Here are 10 reasons why the Chicago Bears will win the NFC North in 2009.
In no specific order:
10. Matt Forte
Forte ran 316 times for 1,238 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2008. He had 63 receptions for 477 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He did this with an average, at best, quarterback behind center and every single opposing defense knowing that Forte would see the ball, whether in the air or on the ground.
This upcoming season's defenses won't have the privilege of stacking the box on Forte and anticipating he will touch the ball on every offensive play. They'll have to respect the ability of Jay Cutler which will do nothing but open up the running game even more for Forte and the Bears.
And oh yeah, having a pretty good quarterback throwing to him now will benefit him and Chicago greatly.
9. Improved Offensive Line
I know this is a touchy subject for some who see the Bears offensive line as weak, but there's no denying it has improved from last season.
With a healthy Chris Williams guarding his former Vandy teammate, as well as the addition of ex-Brown Kevin Shaffer and future hall of famer Orlando Pace, this offensive line is going to create more opportunities for Matt Forte and more elite protection for Cutler.
8. Forget Cutler, No Orton or Grossman on the Roster
We'll get to Cutler in a second, but before that, the projects that were Orton and Grossman are now behind Chicago. No longer going week by week wondering who the starting quarterback is going to be the following week.
No more preseason coin tosses to decide which one of the two will start. They both got their fair shot in Chicago, and now they're gone. That can do nothing but benefit the Chicago Bears.
7. Earl Bennett
Earl Bennett was drafted in Chicago with expectations of replicating the receiver he was at Vanderbilt. After a season without play and learning the playbook, you've got to believe that he'll be a breath of fresh air to the Bears receiving core.
He's also got the same guy throwing to him that did at Vanderbilt where he set about every major receiving record.
It'll probably be hard to find any Chicago fan who isn't excited and intrigued to see just how successful Bennett will be. He is another example of what will lead the Bears to regaining the NFC North crown.
6. The Defense, That's Right
Last I checked, Lance Briggs is still a Chicago Bear linebacker. With the company of Urlacher, Peanut Tillman, Alex Brown, Tommie Harris, and Adewale Ogunleye, that stingy Chicago defense will still be intimidating to opponents.
Although the secondary seems weak with holes at safety and corner, they're still the Chicago Bears. Other teams will have to game plan around the potential of them being one of the top defenses in the NFL like in the recent past.
5. Chicago's "Easy" Schedule
If my calculations are correct, the Bears' 2009 combined opponents records is 105-151-2. That makes for one of the easiest schedules in the NFL next season. Obviously playing the lowly Lions twice in a season is beneficiary. However, every team in the NFC North will get to play the Lions twice, so it's not a very strong argument.
The Bears, with their current team alone, have the potential to compete with anyone. With an easier schedule it's even more likely they'll succeed.
If they can win the games they should and compete well in the others, which seems very possible, it shouldn't be too crazy to think that the Bears have a very strong chance of taking the North.
4. Devin Hester
Sure it's only his second season playing wide out, but after a year of NFL experience in the position, opponents should fear the notion that he could quite possibly be Cutler's go to guy next season. Hester's speed in one of the scariest thoughts in the NFL today.
And now with a quarterback who can throw the ball accurately past 30 yards, his numbers can only see an increase. He showed great potential late last season at receiver and he'll be a major thought in every teams game plan as they prepare to play Chicago next season.
Yeah he's hard to accept as a No. 1 guy to many, but I'm looking forward to seeing just how successful he'll prove to be next year, and I'm feeling good about it.
3. Lovie Smith
Lovie Smith has to know he's got the tools on offense to finally be more known as a offensive team rather than solely defensive. This team needs to succeed for him to remain the head coach of the squad.
Knowing this, he'll do everything to his abilities to make this team win more than ever, with his butt on the line. Pressure can bring out the best in people, and we should be seeing that in Lovie Smith this upcoming season.
2. The Chicago Bears Faithful
More than ever, the Chicago faithful are expecting big things in 2009. Just as I said about Lovie, there will be a lot of pressure on the team to succeed and succeed right away. They have the potential and the offensive, defensive, and special team threats to be a serious contender if they can play to their potential.
If they don't, they'll hear it from the crowds and city of Chicago. If they do, they'll be Gods. With the addition of Cutler alone they know what's now expected of them. I think they'll be up to the task. The NFC North is theirs for the taking.
1. Jay Cutler
Any surprise? The Bears have their first franchise quarterback behind center since the Sid Luckman days. Every football viewer will be watching the Chicago Bears with open eyes to see how Cutler does on a team known for quarterbacks that don't execute.
Jay Cutler is the pro bowl quarterback every Chicago Bears fan has been dreaming of for far, far too long. Finally, he's here and he knows the expectations that have been put on him by Chicago, and even non-Chicago fans across the NFL.
I think he'll be up for the job and he'll flourish. He'll lead this team to regain the title of NFC North champions.