The Chicago Bears have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, one of the best running backs in the game and almost indisputably the best 1-2 receiving punch in the game. Combine Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery with solid all-around tight end Martellus Bennett and a revamped offensive line featuring top 2013 draft pick Kyle Long and you have the recipe for a very good offense.
That was already evident last year when that offensive unit quietly ranked second in the NFL in points scored. Watch for them to be even better in 2014.
But they’ll have to be, because the Bears somehow missed the playoffs last season despite those big offensive numbers.
It was the second straight year in which Chicago blew a chance to win the NFC North by choking late. They started 6-4 but lost Cutler to injury and, despite solid play from Josh McCown in relief, dropped four of their last six games to finish out of the playoffs.
In 2012, they lost five of their last eight after a 7-1 start, with injuries on both sides of the ball playing a major role in the collapse. That year, they were the third-most-injured team in football, according to Football Outsiders, and they haven’t ranked above the league average in that category since 2010.
Marc Trestman’s coaching staff continues to receive praise, though, and we know they have the talent. Is this the year they finally have better luck with injuries? If so, it’s possible they finally slay Green Bay in that division, especially because it doesn’t look as though the Lions or Vikings will be major factors.
The defense is still a potential issue. The Bears also surrendered more points last year than everyone except Minnesota and Washington. But new starters Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen could work wonders up front and Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs should be healthier. Only the Giants and Saints suffered more from injuries on defense than Chicago did last season, per Football Outsiders.
So if they can remain healthy, what’s stopping the Bears from finally making a run from start to finish in 2014? I can’t come up with a single reason why they can’t contend.