The Chicago Bears enter 2012 with high hopes in a challenging division. The NFC north will be tough as nails again this year and barring major injuries I’m predicting the Bears will finish on top. The Bears entered 2011 strong but after injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte their offense was non existent. In order to avoid such a drastic decline of production they targeted free agents like Jason Campbell and Michael Bush. Contract negotiations continue for Matt Forte and the addition of Bush gives the Bears more depth at running back. I feel this signing has more to do with injuries and depth than the Forte contract situation.
In the past, the Bears have lacked consistency at the offensive skill position because of injuries and lack of talent. This off-season they added young talent by way of the draft and depth by the way of trade. They acquired wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a trade with Miami. Marshall and Earl Bennett are two targets Cutler is extremely familiar and comfortable with, and both are legitimate number one’s on the depth chart. Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is another big target for Cutler. At 6’3″ 215 pounds, Jeffery can get up and over defenders. I look to him and Marshall to present match up problems for defenses in the red zone. Cutler arguably has the best core of receivers he has had in his career this year in Chicago. Barring injury, this offense could be looking at much bigger numbers than last year.
As for the defense, four pro-bowlers remain. Age will begin to be a factor for this defense eventually, but hopefully for Bears fans it wont be this year. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs head up a veteran group of linebackers, but everything relies on the front four. Despite the success of Julius Peppers last year, the Bears defensive line was average at best and ranked 19th in sacks. Much of this could be situational and a factor of their own offensive struggles.
Overall, I’m predicting a 12-4 season and a division title. I have them splitting with both Green Bay and Detroit, with the Vikings being a non-threat.