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NFL Chicago Bears

10 Players Who Will Lead Chicago Bears to 2013 Playoffs

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10 Players Who Will Lead the Chicago Bears to the Playoffs in 2013

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears had quite the tumultuous season last year. Starting off hot at 7-1, they surely couldn't have planned a better start. Mostly fueled by their defense forcing an enormous amount of turnovers, the Bears were dominating most opponents every week. Unfortunately, they ended the year 3-5 which left them at 10-6 overall and just barely missing out on the playoffs.

This upcoming 2013-2014 season should be a different outcome if all goes according to plan. General manager Phil Emery has done quite the cleaning around Chicago as he has let go two primary faces of the franchise for about the last decade. Both former head coach Lovie Smith and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher were let go in astonishing fashion. Since then, Emery and company have done a nice job filling in different roles and other gaping needs via free agency.

New head coach Marc Trestman will provide a change of pace on offense as he will be the primary play caller from now on. Having established a couple of great signings already, Trestman already has a much better team to work with than he would have last year coaching the Bears. The big question is: out of all the players coming back from last year's team and a few of the new ones, who will be the most important players when it comes to leading this team back to the playoffs in hopes for a Super Bowl run? They still have a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball and if the Bears can put it all together in the right way, Chicago will soon be celebrating a playoff birth.

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10. Lance Briggs

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After losing a guy like Brian Urlacher, one would first assume the Bears have lost their one and only true leader on the field. On one hand they would be right. Yet, on the other hand, the Bears still have another elite linebacker playing the best football of his career in Lance Briggs. Briggs will definitely take on a greater leadership role this season; one he is well prepared for. Guiding that defense in the way Chicago is used to seeing will be his primary job description. With Briggs at the forefront of that defense, the Bears are in good hands.

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9. Alshon Jeffrey

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As a rookie last year, Alshon Jeffrey showed flashes of potential. He's a big receiver like his teammate Brandon Marshall. If he can continue his development, the Bears will be much better off putting points on the board. Jeffrey has the ability to be that true second option for the Bears on the outside and in the red zone. Look for this guy to get more involved and put up improving stats throughout the year.

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8. Martellus Bennett

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Kellen Davis: A name that Bears fans will forever be grateful they no longer have to say. Thanks to the signing of Martellus Bennett, the Bears finally got their hands on a pass catching tight end who has a giant ceiling full of athletic ability. Bennett will come in right away and provide an established option in the passing game as well as contribute as a blocker. Being a big and athletic guy who can go up and get the ball will benefit the offense greatly and help the postseason push.

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7. Tim Jennings

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If Richard Sherman truly wanted to let his numbers speak for themselves, like he has said numerous times, his numbers would contradict his statements that he is the best cornerback in football. Going by stats alone, the Chicago Bears had the two best cornerbacks in football starting with this man. Tim Jennings recorded a career best nine interceptions last season, helping the Bears defense lead the league in takeaways and forcing opponents to plan their attack around him. Next season, he will look to continue his success from last year.

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6. Henry Melton

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The Bears made a smart decision by placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton. This will give them time to hammer out a long-term deal for the young and versatile lineman. Melton has been on the rise in Chicago over the past two seasons, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance last year. A former running back, Melton has the speed to match his strength making him a nightmare matchup for the opposing lineman.

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5. Charles Tillman

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If you haven't heard of the "Peanut Punch" by now, I encourage you to go and Google it. If you feel so inclined, by the t-shirt. Charles "Peanut" Tillman has been the epitome of a forced fumble since entering the NFL. Last year, he forced an NFL-best 11 fumbles, also a career-high. Between Tillman's skill of jarring that ball loose and the knack for taking the ball away by his teammate Jennings, the Bears are set to go at cornerback next year. Watch out.

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4. Jermon Bushrod

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

One of Marc Trestman's very first notable quotes in his press conference and introduction was that he wanted to protect the quarterback. Well Chicago, Trestman and Emery have done a fine job at that so far. Signing Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod gives them an immediate upgrade at the position and moves J'Marcus Webb right out of his starting spot. Bushrod joins his former offensive line coach Aaron Kromer in Chicago where the two look to build that line into something it was not last year.

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3. Matt Forte

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Matt Forte must be quite excited to start working with new head coach Marc Trestman. Finally, a coach that can and will take full advantage of Forte's skill set. Forte is an excellent pass catching back who can turn a screen or a slant into a long scoring play. He will be in the running for another Pro Bowl this year as Trestman is under the play calling duties. Look for Forte to have a huge year.

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2. Brandon Marshall

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

What else is there to say about Brandon Marshall, other than he is exactly what the Bears had hoped for last year? Breaking the Bears single season reception record in his first season, Marshall continued to impress fans all year long. It still seems odd to see such an amazing wide receiver in the blue and orange. Again, with Trestman at the helm, Marshall will be another guy to benefit. Less pressure will be on him this year with the addition of Martellus Bennett and more time for Jay Cutler to throw the ball. Marshall could have an even bigger season than he did in 2012.

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1. Jay Cutler

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The Bears will only go as far as Jay Cutler takes them this year. He should have most of the tools he needs to succeed, especially if they can find him another offensive lineman through the NFL Draft. Entering the last year of his contract, Cutler will look to prove he is the guy the Bears thought they traded for three years ago. He will be the biggest reason the Bears make a playoff and Super Bowl run. Make no mistake about it, Cutler is the leader of this offense and it is time to earn that new deal.