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Sizing up Chicago

  • September 12, 2012 - 11:31 AM

SIZING UP CHICAGO

2011 record: 8-8, missed the playoffs.

Key addition: Receiver Brandon Marshall.

If Marshall can rekindle the chemistry he had with Jay Cutler in Denver, he'll be the best receiver Chicago ever has seen. But there's a reason Marshall cost the Bears only two third-round picks. There's a constant threat that Marshall's attitude and off-the-field behavior will turn sour and spoil the whole batch of Bears.

Key loss: Offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Martz had his flaws, but he also helped the Bears to the NFC Championship Game two year ago and to a 7-3 start last year before Cutler was injured. Promoting Mike Tice, who never had been a coordinator before, is a gamble.

Key number: 21. Starters returning from last season, including all 11 on defense.

Outlook: Look no further than the 2011 Bears for confirmation that a team's fortunes rest squarely on the shoulders of its franchise quarterback. With Cutler healthy, the Bears were steaming toward the playoffs. But then he broke his right thumb and the Bears lost five consecutive before beating the Vikings in the season finale. Running back Matt Forte also went down, but is now healthy and finally happy after signing a long-term deal. If J'Marcus Webb or Chris Williams can secure Cutler's blind side, the offense could be the best the Bears have had in, well, maybe forever. Defensively, age issues and the medical report are more of a concern. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's status for the early part of the season is unclear after he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. If the Bears stay healthy, new General Manager Phil Emery won't be happy if coach Lovie Smith doesn't take this team back to the playoffs.

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