The spotlight remains firmly on Jay Cutler and his knee as the Bears get ready to defend their NFC North title. Frank Doyle assesses their chances.
Maurice Jones-Drew’s tweet might follow Jay Cutler all his career. Fair or not, Jones-Drew zeroed in on the DNA of a football player, the very thing that defines him. To play football, you run and catch and block and throw, but whatever you do you have to be tough. You have to stand there, take their best shot and give back better than you got.
Maurice Jones-Drew questioned Cutler’s very essence as a football player when he tweeted that Cutler should have played on in the Bears’ playoff loss against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game. Cutler’s team-mates were quick to defend their quarterback but the rest of the League won’t be so forgiving, and you can guarantee that Cutler will hear plenty of it during the year.
The problem for Cutler is that football is a team game. While he himself might be tough as old boots, Bronko Nagurski himself would get killed if he was playing quarterback behind a line that couldn’t block for him. The Bears gave up 56 sacks last year and, with veteran center Olin Kreutz traded to New Orleans, that number is unlikely to improve.
The Bears first three games are at home to Atlanta, at New Orleans and at home to Green Bay. That’s an 0-3 start and if the Bears lay an egg in their fourth game, at home against Carolina, the season is cooked. And a few careers with it.
On the bright side, the defense looks likely to remain strong, with a lot of hope being placed in Amobi Okoye, who’s taking over at defensive tackle from Tommie Harris, who’s gone to Indianapolis.
The NFL odds tell a cruel story of Chicago’s chances – the Bears are priced at +450 to win the NFC North, +1200 to win the NFC and +2500 to win the Super Bowl. Not hopeless, but far from the elite either. The over/under for season wins is 8.5, and that’s about right. Chicago looks a .500 team this year.