The San Francisco 49ers have a worse record, but in the realm of public perception, it's the Chicago Bears that need a win to validate their run at the top of the league on Monday Night Football.
An incredibly compelling matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football has been overshadowed by a pair of concussions, to starting quarterbacks Alex Smith and Jay Cutler, respectively. Of course, a game that features Colin Kaepernick and Jason Campbell is plenty compelling, just for different reasons.
What would this game be without this controversy? It'd be a marquee matchup in which two of the NFL's top teams are going at it. Rather, it'd be a game in which one of the NFL's top teams is hoping to show that it's not a fluke with a win. That team, of course, is the Chicago Bears.
Sure, they have a better record than the 49ers right now, but that's not really the point. San Francisco has faced better competition, and the Bears have picked up very close wins over some pretty terrible teams this season. That isn't to say that they're a fluke or anything like that, it's just to say that the 49ers are their measuring stick.
It's odd to think of it that way, given how used to failure and mediocrity we are. Coming off a tie, the 49ers are the team that the Bears are hoping to make an example of to show they're among the top in the NFL. San Francisco doesn't need that to be counted among the league's elite (of course, a win wouldn't hurt, given that train wreck last week).
If the 49ers go out and win on Monday, they show that they're good enough to rebound from a bad game, and reaffirm their positioning. If they come out with a loss, then they lost to a team that firmly belongs within the top five teams in the NFL. Obviously, every single person on this site wants a win, but it's an interesting dynamic to think that they are the team that needs the win, regardless of the record.