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Are You Ready?

By Benjy Lipsman on Sep 8, 2005 8:11PM

2005_04_sports_bears_C_logo.gifAre you ready for some Bears football? Chicagoist sure is! The preseason is over, the roster is set and the Bears head into 2005 full of optimism but with a rookie QB leading the offense. Will they see an improvement over last year's woeful 5-11 campaign? Or will they continue to languish at the bottom of the NFL standing?

With the Bears season starting on Sunday, we thought we'd take a look at what's in store for them in 2005. The
The Sun-Times previews the 2005 season with a special section. While they cover the whole NFL, they have the time to cover everything -- it's their dayjob. Chicagoist ins't afforded that luxury, so we'll stick to the Bears and their NFC North rivals.

The Bears defense, long a signature of the franchise, looks to be pretty formidable again this season. Without their defensive leaders Brian Urlacher and Mike Green, as well as Peanut Tillman, Jerry Azumah and Adewale Ogunleye, for significant portions of 2004, they still ranked 5th in the NFC in points/game allowed. All those guys are back healthy this year, so their defense looks like it'll keep them in most games.

Their offense may be another story. As we've documented here and others have everywhere, the Bears are in the midst of another QB crisis. Having lost Rex Grossman until at least November, they have turned to rookie QB Kyle Orton after having failed to sign a veteran back-up and after having given up on Chad Hutchinson. Chicagoist was impressed with Orton in college and couldn't believe how quickly his stock dropped after a sub-par second half last year. Maybe the Bears made a shrewd move picking him and we'll be fine with him running the offense. Especially with the addition of All Pro Muhsin Muhammad to the receiving corp. Of course, a lot of that will depend on how the running game complements the passing game. The Bears drafted highly touted running back Cedric Benson from Texas with the 4th pick, who then held out longer than any other first round pick. He was likely going to be the starter in the backfiend, but Thomas Jones seems likely to at least begin the season there while Benson gets up to speed.

While many are writing off the Bears, Chicagoist isn't so sure. Just as we saw something in the Bulls that the "experts" didn't see, we're sensing a similar re-emergance for the Bears. Maybe a 9-7 season, perhaps? Their schedule starts off fairly easy before getting tough down the stretch. Should they expereince some early success, their confidence may help them win one of two of those games. And how many times have we seen previous cellar dwellers become playoff teams? On the other hand, with an unproven offense they may remain mediocre.

However, in order to make the playoffs the Bears have to find success within their division. The NFC North promises to be tough this season because the teams seem pretty evenly matched. The Vikings are supposedly the team to beat this year in the NFC North, in spite of losing Randy Moss. Chicagoist doesn't believe they're that good. Their offense gets weaker with the loss of Moss and center Matt Birk. While they upgraded their horrible defense, they did so with many aging vets. Will they hold up? The Packers are no longer the elite team of the division, as Brett Favre ages and their defense looks pretty weak. They could finish in last place this year. The Lions could be an interesting team this year with three young stud receivers, if only their quarterbacks can get them the ball. Steve Mariucci brought in Jeff Garcia (his QB in SF) to back up Joey Harrington. With Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams as targets there will be little excuse if Harrington doesn't have a breakout year.

Chicagoist's NFC North Predictions:
Lions 9-7
Vikings 8-8
Bears 7-9
Packers 5-11

Don't forget to check back each Monday throughout the season as Chicagoist gives you our Bears recap and opinions.