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The Bears have a lot to build on following the 2011 season. Despite the fact that they dropped 5 of their last 6 games last season to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs, they were actually a good team with Jay Cutler at quarterback. Before Cutler went down, the Bears were 7-3 with those three losses coming against playoff teams (Green Bay, New Orleans and Detroit). Expectations should be there this season.
This is horrible news for Chicago Bears fans. Year after year, things just don’t work out for Chicago. Even when things do work out (Bears make it all the way to the Super Bowl and Devin Hester returns the opening kickoff back for a touchdown), they don’t. (Turned out Rex Grossman was their quarterback the entire time.) Last year they were chugging along, heading towards the playoffs when Jay Cutler broke his thumb. Two weeks later, Matt Forte injured his knee.
Jay Cutler has unfairly received a bad reputation over the last couple seasons. Since becoming a starting quarterback in Denver late in his rookie season, he’s been very durable. Unfortunately, his attitude and the decision to sit out the second half of the 2010 NFC Championship game seems to have earned Cutler the “injury-prone” label. If he avoids any unfortunate injuries this season, the Bears should be OK. They signed Matt Forte to a 4-year deal, ensuring 1-2 years of Matt Forte being happy with his contract. The Bears also bolstered their backfield by adding Michael Bush so the running game should be solid.
The real story of the Bears’ offseason was that Jay Cutler appears to have actual, honest-to-Ditka weapons this year. In addition to glorified return man Devin Hester, the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall who had two 100-catch, 1,200-yard seasons with Cutler in Denver. Marshall is coming off two 80-catch, 1000-yard seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The Bears also drafted Alshon Jeffery who may have slipped all the way down to the 45th pick in the draft because of rumors he was fat. Could the new receivers actually catch balls so Cutler isn’t left sulking in the backfield?
Jeffery could turn into one of the steals of the draft. With Marshall and Jeffery in Chicago, Matt Forte might not have to be the team’s leading receiver. If only the pass-happy Mike Martz had Jeffery and Marshall instead of Roy Williams and Dane Sanzenbacher. Now the pressure falls on the shoulders of Mike Tice to run a system that gets all these guys involved.
As with most teams, the fate of this team probably rests on the defense. The Bears defense continues to age – Lance Briggs is 31, Brian Urlacher is 34 and Julius Peppers is 32 – after a 2011 season that saw the team squarely in the middle of the pack in yards and points surrendered. Defensive tackle Henry Melton is coming off a solid season and looking for a new contract. If the offense is as good as its parts, the defense simply being average could be enough.
I feel like I’m forgetting something… Oh yeah…
The defense, the new weapons and Tice’s play calling won’t mean shit if the Bears can’t get better blocking out of their patch-work offensive line. 2011 1st round pick Gabe Carimi is back at right tackle after missing most of his rookie season with a knee injury, but they’re still employing J’Marcus Webb at left tackle. Webb was recently described to me by one fan as a “fat blob” of, well, you get the picture. Left tackle may not be the most important position on an offensive line, but it is definitely in the top 5. My point is, the O-line better not suck or it won’t matter how well anyone else plays. Games are won in the trenches and whatnot.
Despite early reports that this was actually an alcoholic beverage available at Orioles games, Camden Jack Cutler is actually the first son of celebrity couple Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari.
Primetime Games (a.k.a. An opportunity for national ridicule)
Thursday, September 13 @ Green Bay
Monday, October 1 @ Dallas
Monday, October 22 vs Detroit
Sunday, November 11 vs Houston
Monday, November 19 @ San Francisco
Super Bowl Odds
Currently: 15/1 per Bovada
See? What did I tell you about expectations? This definitely ends with Cutler missing 8 weeks with turf toe.
Prediction: The season hasn’t even started and the Bears already have a win on the road over the Super Bowl champions. If the seasons ended today and the standings were decided alphabetically, the Chicago Bears would win the NFC North and would host a Wild Card game. Not bad!
Assuming everyone stays healthy and meshes (unlikely) I count 8 games the Bears should win (home for Indy, home for St. Louis, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, home for Minnesota, home for Seattle, at Minnesota, at Arizona). Then there are three games they could win (at Dallas, home for Carolina, home for Houston) and five games they should need to play well to win (home and away versus Green Bay and Detroit, at San Francisco). I like the Bears to finish 11-5, but I could see anywhere from 7-9 to 12-4. Just imagine what would be most frustrating to Chicago fans. Yup, that’s probably what will happen.
I will leave you with this. A montage of failure, perseverance and then success using the Inches Speech from Any Given Sunday. How do the Bears get revenge? Apparently, by showing highlights of previous, more successful seasons.
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