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Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Chicago Bears

Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall AP

The 2013 Bears scored the second-most points in franchise history (445). Only the 1985 Bears tallied more in regular season play, putting up 456 in their bulldozing of all non-Dan Marino-led competition in a 15-1 season.

But for all of their skill on offense, the 2013 Bears were overmatched on defense, surrendering 478 points, 57 points more than any previous Chicago club had given up.

Long before the Packers’ Randall Cobb sprinted through the Chicago secondary en route to the division-clinching touchdown in the regular season finale, the Bears’ defense was broken. Chicago surrendered at least 28 points in half of its games, including 54 to Philadelphia, 45 to Washington, 42 to St. Louis and 40 to Detroit. No team allowed more yards per play than the Bears, and no team was worse against the run.

In the offseason, the Bears set out to bolster that “D,” signing two of the best available defensive ends (Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen) and drafting defensive players with four of their first five picks. On offense, the Bears tried to build continuity. They re-committed to quarterback Jay Cutler, signing him to a seven-year contract worth up to $126.7 million in January. In May, they signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall to a four-year deal worth as much as $40 million.

These were logical moves for Chicago. For once, it was the offense didn’t need much work. Now, the focus turns to whether the defense can provide more resistance in head coach Marc Trestman’s second season on the job.

Strengths.

The Bears’ 2014 offense could be one of the best the franchise has ever fielded. Marshall (100 catches, 1,295 yards, 12 TDs in 2013) and fellow starting wideout Alshon Jeffery (89-1,421-7) were Pro Bowlers a season ago, as were tailback Matt Forte (1,933 combined rushing-receiving yards) and right guard Kyle Long.

Cutler — now in sixth season in Chicago — appears to have taken well to Trestman’s scheme. The strong-armed Cutler connected on 63.1 percent of his throws a season ago, his best completion percentage in six years. He’s quite capable of being the first Bears quarterback to make a Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon 29 years ago.

If Cutler gets an all-star nod, he’ll be aided by strength of his pass catching corps. Marshall and Jeffery form an outstanding tandem. Forte is one of the game’s best receivers out of the backfield. Tight end Martellus Bennett is solid, too.

In Trestman’s inaugural campaign, the Bears’ passing attempts rose nearly 20 percent, but total sacks were down more than 30 percent. Moreover, the club’s completion percentage was up more than five percent. In short, the 2013 Bears threw it more and threw it better — and their quarterbacks hit the ground less. That’s testament to Trestman’s scheme, but it also reflects well on the offensive line, which the club overhauled last year, drafting Long and right tackle Jordan Mills and signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson.

The Bears can only hope their offseason D-line investment will pay similar dividends. And Allen, Houston and ex-Lions end Willie Young should strengthen a defense that got just 20 sacks from its front four a season ago.

Finally, in Robbie Gould, the Bears have one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers. He hit 26-of-29 field goals in 2013, including 9-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond.

Weaknesses.

Even with an upgraded defensive line, the Bears’ defense looms a major concern. The top player in the LB corps, Lance Briggs, will be 34 in November. Shea McClellin, the Bears’ 2012 first-round pick, could get reps at strong-side and middle linebacker in an attempt to jump-start his career. More is also needed from second-year pro Jon Bostic, whether at middle or outside linebacker.

The Bears’ secondary also looks shaky. Per Pro Football Focus grades, the club had two of the four worst starting safeties in 2013 (SS Major Wright, FS Chris Conte). Wright departed in free agency, and Conte comes off shoulder surgery. The Bears added four veterans and a draft pick at safety, which at least gives them some options as they try to craft a workable solution on the back end.

The Bears’ cornerback play should also be monitored. The club added some much-needed youth and depth in the draft, taking Kyle Fuller in Round One. Fuller, veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman figure as the top three corners. If the 33-year-old Tillman stays healthy and returns to form, and if Fuller is a quick study, the Bears should be just fine at this key position. But if Tillman misses time, and if Fuller isn’t quite ready for prime time, the Bears could have a problem.

The worries don’t stop there. The Bears’ special teams are quite unsettled entering training camp. The club will have a new punter, holder, long-snapper, punt returner and kickoff returner. And backup quarterback could be a trouble spot after the departure of Josh McCown. Veterans Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer and sixth-round rookie David Fales will vie to back up Cutler. Clausen and Palmer have generally struggled against NFL competition, but Trestman is masterful with quarterbacks.

Changes.

The defensive depth chart got a makeover. The Bears released defensive end Julius Peppers and didn’t bring back defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive end Corey Wootton or linebacker James Anderson. The Bears’ most expensive free agent signings — Houston and Allen — are defensive ends, a nod to the premium that ready-made pass rushers command. To bolster the defensive tackle depth, the Bears turned to the draft, selecting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the second and third rounds, respectively.

The Bears took a value shopping approach at safety. Free agent additions Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Adrian Wilson are all slated to make less than $1 million in salary this season, per NFLPA records.

On offense, the changes were reserved to backup spots. McCown left to be the Buccaneers’ starter, while tailback Michael Bush and Earl Bennett were released. Rookie Ka’Deem Carey could help replace Bush, while former Washington wideout Josh Morgan was signed to bolster the WR depth.

The Bears underwent several major shakeups in the kicking game. Long-time star returner Devin Hester signed with Atlanta. Punter Adam Podlesh was released, and the club spent a draft pick on a potential replacement (Pat O’Donnell, Round Six). Then, late in the offseason, 16-year long-snapper Patrick Mannelly retired, adding another layer of uncertainty to the special teams.

Camp battles.

Here are the positions and players to watch:

— Safety: Ex-Giant Mundy might have the edge at strong safety, but Wilson is a wild card if he has something left after missing the 2013 season with an Achilles injury. Rookie Vereen is the biggest threat to the incumbent Conte at free safety.

— Cornerback: The progress of Fuller must be monitored. There are plenty of snaps to be had in this secondary if he’s up to it.

— Defensive tackle: Can Ferguson or Sutton push starters Jay Ratliff and Stephen Paea? If not, can the rookies at least prove capable rotation players?

— Linebacker: Will Bostic, McClellin and second-year outside linebacker Khaseem Greene step up their play? The Bears didn’t draft a linebacker and added only veteran backup Jordan Senn in free agency.

— Wide receiver: Morgan and second-year pro Marquess Wilson appear the favorites to replace Bennett as the third receiver.

— Running back: Carey and second-year pro Michael Ford will compete for the little work that won’t go to Forte, a true three-down back.

— Quarterback: Palmer, Clausen and Fales will compete for no more than two reserve roles. The question is, which of this trio most quickly applies Trestman’s lessons?

— Returner: Eric Weems is the most experienced option in the competition to return kickoffs and punts.

— Punter: O’Donnell will try to hold off veteran Tress Way.

— Long-snapper: First-year pro Brandon Hartson and CFL veteran Chad Rempel will battle it out.

Prospects.

The Bears must hang tough early. Six of their first nine games are on the road, including trips to visit the 49ers (Week Two), Falcons (Week Six), Patriots (Week Eight) and Packers (Week 10).

If Chicago can get through that nine-pack in decent order, there’s a real chance to close with gusto. From November 16 through December 21, the Bears play five home games and take just one road trip — Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The Bears end their season at Minnesota — no picnic, yes, but not the worst draw ever.

It all looks fairly cut-and-dried with the Bears. If their defense is better, and if their offense hums along, they are serious contenders for a playoff spot. But if the defense remains a sieve, and if the offense regresses, they are vulnerable.

The Bears aren’t the youngest of teams. Tillman and Briggs don’t have many NFL years left. Cutler and Marshall aren’t kids, either, and Forte is approaching 2,000 career touches. There ought to be a real sense of urgency to get into the playoffs with an offense this talented. As Bears observers with any sense of history would tell you, scoring points traditionally hasn’t been a Chicago strength.

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65 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Chicago Bears”
  1. ctiggs says: Jul 17, 2014 9:07 AM

    11 more spots, untill we are on the top. #GoNiners #Nobodyhasitbetter

  2. bassplucker says: Jul 17, 2014 9:09 AM

    Bears fan here. I’m not sure we’re worse than the Ravens. Other than that, this is fair.

    The Bears had a division title in their hands and literally gave it away in the last two weeks of the regular season… in the process allowing the embarrassment of the Packers making the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record. Any team with enough flaws to allow that to happen can’t be considered a Top-10 team until there is evidence on the field that those shortcomings have been fixed.

    That all being said… I hope that by October or November this ranking in retrospect is way too low. Phil Emery has done a massive amount of work on the defensive side of the roster this offseason but it remains on the coaching staff to get the most from the new talent — especially DC Mel Tucker, who I am far from convinced is legit.

  3. eaglesw00t says: Jul 17, 2014 9:14 AM

    Eagles 54 – Bears 11 – week 16 in a must win for both teams.

    Eagles, ranked 13, Bears, ranked 12.

    Makes perfect sense to me.

  4. bringin1234 says: Jul 17, 2014 9:16 AM

    This should be an interesting year. I think we are going to miss Melton even though he really only had 1 good year. If Conte even plays, we are doomed. Hes the only NFL safety that is always backpeddling no matter the play. Have to agree that if the defense truly is improved, this is easily a 10 win team, but this will be a dogfight in the division.

  5. punkyqb says: Jul 17, 2014 9:17 AM

    DAA Bears

  6. walkinginthewasteland says: Jul 17, 2014 9:21 AM

    Where is the poll, so that ridiculously overranked teams like this can be voted on?

  7. hawkstradamus says: Jul 17, 2014 9:22 AM

    The 85 bears did two things the 2013 Seahawks never did. Give up more than 34 points and lose by more than one score, and all in one game.

  8. hodous says: Jul 17, 2014 9:23 AM

    About right, this team could get anywhere between 8-12 wins. The offense will be a top 5 again and the defense should push from the cellar to at least middle of the league.

    Could be higher but it’s a safe assessment.

  9. kane337 says: Jul 17, 2014 9:23 AM

    The Falcons are better

  10. Stupid Lions Fan says: Jul 17, 2014 9:27 AM

    Can’t beat the Lions

  11. crapsandviche says: Jul 17, 2014 9:29 AM

    Pretty funny they’re ranked so high mainly because of the performance from Josh McCown….

  12. moeman79 says: Jul 17, 2014 9:30 AM

    Eveyone knew this defense was getting to old. Zero replacements were comming out of the draft. 4 years of draft busts did Angelo in and eventually Lovie Smith who made good use of bad talent. Bear DC Mel Tucker has nothing on his resume to say he can put together a defense. So Cutler and crew will need to be the #2 top scoring offense again to win. And if the D can maybe eek out a #22 ranking we might have something.

  13. beardinals says: Jul 17, 2014 9:40 AM

    I never liked Cutler and having him has soured me on the team.

    Also, not sure they’ve done enough on D to earn this ranking.

  14. handsofsteelhartofstone says: Jul 17, 2014 9:47 AM

    Yeah, I just don’t see the bears with much success this year. Cutler is a turd. If not for the wr duo he has he’s the NFC version of jump ball Joe Flacco

  15. bullcharger says: Jul 17, 2014 9:52 AM

    In the NFC I see the playoffs looking like this:

    1. Seattle
    2. Green Bay
    3. Philly
    4. New Orleans
    5. San Francisco
    6. Chicago

    I think Chicago will make it. Jay Cutler isn’t one of the top 5 QBs in the league, but he doesn’t need to be with that offense. They should be good enough to get the WC with the Vikings and the Lions in the division.

    I think that 12 is a pretty good number for them, but they could be 10 and I wouldn’t blink.

  16. oggreengold says: Jul 17, 2014 10:03 AM

    A few cutler luck balls will bring you a few wins, but won’t lead to the playoffs or any true success.

  17. eaglesw00t says: Jul 17, 2014 10:04 AM

    Judging by thumbs, there are a lot of Bears fans here.

    I see several logical points made that are getting thumbs down.

    Homers need to be more objective to their own team.

  18. deafcone says: Jul 17, 2014 10:06 AM

    LOL. Way too high for the bears. When Cutler hurts his mangina again they have nothing as a backup. Stick a fork in em. 3rd in the north.

  19. thetruthcampaign says: Jul 17, 2014 10:09 AM

    Lions beat Bears twice. Lions are all around better this season. Bears rank higher…because of Jared Allen?

  20. thetruthcampaign says: Jul 17, 2014 10:12 AM

    The Lions won’t implode this season under the new regime like they with the Schwartz last season.

  21. joneil66 says: Jul 17, 2014 10:18 AM

    Plenty of reason for optimism with the Bears. When was the last time the Bears went into a season with virtually NO question marks on offense? Never? Sure, if Cutler goes down, they’ve got issues but let’s not forget that Josh McCown was not exactly Joe Montana prior to last year so perhaps that is a pretty good indicator that Trestman’s system is very kind to QBs and perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about the backup QB.

    Obviously, most of the question marks reside on defense where there is a huge gap in experience and skill after Allen, Briggs, Tillman and Jennings. If all 4 of those guys stay healthy, the Bears should fare ok but with so many unproven players behind them, this has the potential to unravel quickly. Bostic, Greene, McClellin, Collins, Mundy, Vereen, Fuller, Ferguson, Sutton, Conte and others ALL must take giant leaps forward in order to sure things up. We saw last year that having a potent offense means NOTHING if you can’t keep the opponents’ offense off the field and out of the end zone.

    Hopefully, Mel Tucker will employ some more of the schemes and tactics that he’s had success with in the past and not rely so heavily on the system Lovie Smith put in place, as he did last year. I’ve already heard mention that they’ve begun shaping the defense to the strengths of their young prospects, like Bostic, and making the young guys more comfortable will probably go a long way towards improving the defense overall.

    The early season schedule is pretty brutal but, if Cutler takes another step forward and the Defense is even middle of the pack this year, the Bears should contend for the division, in my opinion.

  22. purplepillager says: Jul 17, 2014 10:24 AM

    This is an interesting ranking. The Bears went 2 -4 in the NFCN last year. The two victories came against Christian Ponder (last minute touchdown to win by one point) and Seneca Wallace (Rodgers was injured in the game). They also got whooped by the Rams and Eagles in the second half of the 2013 season. Even though they scored a lot of points, their defense gave up a franchise record (that’s huge) of 478 points. They added Jared Allen. As a Vikes fan, I really loved watching Jared play but his performance dropped significantly over the last two years he was in MN. He is not the same player he used to be and does not look to be the upgrade Bears fans are hoping for. The Bears have a great WR duo, a decent RB, and that’s about it. I see them finishing 3rd or 4th in the NFCN.

  23. bassplucker says: Jul 17, 2014 10:26 AM

    One of Trestman’s biggest jobs with the Bears is to find some way to get Aaron Rodgers out of their heads. The last few years under Lovie that whole team became convinced they couldn’t beat the Packers with Rodgers. You could just see it whenever the two teams played. And in the season finale last year, when they desperately needed to beat the Packers, all of that negativity resurfaced and they failed again.

    Until and unless the Bears can beat the Packers with a healthy Aaron Rodgers — consistently — they are doing no more than fighting for 2nd place in the division. And this year, with the strength of the NFC West and NFC South, 2nd place in the North won’t get it done.

  24. southpaw2k says: Jul 17, 2014 10:27 AM

    Crazy prediction time: I think Jay Cutler will have a better statistical year than Aaron Rodgers. Chicago has better receivers and tight end than Green Bay, and I expect the Packers to give a hefty work load for Eddie Lacy this season.

  25. billh1947 says: Jul 17, 2014 10:30 AM

    The Lions beat the Bears twice last season but considering how bad that defense was it certainly isnt surprising it turned out that way.if the Lions defense can stop any teams passing game(unlikely) they will have a great chance to win the game because they can score on anybody with that offense.I see the Lions making the playoffs over the Bears this year.

  26. wydok says: Jul 17, 2014 10:31 AM

    Ehhhhh, a little high. 16, 17?

  27. billh1947 says: Jul 17, 2014 10:36 AM

    “Crazy prediction time: I think Jay Cutler will have a better statistical year than Aaron Rodgers. Chicago has better receivers and tight end than Green Bay, and I expect the Packers to give a hefty work load for Eddie Lacy this season.” that is crazy indeed! the Packers will be a much more balaced team with Lacy in the backfield and AR healthy,while defenses gear for Lacy Rodgers recievers will be running free down the field so ARs stats will be outstanding.when the truth be told Cutler is still Cutler,attitude and all and his head gets in the way of his game.

  28. 1historian says: Jul 17, 2014 10:40 AM

    Da BEARSSS!!!

    Ever since the invention of dirt DA BEARSSS!! calling card has been defense.

    I am a Patriots’ fan and I STILL cringe at the memory of that game.

    Now it’s come to this.

    Sad

  29. dabears2485 says: Jul 17, 2014 10:41 AM

    I hate to say it, but I think the Bears have a two-season window before a massive rebuild is needed. They have the talent and the veteran savvy. They have a smart coaching staff. They are capable of challenging anyone. Whether they will or not remains to be seen.

    I’m confident they’ll be competitive for a playoff spot. I don’t think a Super Bowl is a possibility. The NFC is too just too damn strong right now.

  30. polarbear71 says: Jul 17, 2014 10:42 AM

    Bears first place in the north.

  31. iloveagoodnap says: Jul 17, 2014 10:43 AM

    The Bears are overrated again? What a shocker.

  32. filthymcnastyi says: Jul 17, 2014 10:50 AM

    There is no way the Pack will finish above the Bears or Lions this year!

    #packrideisover

  33. elliottcovert says: Jul 17, 2014 10:53 AM

    I’m biased (Vikings fan) but I feel that this is a little too high. The Bears and Chargers should swap spots (the Chargers were 16th if I’m not mistaken). Let’s remember that the Bears only went 9-7 last year in a weak division — although admittedly I think they will post a better record this year as they sure up their weaknesses on defense.

  34. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 17, 2014 10:59 AM

    Definitely an on the bubble playoff team. Much improved on offense but taking a step backwards on defense.

  35. bassslaper says: Jul 17, 2014 11:04 AM

    Lions finished behind the Bears in the division, even after beating them twice. The Lions barely one both those games against the Bears 2nd and 3rd string defense. Stop crying Lions fans. Bears have continuity this year after Trestman turned them into the 2nd best offense in the league in 1 off season. Wake up the Bears are better than the Lions and have been for years. You guys have a new coach, new system. calm down you’ll get there, but don’t cry about PFT’s opinion on this years ranks.

    Eagles should have been higher, but no way should the Lions. Call the Whambulance Lions fans!!!

  36. bassslaper says: Jul 17, 2014 11:04 AM

    *won

  37. northlandwi says: Jul 17, 2014 11:13 AM

    There are really two teams in one that you have to look at when evaluating- the starters and the backups. The Bears starters are mostly average to good, which suggests a good possibility of a playoff spot. Where the Bears struggle is the development of their backups. When the inevitable injuries strike (Cultler, one of the receivers, etc) can they hold water?

    Looking north to Green Bay, you see a team with good starter talent and good backups (except for QB). When that lack of QB depth was exposed, so was the team. However, the team was fine when other injuries happened.

    And thus the difference, and why teams like GB, NE, etc continue to thrive, and teams like the Bears, Lions, etc fall toward the end of the season when injuries hit.

  38. ravensrunthenfl says: Jul 17, 2014 11:25 AM

    So tired of people complaining about the ravens rank. Our offense will be better. Our oline is very much improved with kelechi osemele (who was a stud guard his rookie year, LOOK IT UP) back, yanda is now healthy again, Jeremy zuttah who was a solid running backer and an AMAZING pass blocker in tampa. Our rt position is uncertain, but ANYONE is better than michael oher the most overrated tackle and maybe player in the game. Both our rbs were injured last year, they will be more healthy and productive last year, the same for Pitta who dislocated his hip and never was at 100%. Add steve smith and Owen Daniels, who are past their prime, but they are still very solid 3rd down options, plus with all the improvements on d, we will be back.

  39. calvinthegreat82 says: Jul 17, 2014 11:37 AM

    Bears definitely belong ahead of the Lions! This ranking is so spot on!

  40. bassplucker says: Jul 17, 2014 11:41 AM

    Lots of people are pointing to the primetime debacle against the Eagles (which was brutal, no question), but to me the bigger problem the Bears had last year was their inability to win in their division.

    The Bears’ division losses were by 8 points (Lions), 2 points (Lions), 3 points (Vikings OT) and 6 points (Packers). If they had found that extra oomph to win those 4 games, they would have walked into the playoffs and their prospects would be regarded a lot more highly right now.

    The blowout loss to a Rams team that was not highly regarded didn’t help things either.

  41. fartweasel says: Jul 17, 2014 11:45 AM

    These rankings are fun to read, but really mean nothing. Any NFL team can win any NFL game on any weekend, or lose any game as far as that goes. Chicago is ranked highly because of it’s QB and Wr’s but in reality Cutler wasn’t the reason they won most of their games last year. And the QB that did well for them is now playing for Tampa.

    Chicago, Detroit, MN and Green Bay will fight it out in the NFC north and won’t settle the title until December, just like every year. None is better than the other as no games have been played yet.

  42. malek773 says: Jul 17, 2014 11:47 AM

    This season will be interesting indeed. We can easily be a 13-3 team or a 7-9 team. Staying health is the biggest key, along with guys playing to their potential. I don’t think anyone questions what the offense will do this year. The sky is the limit, and I’m very confident Cutler is going to silence his critics this year.

    Defense is the big question mark. I’m actually more worried about the front 7 than the back 4. Tillman and Jennings will be solid corners again. Fuller will lear a lot from them this year and make a ton of plays. We have so much depth at safety now I can almost gurantee an upgrade from last year. The defensive line looks good on paper but its a question mark for sure, espicially at tackle. I think Ratliff has a really good year but I’m not sold on Paea. I’m also not sure if the two rookies they took will pan out. I think the bears should of invested in another vet for the tackle spot. Lamar Houston will definetly help sure up the run, but I’m not sure how effictive he will be against the pass. I assume if Jared Allen is close to 80% of what he used to be it will help Lamar a ton. I do think Allen is huge upgrade over Peppers. Peppers, as good as he was, sort of gave up the past two years. He wasn’t fighting off the line anymore and surrondered to double teams most of the time. If he didn’t get off the ball like he wanted he just sort of gave up on the play. As much as Allen has lost I never saw him give up on plays. I think that alone will be huge for us. You take that into consideration and if Willie Green can produce some sacks coming in on passing situations the defensive ends should perform better this year.

    The linebackers are the biggest question of the whole unit. Lance is 34 but I don’t expect a huge drop off from him. He could have a down year however because the other spots next to him are huge questions. I see Shea as a bust. He’s a 3-4 OLB, Chicago’s defense is not his strength and I don’t see him playing well in it. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I am. Bostic showed flashes last year but the book is still out. I like DJ but I’m not sure he can stay healthy.

    Its very unusual for there to be so many questions and concerns on defense. This season truly depends on how well the perfom.

  43. rabbitrunnin says: Jul 17, 2014 11:55 AM

    Let’s be honest about this division, shall we? This comes from a Bears fan.

    Green Bay is still Green Bay. They didn’t get worse. But they have some holes, mainly on defense, and if they’d been secure in their spot they wouldn’t have grabbed Julius Peppers in free agency. Still, the class of the division and likely to remain there.

    The Bears and Lions are both good teams with flaws on defense. Hard to separate these two. Both have QBs who are not fully trustworthy but who are surrounded by stellar supporting casts and these teams can score enough points to beat any team in the league. Both are tough to beat at home. If they successfully addressed their defensive deficiencies, both should be wild card contenders. If not, they’ll be looking at 8-8 seasons again. And both would be shoo-in playoff teams in the AFC.

    The Vikings made some good moves in the offseason, for the first time in a long time. But they’re in the middle of a rebuilding phase. Their arrow is pointing up but they have a long way to go.

  44. deweyaxewound says: Jul 17, 2014 11:55 AM

    How in blazes could the Bears “take a step backwards on defense”…? Last year they were dead last in the league in yards allowed, points given up, fewest sacks, etc.!!

    There’s nowhere to go but UP!!

    If they can bring that defense back to even a shadow of its former ability – while maintaining their offensive prowess – they will be dangerous.

    But here’s the single biggest factor from last year that the author completely neglected to mention:

    INJURIES!

    Bears starting defense was flat-out ravaged by injuries, beginning up front on the D-line – meaning a lot of rookies were forced into trial by fire early on, where other players (like Wooten and Bostic) were just forced to play out of natural position.

    For the majority of the season, Bears fielded a defense without 3 starting D-lineman, 2 starting LBs, and 2 starters in the secondary (CB and nickel). 3 of those players were Pro Bowlers.

    Here’s the run-down:

    Starting (Pro Bowler) DT Henry Melton – out for 13 games (ACL)
    Replacement DT Nate Collins – out for season (ACL)
    Would-be starting DT Sedrick Ellis – retired suddenly in June
    Starting Nickelback Kelvin Hayden – out for season
    Starting veteran MLB D.J. Williams – out for 10 games
    Starting (Pro Bowl) LB Lance Briggs – out for 7 games
    Starting (Pro Bowl) CB Charles Tillman – out for 8 games

    The Bears were literally signing people off the street to play DT!

    Note that all the major injuries were on the defensive side of the ball. That point can’t be stressed enough. So for those critics who are only looking at the Bears skeleton-crew defense based on what happened last year – get ready to be surprised by a resurgence of stout D getting it done in Chicago.

    Mark my words – no, mark TRESTMAN my words: Barring another year of catastrophic injury, Bears will straight up own that division.

  45. longsufferingkcfan says: Jul 17, 2014 12:18 PM

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

    This is the famous opening paragraph to Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” and while it describes the dichotomies between 1775 London and the Paris of the Terror, it could have just as easily been written about the second career coaching acts of Mike Ditka and Andy Reid.

    Ditka could never duplicate his success without Buddy Ryan and quickly flamed out in New Orleans with his reputation in tatters. And then there’s Andy Reid, who was vastly under-appreciated in Philadelphia despite leading them to levels of success they hardly knew before him and haven’t known since. Now that he’s with a real franchise, the future belongs to Kansas City.

  46. richiethegreek says: Jul 17, 2014 12:24 PM

    The Ravens haven’t shown up on this list and we’re at number 11 now. What a joke. JumpBall better pray his defense is back to form this year. There’s probably five teams now that have been on the list that are better than the Ravens.

  47. larryboodry says: Jul 17, 2014 12:35 PM

    This ranking seems fair. On defense I’d like to see Bostic and Greene shine, and for McClellin to finally earn his paycheck. And Conte needs to be gone.

    On offense and ST, I hope Wilson wins the #3 WR spot, Fales win the backup QB spot, the CFL guy Williams win the KR job, and Tress Way become the punter.

    Assuming no major injuries, the Bears should finish 5-2 after a 5-4 start.

    In the division, I see them 4-2, splitting with GB and Detroit while sweeping the Vikings.

    We’ll see how it all plays out, but as others have said, everyone is in first place until the games start counting.

  48. joefelicelli says: Jul 17, 2014 12:44 PM

    Kyle Fuller and Brock Vereen may end up as the starting pair at CB in a couple of years, but for now, we need Vereen to take over at FS. Mundy is solid, and won’t make mistakes. Adrian Wilson won’t make the roster when all is said and done. Overall, safety position can be average. CB is solid, DE is good to great.
    DT group is average, unless one of the rookies flashes some pass rush potential. They can max out at good. LB is weak, can be average. Briggs is still not a full-go because of the shoulder, so that is a concern. He has already lost a step or two, and he doesn’t have the stack and shed ability he needs with limited speed to beat blockers to the point of attack. McClellin, Bostic, Williams, Green, and Christian Jones are the other 5, and if 3 of these guys have to play (injury or bad play by Briggs), we could be in trouble again at LB.

    Offensively, we will be among the top units in the league. 2 Pro Bowl receivers, a Pro Bowl RB, and a TE who can hold his own with most in the league. Cutler is top 5 in the NFL in 4th quarter QB rating, so the knocks on him are not entirely warranted. OL together for a second year, and young talent behind the starters that is much improved from 2 years ago.
    Overall, I think we will give GB a run for their money for the division, and if we stay relatively healthy, we could end up on top of the division. Wild-Card is definitely within reach.

  49. fazsha says: Jul 17, 2014 12:45 PM

    I think the biggest help will be on replacing the left DE spot. Last year, McClellin ranked 46th among all DE’s for sacks, 51st in combined tackles. Clearly, that was the big deficiency on D.

  50. largent80100 says: Jul 17, 2014 12:46 PM

    Bears ahead of a team that put 54 against them?

    Most overrated team of those rankings, sure their offensive weapons look great as usual, but their defense is a mess that they are trying to fix with the same formula, signing lots of free agents but only Houston seems like a playmaker (Jared Allen is past his prime)

    And Cutler, one of the few NFL players that cost three first round picks (two from his trade and the one from Denver’s selection back in 2006) but he keeps failing, Chicago couldn’t even use McCown’s (a 34-year old journeyman backup) performance as a leverage to sign him for a bargain, instead, they overpaid him and commited to mediocrity as a concrete noun until 2020

    9-7, no playoffs and one more year being Rodgers b-word.

    Which is sad for Brandon Marshall, because one of the best in the game deserves to play a playoff game.

  51. thefiesty1 says: Jul 17, 2014 1:13 PM

    They’ve got the offense if they can keep Cutler upright. Maybe, just maybe.

  52. dobe420 says: Jul 17, 2014 1:44 PM

    Can’t wait for the season to start!!! It’s good to see some unity on the offense side but now it time to make the playoffs and take that next step. The defense should be night and day compared to last year as long as they stay healthy. A pretty tough schedule but when is it ever easy it’s the NFL. 52 days can’t get here quick enough!!

  53. billsfanattick says: Jul 17, 2014 1:54 PM

    All that I know is that the Bears will start off their season 0-1! Heard it here first!

  54. mrbiz8505 says: Jul 17, 2014 2:02 PM

    Eagles lost to the Cowboys…. Cowboys lost to the Bears…. Why does this matter??

    It doesn’t…..because it was LAST YEAR

  55. Marshawn Lunch says: Jul 17, 2014 2:02 PM

    Bears vs. Seahawks in the wild card round. Seahawks keep going. Bears go home, having played well. Much respect.

  56. bassplucker says: Jul 17, 2014 2:09 PM

    We’ll know a lot more about the Bears after they play the 49ers on national TV in Week 2. The Bears record against San Fran in the modern era is abysmal — especially in California — and the Niners wiped the floor with them the last time they played.

  57. winstonjed44 says: Jul 17, 2014 2:20 PM

    The Bears have plenty of talent on offense, and their defense should be better, but Cutler remains the concern. He’s a really talented qb, but the fact of the matter is he hasn’t started a full season since 2009.

  58. Norseman says: Jul 17, 2014 6:51 PM

    On paper, the Bears offense looks improved over last year- but how many times has that been said before?

    The defense is still bad, and really no sign of any improvement.

    Cutler good be above average, or he could be below average- he’s always a wild card.

    Given all that, I think 12th is best case scenario for the Bears. But 16th – 22nd is more likely by the end of the year.

  59. calvinthegreat81 says: Jul 17, 2014 9:24 PM

    25th at best…..

  60. calvinthegreat81 says: Jul 17, 2014 9:27 PM

    Bearshaterseverywhere the coolest guy on here. He is so intelligent and has the best posts I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what this site would do without all his insight regarding the last place bears. Keep up the solid reporting!

  61. 52lightsxout52 says: Jul 17, 2014 10:10 PM

    Packer fan here. I think this is a good rank for Chicago, but as someone mentioned above, I have to question ranking Baltimore ahead of them. Chicago’s offense should be good this year. I know many Bear fans are still down on Cutler and don’t trust him to perform, but I think hiring Trestman was a very good move and will continue paying dividends for Cutler and the offense going forward. As everyone knows, their defense is their achilles heel, but I was surprised and impressed with their moves in free agency and the draft. They brought in a good mixture of youth and veteran experience. I fully expect Chicago to be there with Green Bay at the end, vying for the division title.

    Go Pack! :-)

  62. rmavs says: Jul 18, 2014 4:15 AM

    It will be funny to hear what all the fans have to say when the Vikings win the NFC North. They’re not in any conversation, yet they have Flash, AP, Simpson, Jennings, and a good o line. On the other side, it’s lead by Harrison, The Captain, and Rhodes bringing up the back end fronted by Robison, Everson, Linval, and Floyd. In the middle, you have Greenway and at LB with recently drafted Barr. Not to mention the coaching staff! For the first time in a decade plus, the Vikes have a no crap coaching staff, and team that will decimate their opponents. The pounding is coming.

  63. larryboodry says: Jul 18, 2014 9:49 AM

    @52lightsxout52:

    Thanks for your intelligent and respectful post. You sound like a knowledgeable football fan not blinded by homerism, nor are you delusional like some Vikings and Lions fans I could name.

    Unlike many of my fellow Bears fans, I do not hate GB, your success deserves respect, not scorn…On the other hand, thanks in large part to some of their fans, I have come to detest both of our NFCN rivals, the Kitties and the Heidis.

    That being said, I know that there are knowledgeable, sane fans in both those places, most of whom apparently don’t post on PFT, and for them I have respect as a football fan.

    Sorry for the rant, and Go Bears!

  64. kevpark01 says: Jul 20, 2014 5:45 PM

    There are a lot of Bears haters and trolls with no lives worrying about Bears business. Here’s some objective reasoning for you losers. The Bears has the 2nd ranked offense in the league last year and return every single starter. That number 2 ranking was in Trestman’s first year as coach and his entire offense hadn’t even been installed. The sky is the limit. The Bears D was putrid no doubt but as bad as it was we were still one play away from making the playoffs. Upgrades have been made all over the D, starting with Jared Allen and Lamar Houston at DE. A healthy Jay Ratliff(4x pro bowler), Stephen Paea and 2 early draft picks. We have youth at LB plus two pro bowls corners. Safety is a concern but there’s plenty of depth. Bears fans should be optimistic and the haters, well they’re doing what they do best.. Smh.
    BEAR DOWN!!!

  65. completefan says: Jul 20, 2014 7:14 PM

    A player not mentioned, Chris Williams, is their kick returner and has the potential to be one of the most exciting players in pro football.

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