The Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith after a 10-6 record in 2012. During the offseason, they brought in offensive guru Marc Trestman as the kind of head coach who can get the offense on track with the Bears stout defense.
Trestman is a Quarterback Whisperer by reputation. He calls a fast-paced, aggressive offense that uses matchups to create single coverage for his receivers. On one side of the coin, Trestman’s style of offense plays very well to Jay Cutler’s big gun of an arm. Cutler has the power to throw a frozen rope into a tight hole or chuck one deep when a receiver on a go route gets singled up.
On the other side of the coin, Cutler might struggle with the complex verbiage Trestman packs with him, and the fact that he will need to exploit the right matchup instead of forcing it to his favorite receiver Brandon Marshall. Matt Forte’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield as well as go between the tackles is also a great fit for Trestman’s scheme. So long as Cutler doesn’t revert to forcing the ball, this is an offense designed to light up the score board.
The Bears’ defense will have a few changes this year. Most notable is the retirement of Brian Urlacher, who will be replaced by dynamic playmaker Jon Bostic. While some names have changed, the defense for this year will look and play much the same.
On paper, the Bears have the 16th-toughest schedule in the league. Playing a middle of the road schedule should have them licking their chops, but a lot of the schedule has a see-saw effect where a tough game is followed by a game against a team they should beat.
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming into town on opening day, and will prove a serious test for the Bears. Then, Week 2 welcomes the Minnesota Vikings to Soldier field. The Vikings are a team with a serviceable defense, great running game and passing game that leaves little to be desired. The Bears’ defense should eat Christian Ponder alive — I don’t know if the offense even needs to take the field.
Week 3, the Bears visit the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Sunday Night game. I think the Bears’ front four that includes Julius Peppers will put tremendous pressure on the Steelers two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback until Ben Roethlisberger is chunky salsa in a No. 7 Jersey. While he takes chances throwing rainbows, the defense will turn them into a pick six.
From Week 4 until the Bye, the bears face a tough slate of games against teams with high-powered offenses and defenses capable of pressuring Cutler. On paper, the Bears should be able to win any one of these games, but going up against the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Washington Redskins in that long of a string of big games, I think they’ll only have enough wind in the sails to win two of them.
After the Bye, the Bears visit the Green Bay Packers for a game that should be tough to win at Lambeau, before facing the Lions in a rematch game they should win. From there, the Bears face a nice string of three games, hosting the floundering Baltimore Ravens, visiting the too-young-for-their-own-good St. Louis Rams and feasting again on the noodle-armed Vikings. The Bears should be able to take all three of these games easily.
In Week 14, the Dallas Cowboys come to town for a Monday Night game. Coming off a long week of prep, I think the Cowboys will know exactly how to exploit what is sure to be chemistry problems between Trestman’s intellectual offense and Cutler’s gunslinger style of play.
Finally, the Week 17 game against the Packers should be a contest for who will stand atop the NFC North.
If Cutler and Trestman can learn to work together in their disparate styles, I think the Bears finish 11-5 at the top of the NFC North and end up hosting a game on Wild Card weekend.
Eric Beuning is a Football writer for RantSports.com.