The Chicago Bears aren't ready to hit the panic button on their season just yet.
Last season, the Bears started out 7-3 but then fell to a dismal 8-8 after starting quarterback Jay Cutler got knocked out for the season with a hand injury.
This season, the Bears again are a very good team through the first ten games, however the team has a different feel to it this time around.
Cutler will be back this season, and the Bears have a legitimate starter while he is out. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears are breaking records, both team and league wide, every time they take the field.
While the Bears do look better than last season at this point, there are still five things that the Bears can improve on, things that if they fix, should land them in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.
After last week, Jay Cutler is now sitting on his fourth concussion, meaning he doesn't have many left to take.
Now this is not the fault of the offensive line. When Cutler suffered his last concussion, he was outside of the pocket. That being said, once he comes back he is going to need all the protection he can get from his offensive line.
The line has not been terrible this season, but it has been inconsistent as of late. They game up six sacks against the Carolina Panthers and three against the Tennessee Titans. Then against the Houston Texans, the team didn't give up a single sack and Cutler still got hurt.
Cutler is going to be on the move; that's just how he plays the game. He is going to try and do anything he can to help his team score and get the victory. With that in mind, the line has got to do all they can to protect Cutler and keep him healthy whenever possible.
A healthy Jay Cutler is what gives the Bears the best chance to win; simple as that.
In the last three weeks, the Bears have faced arguably three of the league's best running backs in Chris Johnson, Arian Foster and Frank Gore.
While those may be some of the best backs in the league, the Bears should still be able to stop them. Their rush defense has always been the thing that saves them, keeps them in games and asserts their dominance over teams.
However, those three rushers each put up over 100 yards against that stifling rush defense, raising a red flag for anyone who can see this trend.
This does not mean that the rush defense is bad or that the team is in a free fall. It does mean, though, that when the Bears face a very good back, they haven't been able to perform as well as people are used to them performing.
In the playoffs and the Super Bowl (if they get there), the Bears aren't going to have any easy games against bad running backs. They're going to have to go up against guys like Foster, Gore and others.
In addition to rushing, the Bears have to get back to the lockdown secondary they had earlier this season. This allowed big gain after big gain against the 49ers, which killed them defensively on Monday night.
If the Bears want to be absolutely solid and prove that their defense is second to none, the rush defense has to get to back to holding rushers to under 100 yards, and the pass defense has to stop those big plays. Not saying that the rush defense is bad right now, but there is definitely room for them to improve, and that's what could project the Bears into the Super Bowl.
In the first quarter this season, Jay Cutler has the worst quarterback rating in the league. In the fourth quarter, he has the best. Those numbers pretty much speak for themselves.
Cutler has shown himself this season as a leader and a player who isn't going to let a bad start ruin his game. He is going to turn something on late in the game and get the job done, like everyone saw when he led the Bears down the field to score in the final minutes against the Carolina Panthers earlier this season.
Cutler may not always get the chance to lead his team back, however, and therein lies a problem that could doom the Bears this season. Like we saw against Houston, Cutler had two interceptions and no touchdowns before he was knocked out in his game, a stat line that may have been improved by Cutler being able to stay in the game.
Yes, Cutler has been a good quarterback for the Bears this season so far. But for them to make the Super Bowl, Cutler is going to have to step up in the first quarter and help the Bears earlier on.
If he can do that, the Bears become a legitimate threat on offense at any point in any game against any team and that will be the difference maker in the offensive game for Chicago this season.
Devin Hester is a streaky returner. When he first came into the NFL, he was a legitimate threat to any team as a returner for punts, kicks and even missed field goals.
Then, he went cold.
Hester could barely run anywhere besides side to side, and teams became less and less afraid of him, until he once again went on a hot streak last season.
This season, Hester has been anything but legitimate, and has been more embarrassing than anything. Last weekend against the Texans, a Hester return for a touchdown would have put the Bears ahead and given them the confidence that they needed to win the game.
To keep it short and sweet, the Bears need Hester to step up on special teams. If he can get back on his hot streak, the whole team will benefit from it and put up even more points than they already do. Improving on offense would be key for the Bears to make it deep into the postseason, and even get them to the Super Bowl.
I understand as well as anybody that Mike Tice has his share of excuses this season. It's a new system, it's Tice's first time as coordinator for the Bears and he has a lot of new players to adjust to.
That being said, it's time for the excuses to be thrown aside, and for Tice to step up as an offensive coordinator with the Bears.
Let's be honest, Cutler runs the offense in Chicago. When he went down last weekend, Campbell just looked like he had no idea what he was doing. That is a direct result of Campbell not knowing the offense very well since Cutler runs the offense, not Tice.
Should Cutler be allowed to do what he needs to do to win games? Absolutely. However, that does not mean that Tice should let Cutler do whatever he wants and not be involved with what is going on. At this point, it seems more and more like Jeremy Bates is going to move in as coordinator next season.
Tice has not done a very good job at all calling plays this season. Even his own players called him out, saying that his calls were "obvious". Tice needs to step up as a coordinator and take charge on the team if the Bears want to make the Super Bowl.