Chicago Bears 2009 Season Preview
by Badger of Predictem.com
2008 Record 9-7 (6-8-2 ATS)
Stadium: Soldier Field
Head Coach: Lovie Smith (5th Season 47-37)
Current 2009 SB Odds: 12-1
Training Camp Site: Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Ill.
Training Camp Dates: July 31
Im sure the Chicago Bears players got a giggle watching the
highlights last year when the Philadelphia Eagles tied the Cincinnati
Bengals, and quarterback Donovan McNabbs subsequent confession that
he didnt know NFL games could end in a tie.
Theyre certainly not laughing anymore, as it was that Eagles tie
that gave them a mire-percentage points advantage over the Bears for
the NFCs final wild card spot in 2008.
The Bears werent satisfied with a solid 9-7 season though, and made
the biggest splash in all of the NFL in the offseason by trading for
quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler and his divorce from Denver got messy
and after 20-plus seasons of having a plethora of nobodys at the
position, the Bears suddenly find themselves with a Pro Bowler and
arguably one of the best in the game for former starter Kyle Orton
and two first-round picks,
Whos In/Whos Out
Cutler isnt the only addition that should make the Bears a better
football team in 09.
The Bears also brought in two tackles to protect him on the offensive line, signing former Pro-Bowler Orlando Pace from the Rams and Frank
Omiyale from Carolina. Pace will try and put behind him a few injury-
plagued seasons and protect Cutlers blind side now that last years
starter John Tait retired. Omiyale was brought in for depth and an
insurance policy in case former first-rounder Chris Williams has more
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa was signed away after six seasons with St. Louis too, four of them as the Rams leading tackler, reuniting with
Smith in a scheme he was drafted by the then-Rams defensive
coordinator to play in originally. Tinoisamoa joins Brian Urlacher
and Lance Briggs to form a top-notch linebacker crew that now has
Hunter Hillenmeyer as a backup.
The Bears also let longtime safety Mike Brown go to Kansas City in free agency.
The Bears sacrificed their 2009 draft to get Cutler, so Cutler is their draft.
They did get a potential sleeper in receiver Juaquin Iglesias from
Oklahoma late in the third round. They also drafted a solid corner in
D. J. Moore in the fourth round, but the rest of their class will
likely struggle to make the final roster.
Comparing last years Bears offense under Orton, and now backup Rex
Grossman, to this years one led by Cutler is literally comparing
apples to oranges, but its a safe bet the passing game (21st 191.3
ypg) will improve which will also likely improve their overall
offensive numbers over last year (14th in scoring 23.4 ppg; 26th in
total yards 295.9 ypg).
Although, one might have to ask how much the passing game can actually improve since the Bears best receiver is former returner
Devin Hester. Hester, now the No.1 option, led the Bears in yards
last year (665) but only scored three touchdowns. Earl Bennett, a
former teammate of Cutlers at Vanderbilt, could be a great sleeper
as the Bears top option after Hester, but that honor will most likely
end up with tight end Greg Olsen 54 rec., 5 TDs).
The presence of Cutler and his big arm should also help the Bears
running game, especially Matt Forte. If not for the success of the
two rookie QBs (Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco), Forte and his 1,238 yards
and 8 TDs could have earned him Rookie of the Year honors. Forte had
three 100+ yards games last year as a rookie, with all three coming
on turf, so make sure to put him in your fantasy lineup on those weeks.
The offensive line will have to gel quickly with the additions of
Pace, Omiyale and Williams, and if Pace and Williams continue to have
health problems it could leave a huge hole in the Bears scheme.
After consecutive years of watching the Bears and their once Super-
Bowl worthy defense drop in the rankings, Smith vowed to take over
the game-day play calling again this year. The Bears ended 08 as the
21st-ranked unit in yards allowed (334.7) and 16th in points allowed
(21.9), so theres plenty of room for improvement.
The Bears still stop the running game very well (5th 93.5), but
they had their issues in the secondary last year allowing 241.2 yards
per game, the 30th-ranked or third worst mark in the NFL. And the
secondary has already taken a big hit for 2009 when corner Charles
Tillman had back surgery last week and is out indefinitely. Danieal
Manning, Craig Steltz and Kevin Payne will compete to replace Brown
at safety, so the unit will be young and inexperienced and vulnerable
Using Hester as a wide out full-time hurt his production as a
returner last season, although thats hard to judge since some teams
finally stopped kicking it to him as well. With just a 6.2 average on
punt returns, and a 21.9 mark on kickoffs, Hester was mortal in 08
and will likely lose more opportunities to return kicks with his
increased role on offense this year. Manning (29.7) had a better
average on kick returns anyway and could take over on punt returns
since he could be on the field already as the starting free safety.
Robbie Gould is a very accurate kicker, going 26-of-29 in 2008, but
his lack of a booming leg has kept Smith from pulling the trigger on
long field goal tries over his career and he never even attempted a 50
+ kick in 08.
Brad Maynard is a solid punter who also doesnt possess the big leg (41.2 ave.), but gets great hang time (38.1 net) and is good and
pinning teams down (40 inside the 20-yard line in 08).
Sept. 13 at Green Bay Packers
Sept. 20 PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Sept. 27 at Seattle Seahawks
Oct. 4 DETROIT LIONS
Oct. 11 Bye
Oct. 18 at Atlanta Falcons
Oct. 25 at Cincinnati Bengals
Nov. 1 CLEVELAND BROWNS
Nov. 8 ARIZONA CARDINALS
Nov. 12 at San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 22 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Nov. 29 at Minnesota Vikings
Dec. 6 ST. LOUIS RAMS
Dec. 13 GREEN BAY PACKERS
Dec. 20 at Baltimore Ravens
Dec. 28 MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Jan. 3 at Detroit Lions
Odds and Projections
In the past, betting on the Bears meant putting your hard-earned cash
on one of their crappy quarterbacks to just try and not lose the game
for them. It didnt work so well last year as their 6-8-2 against-the-
spread record shows. Their lack of offense also hurt their over/under
record in 08, as the ended it at 7-9.
But at 12-to-1 odds to win the 2009 Super Bowl, the oddsmaker seems to
think the addition of Cutler tips the scales in the Bears favor. Its
either that, or that they know that the public and the squares are
always willing to bet on the trendy team and they figure the Bears
are that team.
A fast start to the season will be crucial too, since they have three tough games to start their schedule with road games at Green Bay and
Seattle sandwiched around a home game against the defending champion
Steelers. The road game at Atlanta following the bye is another
measuring-stick for the Bears season, since they follow that with
four potentially easy, er, winable games following the Falcons.
At 12-to-1 the Bears arent worth the risk in my opinion as holes at
receiver and the defensive secondary will keep them from the ultimate
prize Super Bowl 44.