I wish I could say I had full confidence that the Chicago Bears would make a return trip to the NFC Championship Game in 2011. But I’m just not that kind of guy, drinking the kool-aid no matter what reality tells me. I certainly think the Bears have a good team, probably even improved from 2010. But in the reality of this NFL, that may not be good enough to get back to the playoffs.
I think Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune hit the nail on the head today when he wrote “the Bears may have a better team but finish with a worse record.” In his article he goes on to elaborate on why he feels that way, and I can’t argue with him. Sure, I hope the Bears will benefit from some fortuitous breaks, but those can never be counted on.
Unfortunately I look at the very real possibility that the Bears could start 0-3 facing three of the four consensus top teams in the NFL. If they start 1-2 I would actually look at that as a positive. Even if they do come out of the first three weeks with a losing record, if the Bears are able to rebound by sweeping their four October games they could be OK. I’d love to be the type to honestly think they’ll go 3-0 or 2-1 in this rough stretch, but I cannot think that in reality.
Enough talk of what might happen. Here are a few random thoughts on what I’ll be looking to see at Soldier Field on Sunday, in no particular order of importance:
Will Henry Melton perform well at the critical three-technique tackle position? The Bears’ 2011 hopes could hinge more on this question than any other. Melton was a spot player at the position in 2010 and showed flashes. As the starter in preseason he again showed more on the line than any other defender. If Melton is an upgrade to the injury-riddled Tommie Harris, the defense could be more special than in 2010. If there is no penetration from the position, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers will murder the Bear defense.
Will the Bears regret not bringing in outside help at cornerback and offensive line? At both of these positions, despite having $19 million in salary cap space available, the Bears chose to have faith in Tim Jennings, Zack Bowman, J’Marcus Webb and Lance Louis. We’re going to find out real quick if this decision was the right move or will haunt the team.
Will Martz’ offense become the Martz offense or no? I heard a good interview on WSCR the other day with former player Matt Bowen that was very interesting. He said when Martz has the personnel and truly runs his offense, it is virtually unstoppable. Problem for Martz is, he hasn’t had the personnel since St. Louis. It would be unbelievable to see that kind of offensive production in Chicago, and while I think Jay Cutler can be that kind of quarterback, he can’t do it without a solid offensive line and receivers. We can only wait and watch to see if it’s a brand new offense or it goes up in flames. If it’s going to go up in flames, I predict it will happen fast.
Will J’Marcus Webb prove to be an NFL left tackle? Again I think we’re going to find out very soon. I think it’s 50/50 whether Webb hangs in there or blows up and is pulled very early on (hate to bring it up again, but remember Qasim Mitchell being the long-term solution?) This Bears team cannot go through three weeks with Cutler’s blind side exposed constantly. I predict if Webb fails, he’ll get the hook very early in the season for Frank Omiyale.
Will the veterans disgruntled with their contracts tear this team apart? I realize this comparison isn’t apples to apples. But I have a strange little feeling that this season could be a lot like the 1992 Chicago Bears season, which is not a good thing. Could the Bears shock the world by pulling off a stunning victory at home, as they did against the Lions in 1992? Then travel to New Orleans in the second week (as they did in 1992) and get blown out? (Again as they did in 1992). Then lose the third game, recover somewhat, then have internal forces rip the season apart? Again I hope it doesn’t happen, but my subconscious is drawing strange parallels to that season. 19 years ago in my opinion it was the players being fed up with Mike Ditka and quitting on him, this year could it be continued turmoil from Briggs and Forte? Only time will tell.
Closing with an unrelated comment. Watching the Packer offense light the field on fire last night just made me wonder. Why is it that when Green Bay needs to draft receivers in the second and third rounds, they hit on one star after another (Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb). While when the Bears select receivers they end up with the likes of David Terrell, Mark Bradley, Juaquin Iglesias, Bobby Wade, Justin Gage? Sure, Earl Bennett is a fine possession receiver, but it’s comical the difference in the Bears and Packers receiving corps.
And again, asking an unanswerable question. Green Bay gets a diamond in the rough in Brett Favre, who starts every game for 16 years. To replace Favre they pick a quarterback with very questionable skills at the time in Aaron Rodgers. What happens? Of course Rodgers steps right in as the best quarterback in the NFL. Not to mention all of the solid backups the Packers drafted during this time in Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, and now Matt Flynn. No sense in even starting the list of Cade McNown, Rex Grossman, Craig Krenzel, etc. etc. etc.
Moral of the story–I cannot take anything away from how the Packers have run their organization since 1992. They are practically without equal in the NFL and should be the envy of every other club.