#5 – Chicago Bears
2011 Record: 8-8 (3rd NFC North)
Projected 2012 Record: 11-5 (2nd NFC North)
Key Arrivals: DT Brian Price, WR Brandon Marshall, RB Lorenzo Booker, DT Nate Collins, OLB Geno Hayes, CB Johnathan Whilhite, CB Kelvin Hayden, WR-KR Devin Thomas (retired), RB Michael Bush, WR-RS Eric Weems, QB Jason Campbell
Key Departures: RB Marion Barber (Retired), WR/KR Devin Thomas (Retired), DT Amobi Okoye, CB Zack Bowman, QB Caleb Hanie, S Brandon Meriweather, DT Anthony Adams
The Bears were on course to be one of the best teams in the NFC last season before Cutler went down in Game 10. The Bears thought they had a serviceable backup in Caleb Hanie, but that quickly proved to be false as Hanie struggled to keep the Bears afloat and the Bears went 1-5 down the stretch, finishing 8-8. Forte has been resigned, so his contract is no longer an issue, Marion Barber, his former backup, decided to call it a career, so to replace him, the Bears brought in Michael Bush and Lorenzo Booker. This makes the Bears considerably more dangerous: Forte was relied upon to gain yards on the ground and through the air, bringing in backups who can run between the tackles and take a load off of him is going to help immensely. Michael Bush will be the second biggest addition to this offense, last year for Oakland he gained almost 1400 total yards and scored 8 TDs. Bush will prove tremendous for the Bears when they need to rest Forte, and the healthier Forte is come season’s end, the better Chicago becomes.
The huge addition for this offense is Brandon Marshall, this gives Cutler a legit #1 receiver instead of a squad of average players who aren’t quite cut out for the #1 role. Cutler’s leading receiver last season was Johnny Knox, who accounted for 737 yards and 2 TDs, compare that with Marshall who accounted for 1214 yards and 6 TDs last season with Matt Moore and Chad Henne. Chicago now has a consistent, vertical threat, which makes them extremely dangerous on offense. Don’t be fooled by the 26th ranked passing offense, the numbers fell apart once Cutler went down.
On defense, they have added a decent corner in Kelvin Hayden, who will likely play opposite of Charles Tillman, and his help will be needed for a passing defense that gave up 254 yards per game. Hayden isn’t the most solid cornerback, however, he is consistent, and he does a decent job at locking up receivers he’s up against. The rushing defense can still get the job done, only allowing 96.4 yards per game last season and a total of 10 TDs last season. While Kelvin Hayden shouldn’t be your biggest defensive offseason pickup, he’s good enough to fill the void that Chicago needs, as stated before, they were 7-3 and on pace to win at least 11 games if they kept it up before Cutler went down.
So what makes Chicago dangerous? Cutler finally has a vertical threat, yes, but the main thing is that Forte now has backfield help. Michael Bush is no scrub when it comes to playing the compliment, and if he can be half of the dual threat that Forte is, Chicago becomes even MORE dangerous. If they beat Green Bay in Week 2, watch out.