Karma and chemistry. Those are the two most underrated players on any Super Bowl champion.
I believe that Chicago has the talent and system to be a legit Super Bowl contender. However, they're missing a clear No. 1 quarterback, a No. 2 receiver, cheerleaders and both karma and chemistry. Both of them blew town after the Bears' whirlwind past seven months.
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First there was weekend in which Chicago signed Ricky Manning Jr., only to watch him piss-pound some dork at a Denny's with his boys. Scumbag move. Next was their shocking draft - surprising in both its arrogance and incompetence - where Chicago failed to address its glaring offensive needs. After that was the Lance Briggs-Nate Vasher-Thomas Jones situation, where all three skipped minicamp because they're disgruntled over their contracts.
But that was just the offseason. Once the preseason started the Bears found themselves in the middle of a running back and a quarterback controversy. Of course, it all goes back with their idiotic decision to draft Cedric Benson last season, and now Benson is poison in the locker room. He doesn't like his teammates and his teammates don't like him. Sweet.
On top of that, Rex Grossman has a preseason rating of 48.0. That's just a shade higher than immortals like Kliff Kingsbury, J.T. O'Sullivan and Shane Boyd. He's led the first-team offense to just six points (two field goals) in three starts. On the flip side, Brian Griese is completing 72 percent of his tosses, has four touchdown passes, and is the highest rated quarterback in the NFL (148.5). Who do you think is starting Week 1 at Green Bay? Grossman. Ridiculous.
This is a team built to win now. They have a veteran offensive line, a strong running game and the league's most punishing and opportunistic defense. If they receive any semblance of an offensive attack they could win 12 games. The talent is in place, but do the Bears posses the focus and determination needed to join the league's upper echelon?
Here's Doc's 2006 Chicago Bears Preview:
2005 Record: 12-5 (7-2 home, 5-3 road)
2005 Rankings: 29th offense (31st pass, 8th rush); 2nd (5th pass, 11th rush)
2005 Against the Spread: 9-6-2 (6-3 home, 3-3-2 road); 6-10-1 vs. total (2-7 h, 4-3-1 r)
2006 Odds: 19/1 to win SB, 8/1 to win NFC, 1/2 to win NFC North, 9.0 wins O/U
2006 Strength of Schedule: 32nd (.445 opp. win %)
Key stat: Last year the Bears set an NFL record by allowing just 61 points at home, holding seven of eight regular season opponents to less than 10 points.
Returning starters: 22
Key acquisitions: Brian Griese, QB (from T.B.); Ricky Manning Jr., CB (from Carolina); Dante Wesley, CB (from Carolina); Devin Hester, KR (draft).
Key departures: Jerry Azumah, KR/CB; Mike Green, S; Marcus Reese, LB.
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Offense: Yuck. Armed with Jerry Angelo's galactic ignorance, the Bears decided they didn't' need to upgrade on offense. Nope. Why would you when you had the fourth-worst unit in the league? They didn't add a tight end or another proven receiver, and those two moves will be their downfall. Chicago can still run the ball and have an underrated offensive line. But, a championship team can execute in the two-minute offense or play from behind. The Bears can no neither effectively.
Defense: Injuries have thinned out their defensive line, so watch for that to impact them early. However, with the pickup of Manning and Wesley the secondary has improved. Of course, they led the NFL in opponents' passer rating (61.2) so it didn't need to get that much better. Briggs and some Urlacher guy are the best linebacker duo in the league. The key for this unit is Mike Brown. Brown hasn't been able to shake the injury bug over the last three years - he's hurt right now - and this defense is a completely different animal when he's healthy.
X-factor: Lovie Smith. The reigning NFL Coach of the Year will have his hands full. He can't get caught up in the political posturing surrounding who gets what playing time.
Outlook: The No. 2 seed in the NFC brings back all 22 starters and adds depth on defense and special teams. Combine that with a cupcake schedule and you have a season tailor-made for a Super Bowl run. People have e-mailed me asking why I'm so enamored with the Bears. Well, just watch them hit. Watch a full Chicago Bears game and watch the way they punish people without mercy, and then maybe you'll understand.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.