NFL Team Previews: Chicago Bears

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NFL Team Previews: Chicago Bears
(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Pigskin Heaven's Sascha Bartels is breaking down every single team in the NFL prior to the season. Here is his analysis and forecast for the Chicago Bears. Click on a team to read their preview.

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

AFC North: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT

AFC South: IND | HOU | JAX | TEN

AFC West: DEN | KAN | OAK | SDG

NFC East: DAL | NYG | PHI | WAS

NFC North: CHI | DET | GBA | MIN

NFC South: ATL | CAR | NOL | TBA

NFC West: ARI | STL | SFO | SEA

 

What’s new?

Not much really.

What's that? Jay Cutler? A Bear? When did that happen?

Alright, well, other than the huge trade for Cutler, the Bears off-season was fairly quiet. John Tait retired, so hopefully Chris Williams will be worth the first-rounder the Bears used on him last year.

Most of the rest of the Bears off-season revolved around the draft, which seemed intent on keeping the Bears defense relevant on the next few years.

DE's Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton, as well as CB D.J. Moore found themselves in Bears colors by the end of the weekend.

In addition, Chicago drafted receiving help, hoping to make Cutler's transition to the windy city a smooth one. We'll see what he can do with Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox.

 

Three burning questions

Will the wide receivers step up to their new QB?

What a difference a trade makes, huh?

Last season, Kyle Orton was praised for his excellent play in leading the Bears, but with Cutler, expectations have risen. Orton threw for a shade under 3,000 yards and 18 TD's last season, numbers Cutler easily eclipsed in both seasons as a starter.

But, those Denver teams had Brandon Marshall, and later added Eddie Royal, and it's fair to say that the Bears currently don't have a receiver at the level of either. What do they have?

Well, they have Earl Bennett, the SEC's all time receptions leader. Who was throwing all those balls to Bennett in college? Yup, Cutler. They have Devin Hester, who certainly is a threat every time he has a ball in his hands, and they have the rookies, led by Iglesias.

And of course, you can probably expect a big year from TE Greg Olsen.

 

Is Brian Urlacher, and the rest of the Bears defense, losing pace?

Urlacher is unquestionable the leader of the defense, but is he their best player?

Many would probably say he's not even their best LB anymore. Tommie Harris needs to have a better year.

DE's Adewale Oguynleye and Alex Brown are 32 and 30, classic ages for pass rushers to slow down, and the depth at that position is not there.

In the overall scheme of the Bears defense, the LB's and secondary should still be producing, but they could be let down by a suddenly no longer menacing defensive line. Can Rod Marinelli turn the line back into being menacing?

 

Is the offensive line good enough to protect Cutler and Forte?

Another area of the Bears that seems to be getting older and slower. Like I mentioned, John Tait is now retired. Chris Williams is his likely replacement, but he only got a half season in last year.

The Bears added Orlando Pace, but will they receive the Pace that was the best lineman of his era, or the slow and broken down Pace of the last few years? I expect Kevin Shaffer to play a lot more than the Bears may want him to.

Kreutz is 32, and he also looked slower last year than in years before, and I'm not sold on the guards either. In the end, the biggest reason for a decline in Jay Cutler's stats may be the lack of protection he'll receive.

 

Fantasy Forecast

Solid plays: Matt Forte makes the best fantasy player the Bears have in 2009. He's one of about five runners who can all stake claim to the top spot, and should be gone by the middle of the first round. Jay Cutler is still Jay Cutler.

He'll find a way to have a better season than Orton had last year, but don't take too high a pick on him. He should probably be around the 10th QB drafted.

Cutler's likely favorite target will be Olsen. Don't take him above Gates, Gonzales, Witten or Clark, but he'll definitely fit in with the Cooley's, Winslow's and Miller's of the world.

Avoid: Don't avoid the Bears defense completely, their still top 12 material, but don't take them too high. Devin Hester might be a good bench player, but avoid starting him regularly. He'll give you a few 130 yard, 2 TD games, but also way too many 30 yard games.

Sleeper: The earlier mentioned Earl Bennett would be my sleeper pick, especially in keeper leagues. If Cutler and Bennett can find their Vanderbilt chemistry, he could be the candidate to be the Bears No. 1 receiver for years to come.

 

Prognosis

Many are calling the Bears the class of the NFC North, but I just don't see it.

I don't think the offensive line is all that good, same for the defensive line. And Cutler needs more play-makers than just Forte and Olsen.

Chicago starts the season at Green Bay, then face the Steelers and travel to Seattle. They could very realistically start the season 0-3, and games vs. Detroit and the bye may not be enough to revive the team.

After looking through the rest of the schedule, I'm even surprising myself with their final record.

Final Record: 6-10

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This is an original article by Pigskin Heaven Staffer, Sascha Bartels, you can read it, more of Sascha's articles and more from the Pigskin Heaven staff, here.

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