The Bears haven't gotten much love from the national media but who cares? Even in Madden11, the Bears are rated a 77 and in the bottom half. Forbes even criticized the Bears as being an under-managed team and not living up their financial potential... more on that in a later post. All of this will change soon.
This offseason, the Packers are being crowned co-NFC North champions with the Vikings. In the Mike McCarthy era, the Packers have been up and down. They'll have a great year and then they'll follow it up with a dud. Last year, they looked really good with one of the top defenses in the league and Aaron Rodgers looked like the real deal. This year will be a down year for them. Why? I don't know... injuries, off the field drama, who knows. It'll be a down year for them. I don't care if they just scored 59 points in a preseason game... I repeat a preseason game.
The Vikings have issues no one wants to talk about. Brett Favre is a year older, a grandfather and his ankle will give him issues this year. He doesn't have Sidney Rice for almost half the season with an injured hip. Percy Harvin has migraine issues that will never go away and he'll find his way on the inactive list. Adrian Peterson will do his best Walter Payton impersonation but will fail miserably because of his fumbling problem and he doesn't block well. The Vikings will miss Chester Taylor because he isn't as fumble prone and blocks better than Peterson. Taylor has always filled in for Peterson during crucial situations, in third down situations and late in the game. Now Brad Childress is forced to keep the NFL's running back version of Jay Cutler in the game.
The Lions improved their team this offseason but I still don't respect them. They're the LA Clippers of the NFL. Fat chance. I'm not going waste valuable blogging time on them.
Why will the Bears win (at least) the NFC North?
Lovie Smith's job is on the line. He surrounded himself with two of the best coaches in the biz - Mike Martz and Mike Tice. Martz and Tice will hold their players accountable; something Lovie hasn't been able to do. Lovie is loyal to his players. He's a players' coach and that's why the Bears will do everything they can to help Lovie keep his job.
Last season, Cutler threw 26 interceptions, quite an amazing feat. That won't happen this year under Martz's watch. Every offense Martz has touched, he's improved.
Matt Forte looks like he's back to his rookie self. Everyone talks about the high-powered Martz offense being fueled by speedy wide receivers. The truth is, most of Martz's success has been fueled by multi-dimensional running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield. If Forte and Taylor total production can match Marshall Faulk's numbers in the "Greatest Show on Turf" offense, then the Bears will be a dangerous team.
Some might still question the offensive line. They haven't showed us much in the preseason but the mistakes they've made are correctable by Tice. Some might question Martz's 7 step drops but what if those 7 step drops are in the form of quarterback rollouts? Martz and Tice know what they're doing and will make the necessary adjustments to set the Bears offense up for success.
Julius Peppers was brought in give the Bears a pass rush and he will. After him, who else on the defensive line will step up - Tommie Harris, Mark Anderson, Israel Idonijie, maybe even Corey Wootton. How about all of the above? Peppers will make everyone on defensive line better. Opposing offensive lines can't double team everyone.
With better D-line play comes better secondary play. Chris Harris is another part of the equation. Since he was traded in 2006, the Bears have played musical chairs at both safety positions. Harris stabilizes the secondary. Major Wright looks like he could become a big time player, someone like Mike Brown - a big hitter that can make the big play.
All of these factors will come into play, not to mention the return of Brian Urlacher. The "Face of the Franchise" returns with one year less of wear-and-tear. He's playing for missed time and will play his best. This year, he will also play for the "Face of the Franchise" title for one more season as he tries keep it away from Cutler.