Brian Urlacher missed almost the entire 2009 season with a wrist injury.
It’s going on four years now but the Chicago Bears still haven’t recovered from their Super Bowl hangover of 2006. If the current NFL football betting futures are any indication it could be awhile before they reach the NFL “promised land” again. Chicago is listed at 30/1 to win the Super Bowl.
Since losing the NFL title game to Indianapolis, the Bears have gone 23-25. They were 7-9 last season and it’s safe to say that head coach Lovie Smith isn’t feeling the love as he embarks on his seventh campaign in the Windy City. He’s one of several NFL coaches on the proverbial hot seat facing a win or else ultimatum this season.
Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo has been busy trying to fill the many needs for this club. He orchestrated the blockbuster trade that brought quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago a year ago and it was Angelo who spent over $100 million dollars on the first day of free agency to bring in Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna.
He also added NFL football offensive guru Mike Martz to the mix in hopes of creating Chicago’s own version of the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Still. with all of that he faces a huge uphill challenge.
The Bears landed the plum of the free agent crop in Peppers who had 81 sacks in his eight seasons with Carolina, including 10.5 sacks in 2009. The return of Brian Urlacher will also be a huge plus for Chicago. Urlacher was knocked out for the entire season after suffering a dislocated wrist in the opening-night loss at Green Bay and the defense never recovered. Since 2004, Chicago has allowed 17.9 points per game with him in the lineup, and 22.1 without him.
Linebacker Lance Briggs, the five-time Pro Bowler and the team’s leading tackler, returns along with improving OLB Nick Roach. None of the Bears defensive backs played particularly well last season but Charles Tillman, Zac Bowman, Chris Harris and Daniel Manning should be helped by Peppers pass rushing presence.
Still, with all the improvements on defense the Bears (plus 300) are listed behind the Packers (plus 130) and the Vikings (plus 150) in the division.
Talk the talk
Cutler’s not shy about telling anyone who’ll listen that’s he a top flight NFL QB. The problem is that he doesn’t have the numbers to back it up.
With Cutler under center the Bears offense ranked 17th in the league in scoring (20.4) and 23rd in total yards (310.3). Cutler threw for 3,666 yards with 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. His passer rating of 76.8 was 21st in the league and seven spots behind the guy who replaced him in Denver, Kyle Orton.
Cutler did finish the ’09 campaign in style throwing for a combined eight touchdowns and just one interception in wins over the Vikings and Lions ,and the hope is that he’ll be more comfortable in his second year. He’s got some pretty talented receivers, including Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, both considered to be home run threats. Earl Bennett, Cutler’s teammate at Vanderbilt, had 54 catches and, if for no other reason than familiarity, he should be targeted more often this NFL football season.
Devin Aromashodu, who caught 12 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns in the final two games, should become more active in the aerial game with Martz calling the shots. Greg Olsen led the Bears in receptions last year with 60 and had eight touchdowns, and remains one of the top tight ends in the league. How involved he’ll be in the new offensive scheme remains to be seen.
The Bears running back game took a big step back in 2009. Matt Forte went from 1,238 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie to 929 yards and four touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. The Bears signed Chester Taylor to compete with Forte, but Taylor is years removed from his most productive days.
The Bears were busy during the offseason but it remains to be seen if it was a productive use of time and energy. Despite the 14th easiest schedule in the NFL, Chicago will be hard pressed to improve upon their record from a year ago.
Chicago's season win total opened and remains at eight at most NFL betting shops.