One reason the New England Patriots have enjoyed such a long track record of success? They’ve had the unbelievable benefit of playing in one of the worst divisions in the NFL. Since 2000, the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills have combined for nine total playoff appearances. The Chicago Bears can only wish their path was that easy. The NFC North has rarely been that forgiving and it doesn’t appear 2019 will be an exception.

For an idea of just how balanced it’s been, the division was established in 2002. Since then the Green Bay Packers have won it nine times, the Minnesota Vikings four times, and the Bears four times. This should offer a clear picture of how competitive things can get. It feels like this season may truly be one of the most fascinating in recent memory. Experts are having trouble deciding which team is the favorite to claim the crown.

The Bears are the defending champs and have the best defense in the league. Not to mention a young and diverse offense that continues to grow. Green Bay still has Aaron Rodgers and what they feel is a vastly upgraded defense. Minnesota has had a good defense for years and a dangerous passing attack built around stud receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Not to mention a Detroit Lions team with a gutty QB in Matthew Stafford.

It shouldn’t be a surprise this division was labeled the best in the business.

Chicago Bears title ambitions start with conquering North

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com set about ranking every division in the NFL based on depth and competitiveness. Not only did the NFC North claim the #1 spot, but the AFC North ranked #2. Undoubtedly it seems the rest of the league is looking up not just in the rankings but also on the map. One thing is clear though. The Bears’ pursuit of a Super Bowl won’t be easy.

“The North has a nice combination of quality quarterbacks and defense-leaning rosters. Mitchell Trubisky is the division’s most unproven signal-caller, but he has incredible support in head coach Matt Nagy and the league’s most talented defense. The Vikings’ defense has an almost unprecedented amount of continuity under coach Mike Zimmer, while the Packers’ defense could be more talented than Aaron Rodgers’ side of the ball for the first time in a long time.

The Lions being fourth in line says a lot about the quality of this division. It’s not hard to imagine Detroit winning eight or more games, although playing six games against the teams in this division will make it tougher. The expectations for all four of these teams will be high enough to make disappointment for at least one of them inevitable.”

It should be noted that the Bears have never gotten close to a Super Bowl without winning the division. Each year that they’ve reached at least the conference championship game since 1984 involved them taking that crucial first step. Not doing so this year would put them in uncharted territory. Just further proof that nothing ever comes easy for this team.