The Chicago Bears finally have a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler and are off to a 2-1 start. Fans in Chicago are excited about their team’s chances of making it to the post-season. I think this is a solid football team but there are definitely some concerns that could prevent the Bears from making it back to the post-season.
The loss of Brian Urlacher:
Lance Briggs is a great player and has taken over more of a leadership role on the defense now that Urlacher is out. However, Briggs has had the privilege of playing next to a perennial Pro Bowler throughout his career. Hunter Hillenmeyer is a capable back-up but he is no Brian Urlacher. The injury bug has also hit Hillenmeyer leaving the Bears even more underhanded at the linebacker position. The Bears front four is excellent but deep into the season they could really miss the presence of Urlacher roaming from sideline to sideline making plays.
A number one receiver doesn’t emerge:
Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, and Johnny Nox have been Jay Cutler’s favorite targets thus far this season. Even though these three guys have been productive, in order to be a great team you have to have a number one go to guy. As the season wears on, one of these guys has to step up and be relied upon to make the big play in crucial parts of a ball game. They have gotten by thus far but Hester and Nox are not your prototypical number one receivers. If Hester can’t be consistently relied upon to make big plays it could cost the Bears down the stretch and ultimately a playoff berth.
Matt Forte continues to struggle:
Through three games this year, the Bears have averaged just 71.3 yards per game and 2.8 yards per rush. In order to be a serious contender in the NFL, you have to have at least some balance on offense. Forte has looked tentative trying to find running lanes and is not pounding the ball downhill like he did last year. Cutler is a great quarterback but he can’t do it all by himself. Forte and the Bears offensive line have to establish a rushing attack to take pressure off of Cutler who is going to continually get blitzed from all over the field because opponents don’t respect the run game.
Jay Cutler continues to throw interceptions:
Jay Cutler has led two fourth quarter come from behind drives for the Bears in three games but he has got to cut down on throwing interceptions because eventually turnovers will kill teams who are trying to make a run to the playoffs. Cutler has thrown for 6 touchdowns but also 5 interceptions. Last week he threw an interception deep in Seattle territory which prevented the Bears from putting points on the board in a close ball game. Cutler is great for this team but he has to stop turning the ball over if they are going to make the playoffs.
Minnesota and Brett Favre are in the same division:
One final reason why the Bears could miss the playoffs is that they are playing in the same division as the Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre led a late come back drive last week to give the Vikings a perfect 3-0 start to the season. Adrian Peterson is the best back in football and the Bears may have trouble containing him without Urlacher in the two games they play. Minnesota also has an excellent defense and I expect them to keep winning. If the Vikings do keep on winning, the Bears will likely be looking at a wild card spot in the wide open NFC.