2011 NFL Preview: Can the Chicago Bears Repeat as NFC North Champions?
Last year at this time, the Bears weren't given any chance by the media in winning the NFC North. It was supposed to be the Vikings division to lose, with the Packers and Lions hot on their heels. Lovie Smith was supposed to be fired, and Jay Cutler and many Bears were supposed to be traded.
Right now, the Bears are in a similar position. They are behind the Super Bowl XLV Champion Green Bay Packers and have a lot of work to do when the lockout is resolved, starting with filling out their roster up to 80 for training camp and cutting it back to 53 when the season starts.
Repeating in any sport is a difficult task. The Bears have on their side the fact that only four of the last ten NFC Champions have made the playoffs in the following season, so Green Bay has their work cut for them too.
Another thing the Bears have going for them is that their AFC schedule consists of the AFC West, consisting of the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers and Broncos. It's the weakest division in the AFC, and the Bears shouldn't have problems in winning games against those teams.
The weakest part of the Bears last season was the offensive line, and the Bears made the best possible upgrade they could with the 29th pick, by taking 2010 Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin.
Known as the "Jewish Hammer" in some circles, he is a big offensive lineman at 6'8" and will likely be protecting Cutler's blind side. Many expect the Bears to sign a free-agent lineman when the lockout is resolved. Also, with Tommie Harris being released, the Bears will have to sign a free-agent defensive tackle.
The Bears didn't make big changes with coaches or coordinators, so they will have a step ahead of rival Minnesota in that aspect. Their core remains in tact with Cutler, Forte, Hester, Urlacher, Peppers and Briggs. These players know what it takes to win the division, and they know they were one touchdown away from going to the Super Bowl.
It will be an exciting 2011 NFL season when the lockout is resolved.
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