With the Seahawks old rivals in the AFC well all previewed, I thought I’d move on to what is probably the NFL’s toughest division. If I’m going to talk about the NFC North, I have to start with the Chicago Bears. My wife’s family is from Chicago. If I wrote about the Packers or Lions before the Bears I’d probably be in trouble.
Biggest Team Need Heading Into Offseason: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line
Key Free Agents Retained: Matt Forte, Kellen Davis, Israel Idonije, Tim Jennings, Kahlil Bell
Key Player Additions: Brandon Marshall, Jason Campbell, Michael BushKey Players Leaving: Anthony Adams, Caleb Hanie, Frank Omiyale, Amobi Okoye, Roy Williams, Marian Barber
Quick Thoughts on Draft: Shea McClellin is an interesting prospect. It will be really interesting to see how he plays opposite Julius Peppers with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 DE. I am most intrigued by second round pick Alshon Jeffery. He could be an impact player in the red zone. Safety Brandon Hardin could be a sleeper to make a difference in the Bears’ secondary.
Quick Thoughts on 2012 schedule: The Bears have a decent schedule with matchup vs the NFC West and AFC South, the Panthers and Cowboys along with their usual NFC North opponents. They get five opportunities on the national stage with games at Green Bay to kick off the Thursday Night Football slate, at Dallas, vs Detroit, vs Houston and at San Francisco.
Most Interesting Roster Battle: Most certainly the battle to protect Jay Cutler’s blind side between former first round draft pick Chris Williams and last season’s LT J’Marcus Webb.
Biggest Strength Heading Into 2012: I’d have to say quarterback. Besides Cutler, who is really coming into his own, they picked up Jason Campbell, who could be a starter for many teams, to back him up.Biggest Weakness Heading Into 2012: Still has to be the offensive line. The Bears chose to ignore the position in free agency and in the draft. They’re relying on a re-imagined offense without Mike Martz and improvement from within to correct an offensive line that gave up 49 sacks last season.
Biggest Question Still To Be Answered: Can Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall return to the Pro Bowl form they shared when they last played together in Denver a few years ago.
2012 Prediction: 10-6 and a Wild Card berth
The Bears are a perplexing team. They’re talented enough to beat just about any team in the league, but they’ve also paper thin at some really key areas. They’re also rather old on defense, and haven’t really started the inevitable process of replacing some of their old stars with younger players.
The Bear did fortify their offense this offseason. They got Brandon Marshell for almost nothing, and improved their important backup RB and QB spots. The real test will be if their offensive line can hold up and protect Cutler, something they haven’t been able to do the past couple seasons.