Throughout their history, the Chicago Bears have been known as a defensive team, and there's no reason 2011 will be any different. Led by veterans Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers, with a healthy dose of the youthful Corey Wootton, Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, and Major Wright, expect this unit to once again lead the team into the postseason.
The question is... how far will the Bears go in the playoffs?
That will largely depend on the production of the offense. Jay Cutler enters his third year with the team, and a productive offseason produced a slimmer QB, whose footwork offensive coordinator Mike Martz praised once the lockout ended. The team also addressed a huge need on the offensive line by drafting one of the top OTs of the 2011 class in Gabe Carimi. If the offense can blossom, expect the Bears to surprise some folks this season.
Best Game On The Schedule
September 25th- Bears hosting the Packers in Week 3. After opening the season at home versus Atlanta, and then traveling to the Superdome to face the Saints, expect the Bears to try and make a big statement at Soldier Field versus the defending Super Bowl champs.
Player Who Takes A Step Back This Year
For the most part during his career in Chicago, cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman has been known for causing turnovers, but his pass coverage skills just aren't what they used to be. If the Bears fail to produce a consistent pass rush, Tillman will be a liability in covering WRs down the field.
Breakout Player Candidates
First thoughts jump right to the big rookie on the OL: Gabe Carimi. Most pundits were surprised to see Carimi fall to the Bears in the first round, so providing Jay Cutler with more time in the pocket will quickly throw some attention Carimi's way. Also, sophomore safety Major Wright will have a chance to make some big plays in the secondary.
Best Bears Player Others Have Never Heard Of
TE Kellen Davis. With the exit of Greg Olsen, a big door opens for the big TE. Davis measures 6'7", 267 pounds, and will undoubtedly be a Red Zone target on offense. The Bears like the strides Davis has made, and, despite Mike Martz's offense not being known to utilize the TE position, Davis will have the opportunity to make an impact.
Underrated - QB Jay Cutler. With all of the critics out there, Cutler has as much physical talent and intelligence of any QB in the game.
Overrated - CB Charles Tillman. Tillman's ability to cause turnovers too often shadows his liability in pass coverage.
Just right - RB Matt Forte. Forte has solidified himself as a legitimate dual-threat RB, and Mike Martz will continue to use him as often as possible. There's no reason for Forte to do anything but meet expectations in 2011.
Fantasy Football Outlook
QB - Jay Cutler. He won't go very high in most drafts, but Cutler will not only throw for a ton of yards, but can also make plays with his feet.
RB - Matt Forte. As previously mentioned, his production not only in the running game, but also in the passing game, will help any fantasy team rack up points.
Best Media Personality In Chicago
Dan Bernstein, WSCR. He's not a fish that swims with the current, and is quick to call out meatballs for being meatballs, but Bernstein brings a level-headed approach to covering the team, and tends to be more logical than emotional.
Best Players To Follow On Twitter
Safety Chris Harris. Harris started engaging fans a couple years ago, and quickly stood out from the crowd by taking on all subject matter, and being rather outspoken. He is very sensible, doesn't offend, and can be quite entertaining on both football subjects and his personal life. Outside of Harris, the Bears don't really have a lot of tweeters. Also, his blog HitmanHarris.com is quite popular among his followers.