- Please allow me to channel my inner Stuart Smalley
The Bears are 4-2, with a one-game lead over the Packers in the North. Yet after Sunday’s home loss to the Seahawks, Bear Nation is anxious about the prospects for the remainder of the season. And with a second half gauntlet of a schedule that includes games vs. the Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots, Jets, Packers and two vs. the Vikings, there appears to be plenty of reasons for concern.
But I’m about to do something unheard of…something no Bears fan on earth has done since 2006 – trust Lovie Smith. The Bears have enough talent on their roster to make the playoffs in a parity-rich, free-agent saturated league. With experienced coaches all around him, I (think I) trust Lovie to get his team to rise to the occasion.
With that, here are 7 reasons why we should be optimistic heading into the rest of the season.
1) Our young, misplaced offensive line is still growing.
Besides Olin Kreutz, the Bears 4 other starting linemen have a combined 2 seasons of professional playing time. The Williamses (Chris and Edwin), Omiyale and Webb are young, but the arrow is pointing up. With a winnable game vs. the Skins, a Bye and another Bye (vs. the Bills), this unit could look totally different a month from now. Remember, we have a one-game lead in the division, so it’s not like we have to make up ground.
Improved line play will open up our running game for Forte and Taylor, and give Cutler the time he needs to generate some big plays out of those long and winding 7-step drops.
2) We have Julius Peppers and the rest of the league doesn’t.
Quick, name one other defender in our division who scares you more than #90…yep, still waiting. Charles Woodson? Maybe. Clay Mathews? He’s injured. We’ve already seen Peppers take games over without recording a sack and there’s no reason to believe he won’t do the same in the second half. Remember, it only takes one impact play to completely change the fortunes of a game in your team’s favor…and Peppers has the freakish ability to do this.
3) The Windy City Flyer is back.
Give Lovie credit for this one – he’s scaled back Hester’s offensive workload so he’s fresher for returns. That plan paid immediate dividends when he returned a punt 89 yards for a TD against Seattle. As long as the defense can hold up while our offense finds its way, Hester gives the Bears a big-play, special teams dimension no other franchise in the league enjoys.
4) Trio of young defenders is ready to step up.
In Henry Melton, Major Wright and DJ Moore, the Bears have a talented trio of youngsters who can positively impact a game. Melton has been getting increased reps at D-tackle and his speed from the inside is starting to show up on film. Moore is a guy who played both ways in college, and now that he’s had a redshirt year (2009) to learn Lovie’s system, he’s a valuable extra defender. As evidence, I offer his 2-INT game vs. Dallas. And remember Wright, the preseason safety/savior who has yet to see the field in a regular season game due to injury? With Manning and Harris holding down the fort at safety, there’s no need to rush him back until he’s mentally and physically ready. His athleticism will bring a boost to the secondary whenever he’s ready for game action.
5) Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Lovie is facing the very real likelihood this will be his last year in Chicago. If the Bears tank this week against the ‘skins, we could see significant changes dictated by Mr. Smith, like…a greater emphasis on the running game; shake-up in the secondary; more aggressive defensive play-calling – i.e. blitzing (remember that?).
In this win-or-get-canned year, Lovie will pull out all the stops.
6) “Jay Cutler is our quarterback.”
Remember the QB who opened the season a 100+ rating 3 straight games? You can criticize him for some occasional bad throws, but he’s NOT Rex Grossman, Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn or Steve Hutchinson. The Bears have their franchise QB, and if his young O-line can help him stay upright, he’ll put up franchise passing records yet this year.
Besides, he also has a smokin’ hot girlfriend.
7) Two solid ball kickers.
With an imposing second half schedule, the Bears ability to stay in and/or win close games will come down to doing the little things well. Brad Maynard has a knack for pinning teams deep in their own territory. Gould has missed only 1 of 13 field goals he’s attempted this year. And they’re led by the best ST coach in the league – Dave Toub.
There you have it – 7 good reasons for hope in Chicago.
Good thing I wasn’t asked to come up with 10 good reasons…