The Chicago Bears are fine. They will not suffer a downward spiral now that QB Jay Cutler is injured and likely out for the remainder of the regular season. Sure, the loss is monumental and a burden for the team, but it has not put the Chicago Bears in an end all be all scenario. Think back to the Super Bowl team of 2006 and get ready for a similar type of play in the following weeks.
Just as Cutler started to gel beautifully, the Bears offensive dynamic began to shift. Matt Forte continued to be a workhouse, but is was evident offensive coordinator Mike Martz was aware of Cutler’s new found confidence and success and yearned to capitalize with it. Cutler’s play the past 3-4 weeks is some of his best so far with Chicago. However, the lack of Cutler should neither discourage nor diminish the capability of the rest of the team. Back up Caleb Hanie can fill the void, not as well, but properly.
The only real and memorable sighting of Hanie took place last season in the most crucial game of the season – NFC Championship at Solider Field against arch rival Green Bay Packers. Hanie held his own and was a play away from leading the Bears to a Super Bowl. Will Hanie take advantage of the opportunity now presented to him or flake under pressure? I have an inclination he will do just fine and play a good role as QB for the Bears for the remaining 6 games.
Along with the manageable game Hanie can produce, the Bears can still rely on their stellar running back Matt Forte whose game has spoken volumes so far this season and is on pace to pass Marshall Faulk and Jamal Lewis as the single season leader for total scrimmage yards. Good old fashioned Bear football of power running will be strongly present next week and weeks to follow. The running game coupled with a lockdown defense will be the two forces the Bears must rely on to be effective. Without the defense and special teams that single-handily got the Bears far in years prior, this season will not be secure. However, the defensive play against the Lions and Chargers the past two weeks was good enough to win at least 3 or 4 of the remaining 6 games.
The final sequence of the season also conveniently is against weak opponents who have a combined record of 21-28, less the 10-0 Packers.
Wins against the Vikings, Chiefs, and Seahawks are three easy wins that can boost the Bears record to 10-6, a record that almost always gets teams into the playoffs. The Bears only Wild Card opponent, the Lions, sit at an equal record but has a more difficult remaining schedule. Aside from the three games I stated as “easy” wins, a game against the other three opponents can also and should be picked up as insurance.
All in all, the loss of Jay Cutler is immense, but not jeopardizing. The Bears are not on life support with Hanie at the helm. If he plays his role and manages each game by not getting too caught up with making big plays or taking control of the offense, the Bears should be okay. Attention Lovie and Martz: let Forte handle the ball even more than he has so far this season. It will wear on him, but it is vital to secure playoff hopes.
The questioned posed, which is a semi good one to have, is if/when the Bears enter the playoffs and Cutler is healthy, who gets the nod at QB? The red hot Cutler or the man that finished the season securely, Hanie?
My pick is on the guy that’s won 7 games.
For more Bears info and updates, follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/PeteSkiadop
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