For certain NFL teams, you just are what you are.
No matter how long you've been around, sometimes a stigma will stick with a team for decades and rarely change and is usually true. The Cardinals don't have great running backs. The Lions stink. The Browns stink. And the Bears are an all-D, no-offense football team.
The Bears are one of the most storied franchises in all of football, with many people considering the 1985 team one of, if not the, greatest team of all-time.
That team finished 2nd in the NFL in scoring and 7th in total yards. That's the exception for the Bears, not the rule. Over the last 45 seasons, the Bears have finished in the top 10 in scoring just four times. In 2006 the Bears finished 2nd in the NFL in scoring, but that was aided by an NFL-best 48 takeaways on defense. Still, touchdowns are touchdowns.
The Bears made the NFC Championship game last season (How forgettable is that? No offense to Bears fans but that doesn't seem possible.) but they finished 30th in the NFL in yards and 21st in scoring. Once again, this was an all-D, no-offense football team.
There are a few new faces on offense, but the important players and coaches remain the same. So how will they improve on offense this season, or will they at all? Let's look at the key names for fantasy purposes:
One of my best friends is a Bears fan. Two years ago I went to a Bears bar to watch them play against my Seahawks. On the menu, they had "Cutler Chili" It was fresh chunks of pork, beef, sausage, beans and on a BED of delicious (perhaps the best I've ever had) cornbread. All I could think about for days was Cutler Chili. I mean, even writing this right now, my mouth is watering. It was so amazing. So amazing that in fact, they should rename it.
Sometimes a player gets hated on so much that eventually you start to feel sorry for him. You laugh at the first 50 instances of someone making fun of them, then you're just like, "Okay, we get it, he sucks." Except that Jay Cutler doesn't exactly suck. It's his personality that everybody hates and the fact that he's not as good as his mouth says he is. At this point, I haven't gotten to the "Okay, stop, we get it" part. Go ahead and hate on whiney Jay Cutler. Last season he was sacked an NFL-high 52 times. I'm okay with that. He's a back-end QB1, solid backup QB in fantasy. Even in a Mike Martz offense, the Bears aren't going to conjure up memories of the 1999 St Louis Rams. That should be obvious by now.
Caleb Hanie is the backup. Unless Cutler is playing in a really important game in which he is really sucking it up, he won't pull himself- I mean leave because of "injury," so Hanie probably won't see much action this year.
From 1975-1986, Walter Payton led the Bears in rushing yards. Then from 1987-1993 it was Neal Anderson. Then from 1994-2007 it was nine different guys. With names like Gale Sayers and Walter Payton, the Bears are known for being a team that could run the ball with exceptional backs, but that wasn't the case when guys like Curtis Enis and Edgar Bennett were leading them in yards.
Forte has a real chance to be the best back the Bears have had in the last 20 years. He regressed in his sophomore season, but bounced back last year to post the highest yards per carry of his career (4.5) and add career-high 547 yards receiving. He finished the 2010 regular season strong, with 5.8 YPC on 51 attempts against New York Jets, Green Bay, and Minnesota. He isn't in the upper-echelon of RBs, but he has the potential to get there this season and he's one of the strongest RB2s in fantasy football, and a good RB1 if you decide to snag a WR or QB first.
It seems like yesterday, but it was back in 2006-2007 that Barber came out of nowhere to score 24 rushing touchdowns in a backup/running-back-by-committee situation in Dallas. Barber is also a prime example of why I don't always become "giddy" when a running backs main competition goes away and the other guy is expected to double his production just because Julius Jones is gone. In 2008, Barber moved high up draft boards because his production was expected to increase. Instead, as the main guy his yards per carry fell by 1.1 yards while Tashard Choice and Felix Jones became the new running backs that everybody wanted in Dallas.
In Chicago, Barber is scaring a lot of fantasy owners of Forte because they've seen Barber steal 14 TDs in a backup role before. Forte is still the main guy and I am sure that if the Bears are seeing a 1st-and-goal situation, Forte will still be in there on first and second down. Barber is a handcuff, insurance policy this season.
If you were ranking the Bears wide receivers by name value and recognition, Bennett would probably come in fourth place. But Bears fans know Bennett well. They like Bennett. When I asked my "Bears' fan friend" today who he liked at WR for the Bears, he responded with "Earl Bennett." However, when I asked him for a Bears sleeper last year, he told me Devin Aromashadu. So yeah, he's not 100% accurate.
Mike Martz has said that Bennett is the slot receiver this year, and that makes him a big part on third downs. It doesn't make him a fantasy stud by any means, and he doesn't have the big play caliber wheels of Johnny Knox, but Bennett could emerge as a solid WR3 in PPR leagues. Let's face it, this team is still light-years away from what we used to think of as a "Mike Martz offense" He's totaled 100 catches and 1,278 yards over the last 2 seasons.
Once the labor dispute ended, there was a lot of discussion on Knox losing his starting job and Martz saying he wasn't ready to handle it and that Roy Williams would be the starter over Knox. That's bad news for fantasy owners hoping that the third-year player would build off of his 51-catch, 960 yard season last year. Knox topped 80 yards 6 times last year, but he's not nearly as valuable in PPR leagues whether he starts or not. In leagues that count kick return yards, Knox will be a much better play. He returned only 8 kicks last year after making the Pro Bowl as a KR when he was a rookie, but expect him to return again this season. Even with the new kickoff rule, Knox has said he's going to be taking it out of the end zone whenever possible.
Is Roy Williams a total bust after Detriot picked him 7th overall in 2004? Was he a wasted pick that high? Well, that depends on who you ask and how far your memory stretches back. In his four full seasons with the Lions, Williams averaged 61 catches, 913 yards and 7 TDs... with Detriot. It wasn't until he got to the Cowboys that Williams numbers fell off the face of the earth. Will they return to him in the Martz-led Bears offense and Jay Cutler? If the preseason is any indication... no. Williams has been mostly a disappearing act so far in 2011 and I wouldn't draft him. But he's another one to watch.
The Bears are hoping that the formation of Hester from "punt returner" to "wide receiver" will become complete this season. As a punt returner, Hester has made 3 Pro Bowls. As a wide reciever, he has one career 100-yard game. And in his two best years as a wide receiver (2008 and 2009) he fell way behind on his punt return numbers. Could the two alter-egos ever exist at the same time? Hesters value at this time is still limited, unless he really does step to the next level as a WR. For the answer to that, you'll just have to wait and see when the season starts, at this time its still all talk.
With Greg Olsen gone to Carolina in this years tight end carousel, Kellen Davis is expected to take on a bigger role in his fourth season.. after catching 10 passes in his career thus far. He's had a good preseason, but the Martz offense doesn't usually rely so much on a tight end, and it seems inconceivable that Davis would even be amongst the first 6 or 7 scoring options for the Bears on offense. There are literally several backup tight ends on other teams that would be a better option than Davis.
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