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Chicago Bears: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJune 3, 2011

Chicago Bears: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  D.J. Moore #30 of the Chicago Bears runs out of the tunnel to take on the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Coming of a surprise season that saw Chicago in the NFC Championship Game, the Bears are hoping to take the next step in 2011.

    Like always, they'll be led by solid defense and an adequate offense and will attempt to wear down opponents and force turnovers thanks to their physicality on defense.

    Following a very good draft, optimism is high in Chicago. Check out ten bold predictions for the upcoming season.

The Bears Will Finish with 12 or More Wins, but Will Not Win Their Division

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  A member of the Chicago Bears field team waves a Bears flag as the before the Bears take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    After a decade of being relative pushovers, the NFC North has suddenly become one of the best divisions in the NFL.

    The Bears and Packers both reached the NFC Championship Game last season, and while the Vikings may be down for a few years, the Lions are on their way up.

    Expect the division to be tough in 2011 as well, as Chicago and Green Bay both reloaded during the offseason.

    Both teams will be favorites to make the playoffs again next season, but the Packers will likely be the division favorites. Expect the defending Super Bowl champs to beat out the Bears for the division title, even though the Bears will have one of the best records in football.

The Bears and Packers Will Meet in the NFC Championship Game

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks on from under center while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Gett
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    While championship games rarely showcase rematches in consecutive years, the Bears and the Packers both have what it takes to return to the game next season.

    While there could be a new setting and different seedings, expect a game similar to last year's, and one similar to all Bears-Packers games for that matter.

    Bears-Packers is one of the great rivalries in football, and with both playing at their highest level in years, they could meet again for a second consecutive classic.

Jay Cutler Will Have His Best Season Yet

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears under center while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    After a somewhat rocky first two years in Chicago, Jay Cutler is due for a solid season and a chance to win over Bears fans.

    He has been wildly inconsistent over the last two years, especially last season, and has yet to find a No. 1 target in the passing game.

    This year, with a more talented, more experience offensive line and a more experienced receiving corps, Cutler has a chance to have his best season yet. And if the Bears want any chance of winning their first Super Bowl since the Ditka era, he will have to be much sharper.

The Offensive Line Will Improve

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    TAMPA, FL -  JANUARY 1: Lineman Gabe Carimi #68 of the Wisconsin Badgers sets to block  against the Tennessee Volunteers in the 2008 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium on January 1, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  The Volunteers won 21 - 17. (Photo by Al Mess
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    After a miserable 2010-2011 season that saw the offensive line surrender an NFL-record nine sacks in the first half against the Giants, Chicago made it a draft priority to find some young, talented offensive lineman.

    Offensive line coach Mike Tice helped the line improve over the second half of the season, and that improvement should continue into next year, unless the lockout hurts their development.

    Bears' first round selection Gabe Carimi, an offensive tackle from Wisconsin, should help the unit make strides as well.

The Inside of the Defensive Line Will Struggle

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    CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 12: Tommie Harris #91 and Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears await the start of play against the Detroit Lions during the NFL season opening game at Soldier Field on September 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Over the past five years, Chicago has relied on a strong, veteran defensive line. However, the line's production decreased last year as its' players started to transition from veteran to old.

    Expect production to drop even more this season as the unit gets even older.

    The Bears attempted to improve the line through the draft, selecting defensive tackle Stephen Paea. They also did a good job improving the ends, picking up Julius Peppers in the last offseason.

    However, the inside of the line will likely struggle and it will take time for the unit to return to its previous form.

The Secondary Will Be the Best in the NFC

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Danieal Manning #38 of the Chicago Bears with the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Bears' secondary is the perfect combination of youth and experience and it played extremely well last season.

    The unit is solid in coverage and is known for its ballhawking abilities.

    While it isn't as well-known as the hard-hitting secondaries of the AFC (i.e. Pittsburgh and Baltimore), it is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best in football.

    With even more experience, expect the secondary to improve in 2011 and be the best in the NFC, and possibly the best in the NFL.

Johnny Knox Will Cement Himself as the No. 1 Wide Receiver

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears runs ahead of Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers for a 32-yard gain in the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (P
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Knox seemed like an unlikely candidate to be Jay Cutler's top target last season, as Earl Bennett and Devin Hester have received more hype.

    However, Knox led the team in receiving last season and has all the skills to become a top wide receiver. He is extremely athletic and is good at making unbelievable catches.

    He must become more consistent in order to become the team's go-to receiver. However, he has the potential to be a game-changer for Chicago as early as next season.

Brian Urlacher Will Lead the Team in Tackles for the Second Straight Season

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears looks over at Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers before the snap in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/G
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    After a few injury-ravaged, down seasons, Brian Urlacher came back with a vengeance to lead Chicago in tackles last season.

    He was just like his younger self—maybe better—and was the leader of yet another strong Bears defense.

    Urlacher will be in the middle of the defense once again next season and will be needed if Chicago wants to duplicate last year's success. He is strong against both the pass and the run and is always all over the field.

    Expect Urlacher's success to continue in 2011 and expect yet another pro bowl appearance for the seasoned linebacker.

The Bears Will Lead the League in Turnovers

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Charles Tillman #33 of the Chicago Bears is unable to intercept a pass intended for Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter of the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Il
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    As stated earlier, the Bears' secondary is one of the best in the NFL. Its coverage skills are good, but its ability to force turnovers is even better.

    Chicago is particularly good at forcing fumbles, forcing 23 in the 2010 regular season. It also came up with 21 interceptions.

    With more experience, expect those numbers to rise in 2011 as Chicago aims to rise to the top of the league in both categories.

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Brandon Jackson #32 of the Green Bay Packers runs the ball against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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