2013 NFC North Division Preview: Chicago Bears
Projected 2013 Finish: 2nd NFC North
Projected 2013 Record: 9-7
2012 Record: 10-6
Despite a 10-6 record last season, Chicago failed to make the playoffs. Out, is long time head coach Lovie Smith. In, from the Canadian Football League and longtime NFL offensive coordinator, is Marc Trestman. Some say this is a make or break season for QB Jay Cutler. Can Trestman's new offensive system help Cutler and a Bears team that has been notoriously offensively challenged from the Lovie Smith regime?
This will be Cutler's fifth year in Chicago and his fourth, yes fourth, offensive coordinator. Its hard for any QB to get into a rhythm during the season if he's constantly having to learn new systems each year. It is his contract year however, so look for Cutler to be literally playing for his livelihood each week.
The Bears offensive line has always been a bit of a concern in recent memory. Nothing is more evident of that than what Trestman did to it this past off-season. C Roberto Garza is the only returning starter on the line from a year ago. Two rookies will start on the right side and two-time Pro Bowl LT Jermon Bushrod and G Matt Slauson will protect the left side. Both were signed in free agency.
If there was a back in the NFL that was used ineffectively in 2012, it was RB Matt Forte. A heavy dose of passing and a lack of commitment to the run made Forte a wasted resource. Balance will be the name of the game for the Bears if they want to be successful in 2013. We can assume Trestman will not be hoisting the ball up towards WR Brandon Marshall this year; as was much of the game plan last season.
Apart from a few departures, this defense is pretty much unchanged. Longtime middle linebacker and future hall of famer Brian Urlacher has finally retired after 28 seasons with Chicago. I'm joking, but didn't it feel like he was with Chicago for over a quarter century? We'll see if this defense is able to move on from Urlacher's invaluable experience and leadership without skipping a beat. D.J. Williams, a free agent from Denver, replaces Urlacher at MLB and James Anderson replaces Nick Roach on the outside. The secondary returns both starting cornerbacks and both starting safeties.
Not much else can be said about Chicago's defense, other than they should be one of the top tier groups in the NFL in 2013.
Bears' fans got their wish and Lovie Smith is finally gone despite having relative success during his tenure as head coach. If Trestman can find some sort of balance with what should be a talented offensive group and the defense maintains its consistent reputation, a playoff berth is attainable. However, a very tough schedule might work against their postseason aspirations.