It goes to show you anything can happen in the NFL. A few years back, the Bengals, like the Bears were picked to finish last in the division. They surprised everyone. Last year, the Cowboys were supposed to easily cruise to the NFCE division title. They finished last. Last year the Packers were supposed to easily win the division. Yet, they barely lucked into the playoffs with help from other teams losing and an untimely Mike Martz heave-a-thon.
So this year, I would say 10 wins for this team would be successful. Anything less is just hitting around expectations. Most analysts have them finishing at or below .500. Most have them finishing behind the Lions. Clark Judge (who picked them to finish last in the division in 2010) has them finishing behind the Lions as well. So I’m saying 10 and 6 would be a good season. Of course, a SB win would be incredible...
In no particular order:
#1 – Stay healthy.
The Bears did have some injuries last year. But most were short term and low impact. Cutler, Briggs, Pisa, Wright, and Chris Williams all missed games. The key was that the injuries were relatively spread out, and only the Briggs injury seemed to impact the team as a whole.
#2 – Red Zone offense success
In a word, we were pathetic. Especially in goal line situations. In fact, we went 0-12 in goal line situations to start the season. We've looked less than stellar so far in pre-season. But, we’ve kept a full back on the roster and added Speath. We've also grown on the line (averaging about 20 lbs per player more). But the biggest add is Barber. I think Martz needs to mix it up from the 20, but when we get to the goal we need to punch the defense in the face.
#3 - Rookies, rejects and Free Agent’s step up…
If you haven’t been keeping up to date on the Bears roster moves, get ready for a new-look team. Gone are some of the perennial players like Olin Kreutz, Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Tommie Harris, Marcus Harrison, Pisa Tinoisomoa, Rashied Davis, Garrett Wolfe, Brad Maynard, and Danieal Manning. In their place, we have 19 new faces… Nineteen! That’s turnover of 36% of our 53 man roster in one year.
Some guys are expected to be special teamers. Some are expected to compete for starting positions. Some are expected to see a ton of playing time, in critical situations. All are expected to contribute immediately.
Here are your new Chicago Bears:
- Gabe Carimi – OT – 1st draft pick. Our new starting RT. He’s looked very impressive in pre-season.
- Kyle Adams – TE – Probably won’t see much time other than special teams
- Mario Addison – DE - I really like this kid. So does Lovie…
- Marion Barber – RB – Expected to immediately solve short yardage. I think he can do way more.
- Chris Conte – S- Rookie safety. He’ll see lots of time on special teams.
- Roy Williams – WR – Our new #1… ugh…
- Winston Venable – S – No one can deny that this kid can hit… Will see a lot of time on ST’s.
- Chris Spencer – C – playing the role of back-up for now. Most think he will be starting in a few weeks.
- Matt Spaeth – TE - I believe he has potential to be out biggest pick-up. He is (so far) everything we hoped Manu would be.
- Adam Podlesh – P -I wasn’t super impressed with his leg in pre-season. But, he can’t be weaker than Maynard, can he?
- Nick Reed – DE - A guy with a non-stop motor. I really liked this kid. Probably gets moved to the practice squad when Corey Wootton comes back though.
- Stephen Paea – DT – Our #2 draft pick. Adds depth at this point, but still haven’t seen much from him.
- Amobi Okoye DT – One of my favorite pickups. I may be wrong, but I think he has ALL of the Bears pre-season sacks…
- Brandon Meriweather – S – A back-to-back pro-bowler. I hope he lives up to where he was drafted. If he does, what an awesome steal.
- Sam Hurd – WR – Big tall targte. Looked good out there. Will play a lot of special teams.
- Nathan Enderle – QB – 5th round draft. If he is on the field, we are in serious trouble…
- Dom DeCicco – LB – Played Safety in college. Can he really bulk up and make an impact at MLB?
- Dane Sanzenbacher - WR - Outshined pretty much all receivers in pre-season.
- Will Ta’ufo’ou – FB – Was on the practice squad last year so not new to team. But not only is he new to 53 man roster, he also brings back a position we did not have last year.
#4 - Time for this offense to click.
Pre-season records are meaningless. But the pre-season eye test and stats are not. Coaches are looking at everything and just about every stat other than W/L in preseason. Cutler has played about 4 quarters this pre-season. All came against our opponents first team defenses. I'd give Cutler an A. He has put up 350 yards averaging 8 yards per pass. He’s looked poised, quick, and confident in this offense.
As important, the offense as a whole has done very well overall. We have owned the TOP in all 4 games (averaging almost 34 minutes). This success is directly linked to our ability to covert 3rd downs (40%) and in general, keep the ball moving – with 93 first downs total. And before you start in on the “it’s just pre-season” noise, know we held opponents to just 55 total first downs on about 33%.
The point is, this offense is showing signs of maturing. It could really click. And if it does, it’s going to be a fun ride.
#5 – Offensive line MUST play better than 2010.
Quite possibly the most important key... But, let’s not beat this dead horse to death. I'll be quick. We sucked in 2010. 53 sacks. The line is probably the main reason we did not go to the SB. We’re much bigger up front, but younger. I keep saying, if we can average 2 or less sacks per game, we will be in playoffs. One thing is for sure, we look like we have a pretty solid short yardage group here.
#6 – Vets have to play like Vets.
We have a lot of new talent. But the Vets are going to be expected to shine. Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Chris Harris, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Israel Idonije, Earl Bennett. We need these guys to play like they can and not the way the “experts” think they will. Lovie needs to keep this team motivated and hungry. Last year, we beat the Packers, Cowboys and Lions to start the season. If we can start the season out the way we did last year, (We have the Falcons, Saints and Packers) look for the Bears bandwagon to fill up quickly again.
Thoughts, questions, corrections, bitching, etc.. are all welcome.