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From "Are They For Real?" to "Who's Going to Stop Them?"

It's funny how quickly things change in the NFL. As the Patriots prepared for their week thirteen game against the New York Jets, certain questions among national media were persistent, "Is this 9-2 Patriots team for real? Are they a real contender?" As Patriots fans, we had a pretty good feeling about our team. Even though most of us expected/hoped for a win, I don't think any of us could have predicted the 45-3 beat-down the Patriots put on the Jets.

That being said, with the victory, the question was no longer, "is this team for real?" With the win, the Patriots had proved that they were a legitimate contender. They played a solid 60 minutes and destroyed a team that many had believed was the best the league had to offer. And with that win, the Patriots once again were on top of that pedestal as the league's best team (with due diligence to the Atlanta Falcons as well).

Now on top of the pedestal, the question has now become, "who is going to knock them down?" Who is going to beat the New England Patriots?

This week, Patriots have the Chicago Bears at Soldier field, in a game that is sure to have some adverse weather conditions. The Bears are 9-3, and have found success through a balanced offense led by a dialed-in Jay Cutler, and a resurgent defense led by Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. Even with their 9-3 record, the Bears have had their fair share of criticism. They've had a couple of convincing wins, one against the Packers, but most recently against the Eagles. But besides those two victories, the only other team they've beaten that's even .500 is the Miami Dolphins. They have losses to the Seahawks, Redskins, and Giants. Only the Giants are above .500.

None of this has deterred the media from going after why the Bears and their cover 2 defense could be the team to slow down Tom Brady and the Patriots. Over at ESPN, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Seth Wickersham, Cris Carter (no surprise there... is he finally coming out of his cave?), Herm Edwards, and Mike Ditka all picked the Bears to beat the Patriots.

I'm not saying the Bears can't beat the Patriots, they are more than capable. My message has to do with how the perception is changing on the Patriots. They're no longer that "pretender." Everyone knows they're for real. So get used to it, each week, from now until the end of the Patriots' season, we're going to be hearing why each team on the Patriots' schedule is capable of knocking the Patriots from their perch.

And I like it.