A reasonable mourning period has passed.
Even kicker Cody Parkey has cleansed himself, albeit probably having paid for his own ticket out of town in the process.
It’s time to move on, burn the black bunting, toss the wilted funeral bouquets and have some fun again, starting with trying to figure out just how close the Bears are to the actual contenders, the four clubs playing for a Super Bowl trip Sunday.
I’ve checked in with some of my best sources in scouting departments and front offices around the league. Here’s how we think they stack up.
Quarterback: 1. Tom Brady 2. Drew Brees
3. Patrick Mahomes 4. Jared Goff
5. Mitch Trubisky
Brady is the GOAT, Brees isn’t far behind, and for all Mahomes has done in his magical 2018 season in this context, he’s only matched one of Brady’s multitude of accomplishments.
Goff is a bit of a puzzle as he hasn’t played his best football of late and wasn’t a unanimous choice with my people over Trubisky, who showed a lot and surprised some this year but still has a lot of work to put it all together.
Running back: 1. Rams 2. Saints
3. Patriots 4. Bears 5. Chiefs
There is very little splitting the Rams and Saints, but Todd Gurley is the best running back still playing, and C.J. Anderson and Sony Michel have been revelations, while we know what James White can do this time of year.
The Bears were a unanimous choice over the Chiefs. Neither team has Kareem Hunt, and we’re not judging systems – strictly talent – so Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are an easy choice over Damien Williams, Darrel Williams and Spencer Ware.
Receivers: 1. Chiefs 2. Patriots 3T. Rams 3T. Saints 3T. Bears
This is the weakest position group in these rankings. Star power? Yes. Depth? No.
Off this season we have to rank Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce No. 1, but in the playoffs Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan and James White could be better. The Rams’ Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are very good but not No. 1s, and the loss of Cooper Kupp hurts. Michael Thomas is the best wideout still playing, and Kamara helps, but after that the cupboard is bare.
Allen Robinson has true No. 1 ability but needs to stay healthy, and the Bears might have the most depth of any of these clubs, but it’s all still developing.
Offensive line: 1T. Rams 1T. Saints 3. Patriots 4. Chiefs 5. Bears
This is the one place the Bears aren’t in the conversation. Rams, Saints and Patriots have three of the top five O-lines in the league, and the Chiefs are very good, just a notch below the top 5.
Defensive line: 1. Rams 2. Bears 3. Saints 4. Chiefs 5. Patriots
Even if they haven’t played the best this year, how do you argue with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers? Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and the Bears’ depth rate a slight edge over New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins, who was lost for the season to an Achilles injury last weekend. Chris Jones in Kansas City and the Patriots’ Trey Flowers are difference makers, but their units don’t stack up.
Linebackers: 1. Bears 2T. Patriots
2T. Chiefs 4. Saints 5. Rams
The Bears are No. 1 here – and it isn’t close. The Saints have played the second best, but they and the Rams have no-name groups that don’t impress. The choice between the Patriots and Chiefs is Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower vs. Justin Houston and Dee Ford.
Secondary: 1. Bears 2. Patriots 3. Saints 4. Rams 5 Chiefs
Out of these seven groups, this is the only one where one team features two first-team All Pros – Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty make the Pats second. The Rams should be first, but Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Lamarcus Joyner all had off years.
Special teams: 1. Chiefs 2. Patriots
3. Rams 4. Saints 5. Bears
The Chiefs are an easy pick here, and all four teams chasing them are well ahead of the Bears.
No, there are no surprises, but the Bears need to get better up front on offense, in the run game and on special teams.
But it is worth noting they are in the hunt and don’t have that far to go to catch up.
Maybe next year is finally worth talking about this time around.