Chicago BearsRead the introduction here
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Tennessee Titans tomorrow
2011 Record: 8-8
Key Acquisitions: Michael Bush, Geno Hayes, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Shea McClellin, Chilo Rachal, Eric Weems
Key Departures: Marion Barber, Corey Graham, Brandon Meriweather, Amobi Okoye
What if. What if Culter and Forte had not gone down late last year? The answer is, they would have made the playoffs and most likely won at least a game. Cutler is much better than people give him credit for, and Matt Forte is coming off of a career year. I'm not a big believer at all in the "contract year" stupidity. He's very good. Nothing to do with playing for a contract. The Brandon Marshall trade was an epic coup. The offensive line doesn't look great, but Mike Tice just happens to take mediocre lines and make them good. He's an elite offensive line coach. Being the Chicago Bears, the defense is very solid. They were surprisingly low ranking last year. They ranked 17th, but I definitely see that number getting much lower this year. This is a "sexy" pick this year and there's good reason for that. They actually could win the division because of the lack of defense on the Packers.
Jay Cutler is just like Tony Romo. Neither of them get nearly enough credit for what they do. Cutler is a really good passer, and he actually is a leader unlike what some people think. He unfairly gets criticized for his body language and what happened in the 2010 NFC Championship Game against the Packers when he got hurt and left the game. I don't know what it is about him, but people enjoy piling on him. You need to respect his talent.
Matt Forte is a great running back. He was really good before last year, and he was even better last year. I expect him to sustain his performance this year at an elite level. The Bears have two legitimate backups for him. Michael Bush is a great running back who along with Forte will form a very hard duo to stop in the red zone. Bush should have signed somewhere else to be a starter because he has that kind of talent. Kahlil Bell was very good in limited action last year to replace Forte when he went down.
I love the Brandon Marshall pickup. He had amazing chemistry with Jay Cutler in Denver, and Cutler was the one who helped launch Marshall to stardom. Marshall also helped Cutler play better too. I expect Marshall too pick it up this year. He hasn't played with a quarterback as good as Cutler since he played with Cutler. Marshall was great last year but he's going to be even better. Earl Bennett was pretty good last year, and I expect him to breakout with Brandon Marhsall seeing a lot of attention on the opposite side of him. Alshon Jeffery looks to be a really good receiving option. Dane Sanzenbacher and Rashied Davis are both fine receivers.
Roberto Garza is a really good center who should provide a lot of time for Cutler to pass. Gabe Carimi was considered to be a really tackle coming out of college, and it seems like he's going to be a very good blocker. J'Marcus Webb did better as the season wore on, until the last game of the season, when he was decimated. Neither Chilo Rachal or Lance Louis is great, but working with Mike Tice never hurts an offensive lineman.
That Julius Peppers guy is advancing in age, but the one talent that he will always have is his ability to get sacks. He knows how to get it done in the pass rush. Israel Idonije is moving to defensive tackle to make room for Shea McClellin on the end. Idonije is a very good run defender. Henry Melton will be playing next to Idonije and had a great season getting after the QB, forming a nice combination with Idonije this year. McClellin is very good at rushing the QB, so with him and Peppers, the line looks to be very scary for the guy under center.
Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are getting older. Does it look like it? At all? Urlacher has been elite for seemingly the past eternity and he will always play at a high level. He's not stopping. He's the NFC version of Ray Lewis. You're just waiting for Father Time to catch up with him, and it never happens. Lance Briggs isn't slowing down either. Two defensive leaders who are about as smart as any defensive players that I have watched.
The safeties look to be very sketchy. Chris Conte is only in his second year, and while he played really well last year, he's not getting any help from Major Wright. Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman manned the corners pretty well in 2011, and it was very hard to get any big plays down the sidelines against the Bears. D.J. Moore is a nice defensive back to have in nickel and dime coverages.
Adam Podlesh wasn't a very good punter last year, but he wasn't terrible. Chicago really expects him to step it up and so do I. Robbie Gould is always a good kicker. He's been consistent for this team. Devin Hester is the best return man in NFL history. Period.
11-5, 2nd in NFC North