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Chicago Bears: Superbowl Contenders Or Playoff Pretenders?

Brandon RoemerContributor ISeptember 11, 2009

CHICAGO - AUGUST 22: The offensive line of the New York Giants waits to take on the defensive line of the Chicago Bears during a pre-season game on August 22, 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Giants 17-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A lot has been said, written, debated, and repeated about the Chicago Bears this offseason.  They traded for a marquee quarterback, they shook up the defensive coaching, and have Superbowl aspirations. 

They will get the perfect chance to show the NFL what kind of team they are when they open in Green Bay on Sunday Night Football and finally put some substance on the debate.

At least on paper, the NFC North promises to be one of the best divisions in football this season and could easily have three playoff teams playing come January.  But if the Bears want to be a part of that group and get back to the postseason after a two-year Superbowl slump, it's not the offense that should be scrutinized.

The Bears' shiny new Pro Bowl 4,500-yard passer has shifted a lot of the focus away from where Chicago struggled last year: defending the pass.  You can point to the defense's time on the field when the offense couldn't sustain a drive, but Chicago has never expected its offense to do much.

When push came to shove, the defensive line could not get a pass rush and the banged up secondary was exposed.  To make any kind of playoff run this year, the Bears must hassle the opposing quarterback.

Sunday proves to be a stout test of who the Bears will be this season.  The Green Bay Packers have a potent offense and a new and somewhat unknown defense after switching to the 3-4.  What it will come down to is the Bears' defense vs Aaron Rodgers.

Where Jay Cutler was the headline offseason move, Rod Marinelli was perhaps a more important addition.  He had a terrible record as a head coach but was and still is one of the most respected line coaches in the NFL. 

If the Bears' defense buys into Marinelli's system and regain the form worthy of the Monsters of the Midway, the city of Chicago will be in for a treat.  However, if the Bears give Rodgers time to pass, it will be the second blowout loss at Lambeau in as many years.

Cutler and the Bears' wide receiving corps is easy to focus on, but an offense is something the Bears have rarely had and don't rely on.  If the defense can keep the game close, the upgrade at quarterback can win them the game.

Harris, Ogunleye, Anderson, Urlacher, Bowman, and Tillman will decide the fate of the Bears this season; not Hester, Bennet, Davis, Aromashodu, and Cutler.  Without a strong defense, the Chicago Bears may be better called the Chicago Chipmunks.

If the Monsters of the Midway show up on Sunday, the Bears should be Superbowl contenders.  If they can't get off the field, they will be playoff pretenders and will be watching the playoffs at home on a flatscreen for the third straight year. 

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