Peter King of Sports Illustrated has thrown out his first power rankings of the 2009 season, and he likes the Bears to the point where he has them 4th on the list. Here’s what he says about them:
I may not like how Jay Cutler babied his way out of Denver, but by Labor Day, the football world will have forgotten, and by Thanksgiving, the most popular baby name in Chicagoland will be Jay. (Unless it’s Jerry, as in Angelo, the man who stuck his neck out and made this deal.) Cutler’s a big-time player, and I suspect we’ll find out over the next few years if he has nerves of steel and can win the big game.
Now, there’s two things we don’t know about Cutler and this offense. There’s not a great receiver in the house and no promise of one on the way (Angelo should have guaranteed Torry Holt more money to get him to come to the Windy City). So Cutler’s going to have to make do with the Devin Hesters and Rashied Davises, apparently. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Hester. But he should be a third receiver, using his speed to game-break.)
Two: How good of a leader can Cutler be, coming in with the knock that he chafes on some teammates. It’ll be interesting to see if he meshes well with Brian Urlacher; I don’t take for granted that he will. Because of the Cutler factor and because I don’t love the defense the way I did two or three years ago, I didn’t want to leap the Bears over so many other teams. But then I went back and looked at their 2008 numbers. The bedrock stats for a good defense, I’ve always thought, are opponents yards per rush, turnovers forced and opponents’ yards per pass. The yards per rush, 3.4, was excellent, third-best in the league. Turnovers forced, 32, was very good, second in the league. And yards per pass play by foes, 6.20, was eighth in the league. All good. If Cutler can lead an offense that puts up 400 points, only a point and a fraction more than a year ago, the Bears should win 12.
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