Chicago Bears Predictions
The Chicago Bears got off to a 7-4 start in 2011 before injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte really put an end to their season. They would finish third in the NFC North with an 8-8 record after going 1-4 to close out the year.
Chicago has made many big splashes this offseason to upgrade its roster. Here is a preview of the offense and defense, as well as my prediction on where the Bears finish in the NFC North in 2012.
The offense managed 22.1 points and 314 total yards per game last season. It was an improvement from its poor ’10 numbers, but more is expected in ’12 under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Look for Chicago to put up its best numbers since ’06 on offense due to the improvements they’ve made in free agency and via the draft.
Cutler completed 58.0 percent of his passes for 2,319 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions before going out with a season-ending thumb injury after 10 starts last year. He returns healthy, and will be backed up by former Oakland QB Jason Campbell.
Forte rushed for 997 yards on 4.9/carry with three touchdowns, while also catching 52 balls for 490 yards and one score a year ago despite missing four games with an MCL injury. He finally got the contract he was looking for with a four-year deal this offseason. Look for Forte to be the focal point of the offense once again. The Bears signed Michael Bush (977 rushing yards, 418 receiving yards, eight total TD) from Oakland to give Forte a proven backup and one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL.
The biggest upgrade comes at receiver, where Chicago went out and traded for Brandon Marshall (1,214 yards, six TD) from the Miami Dolphins, while also drafting rookie Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) in the second round. These two figure to start, while Devin Hester (26 receptions, 369 yards, one TD) and Earl Bennett (24, 381, one TD) come off the bench. TE Kellen Davis (18, 206, five TD) is an excellent red zone target.
The offensive line played better last season despite more injuries up front. After allowing 56 sacks in ’10, this unit cut that number down to 49 in ’11. LT J’Marcus Webb (14 sacks allowed) must find a way to play better. LG Chris Williams, C Roberto Garza and RG Chris Spencer are solid inside. ’11 first-round RT Gabe Carimi suffered a dislocated kneecap in Week 2 last season, and his healthy return will make this a much-improved unit. Backup Lance Louis (10 sacks allowed) simply did not get the job done.
The Bears no longer have the same dominant defense they did in the early 2000’s. This stop unit plays a bend-but-don’t-break style that yielded 21.3 points and 350 total yards per game last season. It’s getting up there in age and may no longer be the strength of the team.
Chicago added some youth up front by using its first-round pick on rookie DE Shea McClellin (Boise State). He’ll play opposite 11th-year veteran DE Julius Peppers (37 tackles, 11 sacks), who remains one of the best players in the league even at age 32. Inside, the Bears bring back NT Matt Toeania (16 tackles) and DT Henry Melton (24 tackles, 7 sacks). DE Israel Idonije (52 tackles, 5 sacks) adds solid depth and pass rushing ability.
The linebacker corps returns intact. MLB Brian Urlacher (102 tackles, 8 for loss, 10 passes defended) and WLB Lance Briggs (105 tackles, 9 for loss) are the heart and soul of this team. SLB Nick Roach (38 tackles, 4 for loss) needs to bring up his level of play to match that of Urlacher and Briggs. The Bears signed SLB Geno Hayes (64 tackles, 7 for loss) from Tampa Bay to challenge Roach.
The only substantial loss in the secondary is SS Brandon Meriwether, who is now with the Washington Redskins. Chicago believes that SS Major Wright (58 tackles, six pass break-ups, three INT) can handle the starting duties as he enters his third year in the league. FS Chris Conte (53 tackles) had a good rookie year and should only improve in his second season. CB’s Tim Jennings (77 tackles, 10 pass break-ups, two INT) and Charles Tillman (99 tackles, 12 pass break-ups, three INT) are solid cover corners to go along with DJ Moore (44 tackles, eight pass break-ups, four INT).
NFC North Prediction – 2nd Place (11-5 Record)
The Bears are going to be one of the most improved teams in the league. They play the #30 schedule in terms of difficulty, so a return to the playoffs is very likely. Cutler now has some real weapons to work with in former Denver teammate Marshall and rookie Jeffery. Provided he and Forte can stay healthy, I expect the Bears to win 11 games and earn a Wildcard berth in ’12.
Individual Team NFL Season Predictions
|AFC West||AFC North||AFC South||AFC East|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Pittsburgh Steelers||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots|
|San Diego Chargers||Baltimore Ravens||Jacksonville Jaguars||New York Jets|
|Oakland Raiders||Cleveland Browns||Houston Texans||Miami Dolphins|
|Denver Broncos||Cincinnati Bengals||Tennessee Titans||Buffalo Bills|
|NFC West||NFC North||NFC South||NFC East|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chicago Bears Predictions||Atlanta Falcons||Philadelphia Eagles|
|St. Louis Rams||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints||New York Giants|
|San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||Tampa Bay Bucs||Dallas Cowboys|