Fal­cons

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BEARS - Brad Biggs

Matt Ryan is on pace for ca­reer highs in pass­ing yards per game (335.6, best in the NFL) and com­ple­tion per­cent­age (70.8, fourth-best).

It was for­mer Bears coach Lovie Smith who said Novem­ber is the time a team dis­cov­ers its iden­tity.

In the first half of the sched­ule through Oc­to­ber, new parts are molded and find their way pre­ced­ing a two-month push for the play­offs.

“There is a part of the year where you get your­self in po­si­tion,” Smith said. “You can’t be out of it. By the time you get to Novem­ber, that’s what a team is. Early on, you’re work­ing through dif­fer­ent things.”

The Bears won their first game of Novem­ber last week, trounc­ing the Bills 41-9 and end­ing a six-game los­ing streak in the month over the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons. Now they en­ter a crit­i­cal por­tion of their sched­ule, fac­ing three NFC North ri­vals in a 12-day span be­gin­ning Sun­day against the Lions at Soldier Field.

Rookie coach Matt Nagy isn’t in­clined to use the p-word — play­offs — but he has ma­neu­vered the team to make a run at the post­sea­son. At 5-3, the Bears sit atop the divi­sion with the eas­i­est re­main­ing sched­ule of the four teams. With games against the Gi­ants and 49ers, the win­ning per­cent­age of the Bears’ re­main­ing op­po­nents is .463.

Com­ing off a tough two-game stretch with road losses to the Rams and Pa­tri­ots, the Pack­ers’ re­main­ing op­po­nents are at .470. The Vik­ings, who are off Sun­day, have the most dif­fi­cult slate with op­pos­ing teams at .563 — they play the Bears twice and still must travel to New Eng­land. The Lions’ re­main­ing op­po­nents are at .544; they play the Bears twice in the next 12 days and are host to the Rams.

“You’ll never hear the word ‘play­offs’ from me,” Nagy said at the start of the week. “We’re wor­ried about Week 10, that’s it. If we worry about the play­offs, then we’re wor­ry­ing about the wrong thing. We have a lot of sea­son left.”

Nagy might not be com­fort­able talk­ing about the play­offs, but the Bears cer­tainly are aligned to make a push. The up­com­ing stretch will only in­crease the fo­cus on the Bears’ bid to end a seven-year post­sea­son drought. Three games in 12 days will push the Bears, and it is the kind of chal­lenge good teams an­swer. The Bears are in po­si­tion, as Smith would say.

For the first time since 2004, only two games sep­a­rate all of the NFC North en­ter­ing Week 10, set­ting up what should be an in­ter­est­ing race.

A look at the four teams:

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