Regardless of what happens in 2010, we Bears fans will be satisfied at the end of the season. Either the Bears will…
- Miss the playoffs and finally rid themselves of the Angelo/Lovie combo, sending Bear Nation salivating over the thought of The Mustache, Bill Cowher, coaching the NFL’s founding franchise in 2011…
- Or shock the league and earn a playoff birth, the team’s first in 4 years.
Twenty five years after their only Super Bowl win, I believe the Chicago Bears will win 10 games and earn a trip to the post-season. (You can stop laughing now.)
Why am I so optimistic? Here are 10 reasons:
#1) Julius Peppers.
Remember the Kyle Orton-led, up-and-down 2008 campaign? There was the last-minute loss to the Panthers that saw the Bears blow a double-digit lead. How about the gut-wrenching home OT loss to Tampa Bay, when an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Peanut Tillman helped the Bucs keep a late game-winning drive alive.
The Bears finished 9-7…and literally only a play or two away from going 10-6 and punching a ticket to the playoffs.
In Julius Peppers, the Bears have the kind of impact player that can turn more plays in their favor. I think he’ll be good for 15-20 more game-changing plays than last year’s DEs. And with the 2008 season as a painful example, a handful of plays could make all the difference.
#2) Rejuvenated Matt Forte.
Before the Bears’ first preseason game, reports were spreading that Forte had rediscovered (and even improved) his burst and strength. Fans were hesitant…until we saw him break off an 89-yard TD run vs. the Raiders in the second preseason game.
With his pass-catching abilities, no. 22 could put up big numbers in Martz’s offense. And he’ll be fresh(er) late in the season with Chester Taylor spelling him for chunks of games.
#3) Healthy Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher.
Flash back to 2006 – the last time both of these franchise cornerstones were healthy. The Bears D was one of, if not THE best in the league. They were a turnover-forcing, ball-hawking unit that boasted a strong middle consisting of Harris, Urlacher and Mike Brown.
Sure, Harris and Urlacher are older now, but they’ve both spent a lot of time on the sidelines, which has saved them some wear-and-tear. And yes, I realize those 2006 Bears had on-field coach/motivator Mike Brown for most of the season, but the 2010 Bears have…
#4) Major Wright.
In the half of football he played against a talented Chargers offense, Wright recorded 7 tackles and was repeatedly in the right place at the right time – which believe it or not, is a required skill of safeties that has not been exhibited by those playing the position recently for the Bears.
Sure, leading an NFL secondary is a lot of pressure to bestow upon a rookie. But like Brown, Wright comes from a big-league college powerhouse that went up against big-time players and teams. Remember, Brown wasn’t chosen until the second round of the 2000 draft and had questions about his athletic ability.
In Wright, a third-round pick, the Bears have the most talented, best long-term solution the defense has had at safety since Brown in 2006.
#5) O-line coach Mike Tice.
The Bears have a unique mix of young (Williams, Louis) and old (Kruetz, Garza) talent along the offensive line. Who better to school the new kids and motivate the old vets than a proven ballcoach like Tice.
At his last two stops in Minny and J-ville, Tice has watched Daunte Culpepper (yes, that guy) flourish at QB and helped the Jags recently boast the best running attack in the league.
#6) Robbie Gould.
Gould is the closest thing the Bears have had to automatic since the Fridge was lead-blocking for Walter Payton on the goal line in the mid-‘80s.
Robbie’s the third most accurate kicker in NFL history. And he’s accomplished that feat kicking in one of the most difficult stadiums in the league. Remember that game against the 49ers a couple of years ago when field goal attempts were taking 90-degree turns in mid air? The conditions simply don’t faze Gould.
#7) An offensive coordinator and QB with something to prove.
The Mike Martz-Jay Cutler lovefest has been well documented. The two grown men can’t stop fawning over each other: Martz drools over Cutler’s physical prowess and mental capacity; Culter is infatuated with Martz’s wide-open, always-on-the-attack play calling.
Martz has had success with quarterbacks half as physically talented as Cutler (Hello there, John Kitna). In Denver, Jay put up impressive numbers under another former offensive guru, Mike Shannahan (apologies to Ron Turner).
The pair has the potential to take the Bears offense to a place it’s never seen in its long history – 4,000 passing yards and 30+ TDs. Sound crazy? Well, consider…
#8) Ailing NFC North rivals.
The Packers will be without half of their starting defensive backfield (Atari Bigby & Al Harris) for six weeks. The Vikes will also be without WR Sidney Rice for 6 games. Not to mention it’s no given the ever-concussed Percy Harvin will be available week in, week out.
Now if only Ndamukong Suh were fined 6 games for this dismantling of Jake Delhomme…
#9) WR corps ready for primetime.
Hester, Knox and Aromashodu made plays late last year when the Bears opened their offense up. They helped turn ‘09’s biggest position question mark into one of ‘10’s team strengths. Martz will put them in better position to make more impact plays than Ron Turner.
And don’t sleep on Rashied Davis, the most experienced receiver on the roster. He made some huge plays in ’06 (game-winning TD vs. Vikes, huge reception in OT vs. Seahawks in playoffs) and could find a niche as a possession guy in this year’s offense.
#10) Support of the greatest fans in the game.
I know, most conscious Bears fans are apprehensive and apathetic about the prospects for this year. But close your eyes (REALLY tight) and imagine it’s December and the Bears are in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Think the Soldier Field fans won’t get amped up for home tilts vs. the Pats and Jets that could be the difference between sitting at home (again) in January or playing actual playoff football? Combined with the inclement weather and terrible playing surface, the obnoxiously loud roar of Bear Nation could have a direct impact on these stretch-run games.
So, who’s with me on the Bears playoff bandwagon?
Yeah, I didn’t think so. Okay then, Mr./Mrs. Fun Hater, leave your 2010 prediction in the comments section.