quarterback Aaron Rodgers to move up a spot from No. 19 to No. 18, but signs point to the quarterback returning soon.
Minnesota, meanwhile, despite running back Adrian Peterson suffering a foot injury, moved up a spot from No. 28 to No. 27.
The Bears received one 12-place vote, two for 13, two for 15 and one for No. 16.
Chicago plays the first of back-to-back road games on Sunday at Cleveland before a matchup at Philadelphia. The Bears close the regular season hosting the Packers on Dec. 29.