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Stadium : Soldier Field (Outside)
Schedule Strength : 8th
Postseason Weather issues : Home vs. Green Bay (Week 15)
Offensive Line Ranking : 29th
Head Coach – Lovie Smith
After playing linebacker at Tulsa University, Smith would spend his first 16 years working as a defensive coach for eight different high school and college programs before landing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a linebackers coach in Tampa Bay, Smith studied under the legendary Tony Dungy, helping develop the now famous Tampa-2 defensive system. After three seasons as the St. Louis defensive coordinator, Smith was hired as the Bears head coach in 2004. Upon examining Smith’s history, we have revealed yet another of the league’s head coaches with a strictly defensive background, indicating Smith will have little influence on the game planning and play calling. However, like most defensive head coaches, Smith has suggested he would prefer a balanced offensive system of equal run and pass.
Offensive Coordinators – Mike Tice/Jeremy Bates
After the Mike Martz experiment failed, the Bears finally got smart and sent him packing. However, the Bears are becoming an anomaly after hiring two offensive coordinators. Tice carries the official offensive coordinator title and will be in charge of the blocking/running game, while former Denver and Seattle offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates will institute the passing game as the quarterbacks coach. Where does this leave us? Considering Bates’ history with Jay Cutler, we should expect the same traditional West Coast offense utilized during their time together in Denver. However, the presence of Tice and Smith indicates a more run/pass balance, leaning heavily on the defense.
QB – Jay Culter
Cutler is arguably one of the NFL’s most talented quarterbacks with great mobility and a rocket arm. However, Cutler has lacked the composure and maturity necessary to be a team leader, while showing a propensity for injury. In Cutler’s defense, he’s fallen victim to poor coaching, fighting constantly with former offensive coordinator Mike Martz over the past two seasons. Cutler’s poor production can also be attributed to a lack of a No. 1 wide receiver since being traded to Chicago back in 2009. The final knock on Cutler is one of the leagues most horrible offensive lines (hence their 29th rating). The Bears, in all their infinite wisdom, have made a number of offseason changes to rectify their weaknesses. The first is going out and trading for Brandon Marshall, a former teammate of Cutler back in Denver where they both enjoyed great success. Now factor in that Marshal and Cutler are also being reunited with former Broncos offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates after the firing of Martz (good riddance). The confidence provided by adding both Bates and Marshall should help Cutler’s maturity issues. The lone knock is that Chicago still has a terrible offensive line, which continues to decrease Cutler’s fantasy value. All told, Cutler enters 2012 with a player rating of 8.6
Matt Forte has proven to be a premier NFL running back, excelling mightily in both the passing and ground game. As of this writing, the Bears have placed Forte under the “franchise tag” and have yet to sign him to a long-term contract. Typically players who have earned the right for a pay raise do not perform well in the coming season because they are trying to avoid injury. Furthermore, the Bears have shown time and again they would prefer a running back by committee system, relieving Forte from goal-line carries (Chester Tayler and Marion Barber). Enter Michael Bush. A workhorse back in his own right, Bush proved while in Oakland that he has the ability to start in this league. All told, the Bears backfield is one of the league’s toughest running back situations to decipher as we should expect a two-back-system, with a 60-40 split. Being the incumbent, Forte will get more carries deserving a slightly high player rating at 7.8, with Bush taking goal-line carries coming in at a player rating of roughly 7.4.
WR – Brandon Marshall
Marshall is a freakish athlete displaying superior run after the catch ability, but is also amongst the league’s premier deep threat receivers. Being reunited with his old pal, quarterback Jay Cutler, and former offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, we should expect a very productive year for Brandon Marshall. For years, the only knock on Marshall has been immaturity. Considering he should top 100 receptions on the season, Marshall is deserving of player rating of 9.1.
None of these wide receivers should really get us all that excited. Jeffery is the most talented, but we’re already reading about the same maturity issues he struggled with in college, along with arriving to minicamp overweight. Hester has never been able to reach the success he’s found as a kick returner, and I don’t foresee that changing in the near future. Earl Bennett may be the most intriguing of the bunch. A former college teammate of Cutler’s, Bennett showed promise last season before Cutler’s injury. Although slightly injury prone, Bennett might be worth a late-round flier with a player rating of 7.3. Jeffery and Hester should remain undrafted as both deserve a player rating of 6.2.
TE – Kellen Davis
Oh, what the Bears wouldn’t give to have Greg Olsen back. Traded during the Mike Martz tenure because Martz, in all his infinite wisdom, sees the tight end as an extra blocker (tell that to Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, Kellen Winslow Sr. or Antonio Gates). Back to Kellen Davis. Davis could have some value only considering the West Coast system being utilized now in Chicago. However, unless he lights it up during preseason, he should remain undrafted. Player Rating of 6.4 (it’s likely we could see Earl Bennett filling the role of the West Coast tight end).
D/ST – Chicago Bears
If we didn’t have to worry about the injury concerns regarding Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher, the Bears could compete for the top fantasy defense in the league. Also factoring in the Bears play against the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers twice a season causes a small downgrade (Green Bay in Week 15). The Bears’ defensive rating is 8.7
K – Robbie Gould
One of the league’s most accurate kickers, the only knock on Gould every year is playing in the “Windy City.” He’ll be good starting out the season, but we need to monitor Week 15’s home game against the Green Bay Packers. Gould’s player rating is in the range of 8.4.
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