Are the Bears the best in the NFC?

We asked our experts five burning questions, including whether the Bears are overrated and who the best team in the NFC is.

Updated: November 6, 2006, 4:18 PM ET
ESPN.com

There are questions that must be answered coming out of every Sunday. We asked our experts for their opinions on the five Burning Questions coming out of Week 9. Also, we want to know what SportsNation thinks.

1. Are the Bears overrated?

Eric Allen: No, the Bears are definitely not overrated. They just ran into a Dolphins team that devised the perfect game plan for them. When you couple that with another poor game from Rex Grossman, a loss was bound to happen. Give credit where it's due though. The Dolphins knew they wanted to pound the ball with Ronnie Brown and they found a way to do it despite no one believing it was possible to run on the Bears.

The Bears should learn from this lesson and use it to strengthen themselves. They have to come to the realization that, no matter which team is on the schedule, the Bears are thought of as one of the best teams in the league. That means opposing teams believe they can prove something by beating them and will play their best. At times it looks like the Bears understand that, but there are other times when it looks like the Bears definitely don't, and Sunday was one of those days.

Joe Theismann: The Bears are still a very good football team. This week they just ran into a team that had their number. Let's not act as though it's a breeze to play football in this league. Sure, the Bears have exceptional talent and are playing excellent football, but there is always someone on the other side of the field when they line up to play. Let's not act as though it's easy to win a football game in this league because it's not.

Sean Salisbury: Come on, one loss doesn't make the Bears an overrated team. This is still a team that has just one loss nine weeks into the NFL season. They played a poor game and got beat; it probably should've happened a couple weeks ago when they played the Arizona Cardinals but the Bears were able to fight back and pull off the improbable victory. This week they weren't able to do it. They lost to a team that simply played better.

2. Who's the favorite now in the NFC?

Drew Brees
Michael Montes/WireImage.comDrew Brees and the Saints improved to 6-2 on the season.
Allen: The Bears are still the favorites in the NFC despite their loss. They still have the best combination of offense and defense in the league and with that defense, they are never completely out of a game. They just have to find a way to become more consistent offensively and to shake Rex Grossman out of the inconsistent play that has plagued him in the last few games.

Theismann: I think you have to take a look at the New Orleans Saints as the favorite in the NFC. We saw them play their second game against an opponent for the first time this season and instead of the Tampa Bay Bucs exposing flaws and finding a way to beat them, the Saints easily defeated the Bucs even without star receiver Joe Horn. The Saints' biggest flaw offensively is their occasional overreliance on getting Reggie Bush the ball. But the defense has played excellent this season, while quarterback Drew Brees is putting up an MVP-caliber season.

Salisbury: I still believe the Bears are the team to beat in the NFC. They are more than likely going to have home-field advantage and they're a tough team at home. I don't see this team laying another egg during the rest of the regular season.

3. Does the Redskins' win put them back in either the playoff hunt or the NFC East divisional race?

Allen: Even with this win, the Redskins are still too far behind to make the playoffs. It's an uphill battle. The Redskins would have to finish out the season like the Steelers did last year, and I don't see that happening with this squad. They are just not good enough this season.

Theismann: The Redskins are still in the hunt, but they have to find a way to play better football than they are currently playing. It's imperative for this team to break out and start scoring more consistently. Right now, you don't know what you're going to get whenever they step on the field. That has to change and they have to start scoring more points.

Salisbury: The Skins aren't in the hunt because the defense is still too beat up for them to make it happen. For them to win out and make the playoffs, they will need some explosive performances from their offense and I don't see that happening, especially with Santana Moss banged up.

4. Has the NFL taken the fun out of the game by legislating against end zone celebrations such as Terrell Owens "sleeping on the ball" Sunday?

Terrell Owens
Jeff Fishbein/WireImage.comLove him or hate him, Terrell Owens is etching his name in the history books.
Allen: The NFL took the step of legislating end zone celebrations because they felt the celebrations were becoming more about showing an opponent up and less about actually being happy about scoring. Also, some of the celebrations had taken away from the game. I believe the NFL should be more lenient though because this game is about having a good time.

Theismann: The NFL made the right decision in legislating against planned touchdown celebrations because they distract from the game and only serve to show up an opponent. A celebration like Owens' was set up earlier this week when he leaked that information to the media about sleeping in team meetings. That's deserving of a 15-yard penalty.

Salisbury: The NFL isn't trying to stop players from having fun, just from distracting from the game on the field. Sure, some of the celebrations seem innocuous, but some of them can lead to hard feelings and this game is violent enough without someone getting upset and trying to take someone else out because of a stupid touchdown celebration.

5. Is Byron Leftwich done at QB in Jacksonville?

Allen: Sunday's performance sealed Byron Leftwich's fate with the Jaguars. Barring an injury to David Garrard, this starting job is his. He looks great behind center and his attitude is infectious. The Jaguars have a great young quarterback to lead them down the road.

Theismann: Leftwich is done and it's through no fault of his own. I believe he has the potential to be a very good quarterback in this league when he gets another opportunity, and believe me he will. He may not be the most mobile quarterback, but he does a great job of getting the job done using his arm and mind. He's a smart guy and I expect to see him leading some team to the playoffs in the near future.

Salisbury: You hate to see a young guy lose his starting spot due to injury, but I think that is what is going to happen in this case. Garrard is playing great football right now and it's going to be hard for the Jaguars' coaching staff to take him out of the starter's role when this football team obviously has responded to his leadership and strong play.

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