Media showing the Bears the preseason love

With Vikings fans wondering if Brett Favre could be the difference between winning a Super Bowl or not, the national media has apparently fallen in love with the Bears for the same reason. Almost every preseason publication is picking Chicago as the 2009 NFC North champ, primarily because of the addition of QB Jay Cutler.

Can one player make the difference between being a playoff team or not? Vikings fans are contemplating that question with the rumored addition of Brett Favre, but they aren't the only NFC North team that is being viewed as a Super Bowl contender thanks to getting a new quarterback (whether it's Sage Rosenfels or Favre).

It would seem that the national media is in love with the Chicago Bears. There are already a half dozen NFL preview magazines on the newsstands and each of them to date is picking the Bears to either win or tie for the division title. Why? Almost exclusively because of the trade that brought Jay Cutler to the team.

The Bears made a lot of noise this offseason when they traded for Cutler, giving the team arguably their best quarterback in 50 years. Quarterback and Chicago have never been synonymous, even when the team was successful. Over the last 40 years, the Bears' starting quarterbacks haven't exactly been a "who's who," they've been more of a "who's that?" including Jack Concannon, Bobby Douglass, Bob Avellini, Mike Phipps, Vince Evans, Jim McMahon, Mike Tomczak, Jim Harbaugh, Steve Walsh, Erik Kramer, David Krieg, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Chad Hutchinson, Craig Krenzel, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. Perhaps no team has had less offensive stability than the Bears, due in great part to the complete lack of production from the quarterback position.

While the Bears drafting of QBs has been pretty brutal – over the last decade, the team used two first-round picks to take McNown and Grossman and traded away another this year to get Cutler – they would seem to have the best quarterback the franchise has had since the NFL-AFL merger. But is that enough to put them over the top?

The Bears added aging Hall of Famer left tackle Orlando Pace shortly after trading for Cutler. Although Pace isn't at the same level he was when he was dominating the league with the Rams, he is still an upgrade at the critical left tackle position, but what have the Bears done to give Cutler more weapons at his disposal? Pretty much nothing.

As it currently stands, the Bears will enter training camp with converted cornerback and return specialist Devin Hester and second-year man Earl Bennett as their starters at wide receiver. Hester is still learning the wide receiver position and Bennett will make his first start when he makes his next start. Behind them are Rashied Davis and three rookie wide receivers. The primary receiving targets last year weren't wide receivers, but running back Matt Forte and tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. It was thought when the Bears traded for Cutler that a subsequent move to bring in a wide receiver would be coming. It didn't happen. In the last two years, the Bears have parted with three veterans – Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad and Marty Booker – but have done little to nothing to replace them. Can the Bears become an offensive power with a good QB but substandard receivers? That formula hasn't worked out too often in the past.

Compounding the problems for the Bears is that their historic strength – defense – wasn't there last year. The Bears offense was pretty dismal (26th overall, 24th rushing, 21st passing), but their defense was just about as anemic (21st overall, 5th vs. the run, 30th vs. the pass). The team gave up 27 or more points five times and allowed opposing QBs to pass at will against them. Despite adding Cutler to the offense, not much was done to address the needs on the defensive side of the ball, making the Bears far from the lock that they are being viewed as around the league to win the NFC North.

As Vikings fans can attest, the potential of adding a Pro Bowl quarterback will energize the fan base, but is the trade for Cutler enough to put Chicago into the top spot in the division? The national pundits seem to think so, but there is a solid argument against it as well.

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