QB - We all know that Lovie is full of it when he says that "this team still gets off the bus running". The offense of Martz's has always depended on the QB and this team will depend on Cutler's right arm. Cutler has all the talent in the world and we can only hope that he will turn it around in his 2nd year in the bears' uni. He will throw a boat load of interceptions there is no doubt but he should be up in the 30s in TDs and should average 270+ yards per game. This team will lean on Jay and he has to step up and respond. This season has the chance to propel him into the elite tier of NFL QBs. As for the backups, Cutler has been as durable and if the Bears see Todd Collins or Caleb Hanie on the field for more than 1 game then you can kiss this season and Lovie's job goodbye.
RBs - So, the last time Chestor Taylor went to a team to split carries with a back, the back turned into the machine known as Adrian Peterson. Could this be a repeat theme with Matt Forte? I certainly hope so (othewise, i wasted money on that Forte jersey!). Seriously, though both Forte and Taylor are exactly the type of RBs needed for Martz's offense. They are both great in space and have good hands. Martz will run the ball probably because Lovie has told him he has to and so that Cutler wont get hit every play. I dont think either back will get 1000 yds rushing but the bears running attack should be vastly improved just because of a healthy Forte and because draws will work when you throw 70% of the time. Also, look for Martz to really use Forte and Taylor in the passing game to offset some of the lack of running. Screens, designed swing passes and deep routes for the RBs are frequent in the Martz offense and fit nicely with the bears' backs skill set. Bell and Wolfe provide some nice depth but really should factor into this season besides maybe on special teams.
WRs - I'm not sure if this Martz offense makes WRs look good or vice-a-versa. But either way Martz's WRs have a history of having big years. Now, this is the position that I really think will make or break the bears offense. The bears have talent at the position with Knox, Aromashadu, Hester, and Bennett. The question is can they be on the same page as Cutler because this offense is all about timing with them running their route precisely and not allowing the defense to disrupt their timing. If the WRs are not on the same page as Jay and off with their routes, this offense wont be as successful as we have seen in the past and hope it will be this year.
O-line: I'm not gonna beat a dead horse here. The line needs to be better than it was in preseason. I think Lance Louis and Frank Oh-my-god wouldnt start for a lot of NFL teams but that is who the bears are stuck with and we must hope the line can work as a unit together. I dont think they will ever be a great O-line and maybe not even a good O-line but they can be an average O-line which would be enough for the bears to win quite a few games. Under Martz historically QBs get sacked around 2-3 times per game. (yes this stat includes his time with the rams). So, we know Cutler is gonna get hit and sacked. The biggest question is can this line run block and can Jay have enough confidence to stand in the pocket and not get happy feet? I have no idea to the anwers but i hope yes.
Defense - They arent the monsters of the midway anymore and they wont regain the title either. But they have enough talent to be a top -10 defense in the league.
D-line: Peppers is a stud and should get 10+ sacks. Tommie Harris looks to be somewhat healthy and can maybe play the whole season without getting hurt. But now in the NFL, you have to have atleast 3 good pass rushers on the team and i dont whether/if the bears can find the 3rd one. I have given up on Mark Anderson, Idonije will be solid player but nothing special, and Anthony Adams is a solid middle filler but not a pass rusher. The bears must hope that Henry Melton, Marcus Harrison, Matt Toenia or Corey Wotten can take a huge step forward and provide the pass rush that is needed in the NFL today. The bears have always stopped the run when healthy and it will be more of the same this year. Its really all about getting to the QB.
LBs: There is no question that this is the most talented position on the bears and when healthy they have 3 potential pro bowl LBs in briggs, urlacher, and tinoisamoa. The questions are two-fold. 1 - Can they stay healthy? 2 - Can they just be allowed to play LB? #1 is kind of out of anyone's control and we just have to hope for the best. But what i mean by #2 is that the bears LBs are not at their best when they are blitzing or having to take on OL men and shedding the blockers. The bears LBs and specifically Urlacher and Briggs are best when they can see the play and attack the play with their speed. Their ability all comes down the Dline really. If the Dline is able to absorb/engage the offensive line then the LBs can roam and attack the ball. (why Urlacher had his best years with people eaters like Ted Washington and Keith Traylor on the Dline). Also, the LBs are pass rushers and their strength isn't blitzing either. If the D-line can get get pressure then the LBs should be allowed to roam and we should see atleast 2 pro bowlers from this group.
DBs: This is the bears thinist position talent wise. Bowman on the corner could be a very good player and Peanut Tillman will be solid although not great in man to man coverage. After that the bears have no depth at CB. If bowman or peanut have to miss significant time, it will get ugly. The bears have to hope that an improved pass rush will take some pressure off the CBs. At safety, the bears are unsettled. To start the year, Chris Harris will start at Free safety a position that he doesnt have the speed to play and Danieal Manning will start at Strong safety. I think sooner than later you will see Major Wright start at Free and move Harris to strong where he can be alright player. Manning has all the talent in the world but cant seem to put it to good use. The overall point of the bears DBs is that there isnt a play maker among them. Unless Bowman or Wright emerge as playmakers, this secondary is at best average and the defense will need the front seven to be good to great to cover up the secondary.
Special teams: The bears have had one of the top special teams units in the NFL for years and that shouldnt change this year. Robbie Gould is automatic and Brad Maynard is skilled at directionly punting which the bears value over leg stregnth. Hester, Manning and Knox will all be returning punts and kicks and i would look for 2+ TDs from them combined this year and pray that Devin can regain his 2006/7 form.
The Schedule: The bears schedule goes in waves with incredibly hard stretches followed by easy games. After much agonizing, here's what i think will happen this season.
Week 1 - Lions at home -- W (34-21 The lions are better but still not good)
Week 2 - at Cowboys -- L (The cowboys have too much talent and too good of pass rush)
Week 3 - Packers at home -- L (The pack is the class of the division and sadly they will win big)
Week 4 - at Giants -- L (Same as the coboys, too much talent and too much pass rush)
Week 5 - at Panthers -- W (Bears shut down the run & run all over the panthers, plus revenge game for peppers)
Week 6 - Seahawks at home -- W (Seahawks are terrible)
Week 7 - Redskins at home -- W (McNabb will be hurt by then)
Week 8 - bye
Week 9- Bills in toronto -- W (Bills are like a triple AAA football team)
Week 10- Vikings at home -- W (They have split with the viking 7 out of the 11 seasons)
Week 11 - at Dolphins -- L (Their defense will disrupt Culter & the passing game)
Week 12 - Eagles at home -- W (Kolb will have many bumps along the road including this game)
Week 13 - at Lions -- W (The lions still arent good)
Week 14 - Patriots at home -- W (Its not the same Pats team of years past and yep this is a gut call)
Week 15 - at Vikings -- L (I hate that stupid horn they have)
Week 16 - Jets at home -- L (Can the bears get more than 150 yds against the Jets D?)
Week 17 - at Packers -- L (Unless the pack doesnt need this game for playoffs, this will be a L)
Overall Record of 9-7. Yesterday I had them at 8-8 with losing both to the vikings but the vikes looked bad last night and i think the bears can steal one from them. Still they wont be in playoff contention because i think year in the NFC you need to win 10 to get the playoffs and their schedule in december is brutal. We will see flashes from the offense but the defense will be up and down every game. There might be a chance to sneak in the playoffs but the real suspense will be, does 9-7 save Lovie's job?? Let's settle in for a season of ups and downs and it will glue all us bears fans to the TVs every week.