Bears are NFC's sleeping giant

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery form arguably the best receiving tandem in the NFL. Phil Sears/USA TODAY Sports

Preseason projections can often prove to be worth their weight in paper, but many prognosticators view the NFC as the power conference of the NFL, loaded with five heavyweights at the top: the Seahawks, 49ers, Saints, Packers and Eagles.

It's hard to argue against those teams, but history has shown us that sleeping giants emerge on a near annual basis in the NFL. Few foresaw a meteoric rise from Carolina last season, but 12 wins and sacks by the dozens later, the Panthers were hosting a divisional round playoff game.

The 2013 Chicago Bears were a far superior team to the 2012 Carolina Panthers, but Chicago has nonetheless been edged out of the conversation among contenders to emerge from the NFC. But they shouldn't be.