5 Chicago Bears With Realistic Pro Bowl Chances

Timothy HockemeyerCorrespondent IISeptember 28, 2011

5 Chicago Bears With Realistic Pro Bowl Chances

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    The toughest three-game stretch is behind them now, and the Bears are reeling.

    After a fantastic showing against Atlanta, the offensive and defensive lines failed to show up in New Orleans and the team as a whole embarrassed themselves at home against the reviled Packers.

    In all, the Bears come away with a 1-2 record against three of the toughest teams the NFC has to offer and finish the grueling opening stretch with more questions than answers.

    However, that's not to say that some players haven't performed at an elite level.  In truth, four players have already started making the case for themselves in the Pro Bowl hunt, and another has a reasonable possibility of being voted in if things fall the right way.  The first four are featured entirely based on their own merit while the fifth will need some help to get there.

    Despite disappointing performances from all three phases of the game, there have been individual performers who have legitimate shots at making a Pro Bowl appearance, so without further adieu, let's identify five Chicago Bears with realistic Pro Bowl chances.

Who Didn't Make It?

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    Before we begin looking at the players featured in this article, let's stop and take a look at a couple of players who weren't included and why.

    The most notable and likely controversial exclusion from this list is running back Matt Forte.  Considering that Forte is, to this point, the driving force behind this offense how could Forte not be included?

    There are a couple of reasons.  First and foremost is that Mike Martz and his play calling are not conducive to Forte putting up Pro Bowl numbers as a rusher.  And second, Adrian Peterson resides in the NFC.  Unfortunately, a player's ability to get a Pro Bowl nod is not in just his own hands and Adrian Peterson is arguably the best running back in the NFC, if not the NFL.  With several other good rushers in the division who play for coordinators who will actually use them to run, Forte just doesn't have luck on his side.  Talent?  Yep.  But talent alone will not get you the vote.

    Another notable absence is Charles Tillman, who has played very well so far this year.  Unfortunately, Tillman is also a victim of system.  The Bears' scheme, since Ron Rivera's departure, is not set to spotlight corners.  Tillman is a good zone corner who might be the best in the league in press duties, and his abilities against the run and to create turnovers with his patented ball punch are well documented. But flashy he isn't and he's not a great man-to-man corner.  Those things will once again leave Peanut off of the Pro Bowl Roster.

Julius Peppers

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    Not much has to be said about Peppers.  

    He makes everyone else on the defensive line better and he's actually getting help from the interior line this year, which will improve his stat lines over last year's Pro Bowl performance.

    He's already recorded two sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and five tackles against three of the best offenses in the league.  The NFC is loaded with DE talent, but Pep is one of the truly elite defensive ends in the league.  

    Expect Peppers to receive his seventh nod this year.

Lance Briggs

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    Will Lance make a 7th straight Pro Bowl?  It certainly looks that way.

    Briggs has already amassed 28 tackles and a forced fumble, as well as allowing only 6.6 yards per reception in coverage. Arguably the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league, Briggs has done nothing to make anyone back away from that opinion so far this season.

    He argued for a new contract in the offseason, and if he keeps playing this way, the Bears may have to pony up some cash for the soon-to-be seven-time Pro Bowler.

Brian Urlacher

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    The seven-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker is well on his way to an eighth nod.

    Aside from being the keystone of the Bears' defense, 'Lach has amassed 18 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.  

    He's also recorded a QB hit and has allowed only a 39.6 quarterback rating on passes targeting his coverage responsibility.

    It also doesn't hurt that Urlacher is the most recognizable middle linebacker in the NFC or that he is outperforming the other well-known stud MLB in the NFC, Patrick Willis.

    No. 54 has played well in all facets of his game and at this point another Pro Bowl looks to be in his future.

Chris Harris

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    A lot of people felt Harris was robbed of his first Pro Bowl selection in 2010.  But how does he get a nod here?

    Well, Harris has missed two games so far and has recorded all of 3 tackles in the Atlanta game he played in.  So what gives?

    This is a case of taking notice of the impact a player has when he isn't in the lineup.  Without Harris in the secondary, the safety position was picked on by both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.  His absence was especially noticeable on the long TD strike to Devery Henderson from Drew Brees.

    The Bears need Harris.  Of course, his absence alone will not get him a nod.  If he performs to his usual standards for the remainder of the season and the Bears defense returns to form with him in the lineup, it will play into the minds of voters that Harris is not only putting up good individual statistics but is also having a big impact on the overall performance of the defense.

Jay Cutler

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    Let's face it, the Bears offense is a wreck.

    So why is Jay Cutler included on this list when Matt Forte is left off?

    Because if this offense turns around, and the possibility is not as remote as some may think, then it will do so on the back of Jay Cutler.  

    Cutler has so far posted five touchdowns, three interceptions and 858 yards against the second, fifth and seventh ranked defenses from 2010.  He's also taken 14 sacks.

    I'm not much for extrapolating stats, but when you consider that the Bears have faced three of the best defenses in the league so far, it is relevant to consider them.  In this case, Cutler would have posted 4576 yards, 27 touchdown and 16 interceptions while being sacked 75 times.

    Now, if Cutler puts up stats anywhere near these behind this offensive line and with the wide receivers he has to throw to, that alone would likely garner him some consideration for a nod.  It's much harder to have that sort of performance when you're surrounded by below average talent than it is to post stats like that when throwing to Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley, is it not?

    If the team is successful making the playoffs and the offense performs well, the success will be laid at Cutler's doorstep. Considering the uphill battle the Bears will have to face and the quality of the tools that he has to work with, Cutler would almost certainly earn a Pro Bowl nod for his performance.

    And now it's your turn, ladies and gentlemen.   Who do you disagree with?  Who got snubbed?  Step up on the soapbox below and let us know what you think.