I am going into this season hoping that the Bears surprise me again. Their success in 2010 was a shock to a lot of people. I know it is blasphemy, but I was hoping for a bad season that would make heads roll at Halas Hall. The franchise needs to get rid of General Manager Jerry Angelo. I am OK with Lovie Smith as Head Coach, but Angelo is terrible at drafting and has left them with no depth should there be any injuries. And last year the Bears stayed healthy which in the NFL is a fluke. I truly believe that 2010's success may have set the franchise back a couple years.
Coming into 2011 the Bears face some of the same issues. The offensive line has very little experience, and 4 of the 5 starters are playing new positions. The only player that is at the same position as last year is Chris Williams at left guard. However, he only played half of 2010 there as Angelo originally drafted him as their franchise left tackle. A perfect example of Angelo's inability to see talent. The line also has no depth. One injury could mean disaster.
As for the offense I expect improvement over last year. If the offensive line stays healthy and keeps Cutler on his feet he should have a decent year. Cutler does not have a true #1 wide receiver so he will probably spread out the passes quite a bit which should make them less predictable to defenses. With Matt Forte unable to get a contract extension done before the start of the season, I would expect him to be highly motivated to have a big year and "break the bank" next offseason. Forte is the perfect back for the Mike Martz offense so I am looking forward to MVP type numbers from him in the second year in that offense.
The Bears strength annually is their defense. I expect that to continue this year, but I do have some concerns. Their depth at linebacker is razor thin. Brian Urlacher had a very good 2010, but that was after sitting all but half of a game in 2009. Injuries have taken him down a notch. After playing a full season last year I'm hoping that he won't breakdown this year. Another concern at linebacker is Lance Briggs and his knee issue. He has basically missed all of camp with the knee injury. Hopefully this is minor because they need him on the field.
I like the depth and talent on the defensive line. If they can get a good pass rush it will hide some of the coverage issues they have in the Cover-2 scheme. They are going to need Julius Peppers to step it up this year. For what they paid for him, I thought his 2010 was rather disappointing. I am intrigued by the Brandon Meriweather signing after the Patriots cut him. He's a bit of a gambler, but he is a solid third safety to have.
The schedule is not easy to start out the season. They could easily be looking at 1-4 or 2-3 in their first 5 games against Atlanta, New Orleans, Green Bay, Carolina and Detroit. If they stay healthy, and even with a possible rough start, I see them as a 10-6 football team. That will be right on the bubble to make the playoffs. If the offensive line becomes an issue or there are injury problems they could easily end up 6-10 and be the team I thought they were going to be in 2010.
Let me know how you think the Bears will do this year.