I can't remember ever seeing three NFL teams who were so good that I wasn't convinced they were all that good. The 9-3 Texans have won nine in a row, but have passed on an NFL-low 43 percent of their plays in those nine games. They've also played only one winning team (7-5 Dallas) since opening day. The 9-3 Chargers have beaten only two teams with a winning record. The 8-4 Bears have played only three teams with a winning record and lost to two four-win teams.
The Bears look more real than the other two, although the Texans have a lot of potential if they can protect Deshaun Watson (41 sacks) well enough to throw more. Chicago's biggest question is an offense that ranks 20th in the NFL, but, when Mitch Trubisky is healthy, is far more explosive than in years past. And the Bears' biggest strength is pass defense. Chicago is 11th in passing yards allowed, but is easily No. 1 with a 78.5 opposing passer rating.
Top NFL playoff threats
Cold Hard Football Facts says the No. 1 predictor for winning in the NFL is the difference between offensive passer rating and defensive passer rating. If so, the Bears (plus 18.7) are almost twice as likely to win in the playoffs as the Rams (10.0) and virtually as good as the Saints (19.3). If not for two games by Chase Daniel, Chicago would probably be No. 2 in the NFC behind Seattle (21.2). The Chargers (27.4), Chiefs (25.1) and Patriots (11.5) are the top three in the AFC, while the Steelers and Cowboys at -0.4 and -0.2 look like the most likely to flame out early. The Chargers look great on paper, but that's nothing new for a franchise that ranked No. 1 in both offense and defense and still missed the playoffs in 2010.
Kaepernick not a fit for all
Washington, with an injured running QB in Alex Smith, would have been a perfect fit for Colin Kaepernick. But people who think every QB-needy team should sign Kaepernick should realize he would only work in an offense that puts as much emphasis on his feet as his arm, and also that he hasn't been good in five years. The 49ers were 1-10 in Kaepernick's last 11 starts and 6-20 in his last 26, scoring seven or fewer points seven times.
Matt Trowbridge: 815-987-1383; firstname.lastname@example.org; @matttrowbridge