There's a ton of optimism surrounding the Bears this year, and with good reason. The defense is rebuilt, and the offense figures to be one of the best in the league. How good can the 2014 Bears be? What could happen to cause the bottom to completely fall out? These are questions on the minds of all Bears fans.
Injuries are the only thing that can derail this Bears team. Quarterback Jay Cutler has not played a full season since 2009, and there is no Josh McCown on this roster to fill the void.
If Cutler goes down, the offense will sputter with Jordan Palmer, Jimmy Clausen or David Fales at the helm. Head coach Marc Trestman's offense is built on timing, and he needs a quarterback seasoned enough to make the right decisions.
The offense must carry the team this year. These aren't your dad's 1985 Bears built on tough defense and a hard-nosed running attack. This defense is still average at best despite the flurry of offseason moves.
Jared Allen is approaching the twilight of his career. Walking down that path with him are Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs. Lamarr Houston is a solid player but not a game-changer, and the other defensive pieces are mostly complementary players at best.
This is in no way a knock on the defense. It is very much improved from last year's unit but still a long ways from carrying a team. There's a huge difference between the 2014 Bears defense and what the defending champs from Seattle will trot onto the field.
Now that doesn't mean the Bears can't win with this defense. When you have an offense like the Bears, your defense just needs to bend but not break.
Cutler should take a major step forward this year. He's in the second year of Trestman's offense and is very comfortable with all the explosive weapons around him.
It will be a nightmare for opposing defenses to try and shut down the Bears this year. There's no one player a team can focus on. It's not out of the realm of possibility for the Bears to eclipse Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos as the best offense in the NFL.
If the Bears can put up near 30 points per game, then the defense is good enough for this team to eke out 12 wins. The team has a ton of home games in the back half of the season, and it can stockpile wins in its own division.
For the first time in a while, the Bears are better than the Green Bay Packers. Not only can they score with Aaron Rodgers, but they can also put a solid pass rush on him to frustrate him enough to make the key mistake needed to turn the tide in a close game.
Twelve wins would likely get the Bears home-field advantage and a first-round bye. It's a more favorable matchup if the 49ers, Saints or even Seahawks have to come to Chicago in the middle of the winter.
The ceiling for this team is a trip to the Super Bowl. Given the talent on offense and new additions on defense, there should be no reason why the Bears can't be the next team to quickly rise to the top.
Rock bottom is another mediocre season and a missed playoff berth. If that happens, then it's back to the drawing board, and some tough questions will have to be answered. In reality, the likely scenario is that the Bears will get 10-11 wins and make the playoffs. At that point, anything can happen.