When you really start to break down the defenses and see who has the most depth, the most experience and the most and biggest gamebreakers…that is where the Bears’ underdog status is fully realized. Make no mistake, the Bears’ offense is way more questionable than their defense, but they have easily the most unproven defense of the teams left. Chicago’s defense is a lot like Atlanta’s. They get turnovers, they can be stingy in the red zone but they rarely have dominating performances and haven’t faced a lot of good offenses. I will factor in defensive coordinators and depth as well. Here are the rankings, with the first string.
1. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay has three kind of unproven, flawed players in Pickett, Walden and Peprah but really no indisputable weak spots. Capers has been able to keep every offense under 24 points in all 18 games this year, despite injuries on both sides of the ball.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh has two definite weaknesses: Farrior and Taylor. I’m not convinced Aaron Smith will be 100%. They have – by far – the most accomplished defensive coordinator in the NFL coaching the deepest group of pass rushers. Green Bay is the only team left that got close to the number of takedowns Pittsburgh had (47 vs. 48).
3. New York Jets
There aren’t any definite weak spots on this defense as Cromartie has played better the last two weeks. That said, there is way less playmaking ability than on the Pittsburgh D. Rex is going for the trifecta: defeat Manning, Brady and Roethlisberger – all on the road in the playoffs.
4. Chicago Bears
The strengths of this defense are really strong (Briggs, Peppers and Tillman are three of the best defensive players in the NFL) but there are several unproven players (Jennings, Idonije) and a couple of weak spots (Tommie Harris, Manning). They have average depth, but Urlacher and Tinoisamoa are coverage liabilities. Their defense has gotten a lot harder to crack since Rod Marinelli took over. However, the Bears have not been tested. They may even be the #2 defense but they’ve been suspect in the few games they’ve had against top-rated quarterbacks. The only quarterbacks in the top 16 they’ve faced all year were no. 3 Rodgers (twice) and no. 4 Michael Vick. They lost to no. 17 Eli Manning and struggled against no. 22 Ryan Fitzpatrick.