Bears Version of the Top Ten

While David Letterman has been getting a laugh doing it for years, here's a serious look at the questions the Bears need to answer this season.

1. Is Kyle Orton the quarterback of the future?
Most Bears fans are saying the future is now. Chad Hutchinson was downright horrible. There's a reason he was cut by Dallas, still getting $2.5 million from them this season, and out surfing last season when the Bears came calling. Throw Orton to the fire and see what he can do. He outplayed Hutchinson in the preseason and now has a shot before we have a rerun of 2004 all over again.

2. Will Rex Grossman ever start another game for the Bears?
Yep. As we know, Bears quarterbacks come and go -- with mostly going -- and Grossman should be able to return before the end of the season. With the QBs the Bears have in the mix, it's a safe bet Grossman will get another crack at the job.

3. How good is the defense?
Knock on wood, but if this unit stays healthy, it could be like 2001 again. Brian Urlacher missed seven games in '04, but looks like he is back to his old self. Mike Brown is huge in causing turnovers, but he has to stay on the field, too. Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown should pile up the sacks with Tommie Harris turning into an All-Pro for years to come on the division's best defensive line. Lance Briggs is in Urlacher's shadow, but he is also on a contract year, which means he'll be huge. With the issues at QB, this unit may have to carry the load once again.

4. Is Brian Urlacher really overrated?
No way. Urlacher missed seven games last season and the Bears lost all seven without him. He's still a major playmaker and awesome at causing turnovers. Urlacher looks like a man on a mission and will lead this defense into some big plays and excitement this season.

5. Is Lovie Smith on the hot seat?
Not yet. At this point, all the blame goes on general manger Jerry Angelo. You can throw some at Ted Phillips, too. Both guys gave themselves contract extensions a couple of years back. A head coach usually has to turn it around by Year Three before their job is in jeopardy. Smith is back for his second go-around, but the clock is ticking.

6. Should Jerry Angelo start sending out resumes?
You better believe it. He said after last season's QB fiasco that the Bears wouldn't be without a proven backup again. Guess what? Kurt Warner, Jay Fiedler and Brad Johnson came and left Halas Hall without anything but cab money. Now you can put the Cedric Benson fiasco on the list. And nobody will ever forget about Angelo's first pick three first round picks not working out with the Bears -- Marc Colombo, Michael Haynes and Rex Grossman.

7. Is Cedric Benson worth the headaches?
Let's hope so. Benson has a lot of wear and tear on him from high school and college, but he's proved he can take a licking and keep on ticking. This kid is a move-the-chains runner and a proven winner. He rushed for over 8,400 yards and 127 TDs and helped his high school win three state championships. At Texas, he went for over 1,000 yards all four years. Thomas Jones is good, but the Bears need Benson if offensive coordinator Ron Turner's scheme is going to work.

8. Is Muhsin Muhammad the real deal?
Some wonder if Muhammad wishes he could have stayed in Carolina. Without a legitimate No. 2 receiver to take the pressure off, "Moose" is going to have a hard time getting even close to his numbers last season when he led the league with 16 touchdowns and over 1,400 yards receiving. Expect plenty of double teams and frustration for Muhammad this season.

9. Is the offensive line that much better?
It can't get any worse. The unit had seven different starting lineups and surrendered a franchise record 66 sacks. The addition of Fred Miller at right tackle was huge. He is versatile and has started 102 straight games. Roberto Garza is pushing Terrence Metcalf at guard, but the Bears have a veteran group up front that includes Pro Bowlers Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown. John Tait held his own against Miami's Jason Taylor in the preseason, but we'll have to see if he can do it all season.

10. Will the Bears make the playoffs?
Nope. Even with an easy schedule -- the Bears play plenty of bad teams (Washington, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco and Tampa Bay), but the team has the same problems at QB it did during a 5-11 campaign. The defense will be fun to watch and keep the team in games, but the Bears will finish 8-8.

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