Back in the summer I projected the Bears to be a dysfunctional but enjoyable team, a club that finished short of .500 but gave us a helluva ride with our fantasy teams.
On the field, it's been the exact opposite.
The Men of Lovie Smith stand at 9-3 through 12 games, and although there's a tricky schedule to come (NE, @MIN, NYJ, @GB), they'll probably be headed to the playoffs. It's been a successful run, a job well done. But where's the fantasy juice? Where's the Mike Martz offense we were all excited about?
Jay Cutler(notes) has managed to stay on the field into December, a significant accomplishment given how he was beaten up in the first half. But there's not much of a statistical windfall to be had here. He's 16th in passing yards (and Mark Sanchez(notes) will pass him Monday night). He's 13th in touchdown passes. If you add it all up, he's around 16th or 17th in a basic scoring system.
There's nothing great to say about the Chicago receivers from a roto standpoint. Johnny Knox(notes) is the only wideout who cracks the Top 50 in cumulative points (he's somewhere in the 25-30 range in most systems). Tight end Greg Olsen(notes) is 15th or 16th in a standard league. Devin Hester(notes) and Devin Aromashodu(notes) don't even merit a roster spot for our make-believe clubs.
Matt Forte(notes) is the only Chicago player that's returned a fantasy profit in 2010, mostly because of his 36 catches for 389 yards and three scores. He's a solid No. 2 back in standard fantasy formats. So to reduce this to the simplest conclusion, if you bet on Matt Forte in August, you made a modest profit. Everything else from the Chicago offense is covered in red ink.
Where does the blame lie for this? Do we fault the offensive line, which can't adequately protect for the deeper routes Martz loves to employ? Chicago's offense has been centered around more short passing since the bye week. Do we blame the ordinary group of receivers, which is missing a true No. 1 target? Could it be that Cutler has simply been overrated from the time he entered the league?
Or maybe Martz is the guy we've been overrating all this time. Everyone remembers his salad days with the Rams, but when you're working with Kurt Warner(notes), Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt(notes) and Isaac Bruce(notes) in their primes, a lot is going to go right. Would you want your favorite team to hire Mike Martz in a year or two?
Ironically enough, the new version of the Bears offense has given us a surprise fantasy asset – Earl Bennett(notes) has been playing inspired ball of late. He caught a pair of touchdown passes in the Week 12 win over Philadelphia, and he posted a 7-104 line at Detroit on Sunday. If you were drafting all the Chicago receivers from scratch today, Bennett would probably be the best value.
• Joel Dreessen(notes) probably won't help you too much in Week 14 against Baltimore, but he's got sleeper value for the following two games (TEN, DEN). The Texans don't have a second trustworthy wide receiver after Andre Johnson(notes), and Matt Schaub(notes) likes throwing between the numbers anyway.
• The Jon Kitna(notes) jokes were flying when the Cowboys got thrashed at Green Bay a month ago, but he's been superb since then (seven touchdown passes, 1,054 yards). He's making things happen with his legs as well, collecting a sneaky 88 yards rushing and one score over the last three games. I'm not bullish on Kitna against the Eagles this week, but Washington and Arizona await on the schedule after that (assuming the Cowboys don't rush Tony Romo(notes) back, which would be foolish).
• Let's tip our caps to Detroit offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who has managed to keep the yards and points flowing through three different quarterbacks. The Lions as a whole remain a frustrating watch, however – they're competitive in just about every game, but they consistently fold like a cheap lawn chair in the fourth period.
• I'm not going to speculate on Brett Favre's(notes) injuries – that's been a fool's errand for 15 years – but the rebuilding and experimenting Vikings would be foolish not to play Tarvaris Jackson(notes) the rest of the way. You know Favre won't be here in 2011, but you might as well see what Jackson can do with the offense. Jackson quickly realized Sunday that any downfield attempt for Sidney Rice(notes) is a good idea, no matter if Rice appears to be covered.
• There's always a ton of Jamaal Charles(notes) complaining on the interwebs – I've been in the mix at times – but to be fair, he's seen plenty of use over the last month. He's collected 82 touches over the last four games, a fair amount given his size and the other options in Kansas City.
• Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) isn't going off with the touchdowns, but you can make a case for him being the NFL's most consistent back over the last six weeks. Over that span (covering five weeks and a bye), MJD has 126 carries for 667 yards and three scores, along with 12 receptions for 136 yards. His worst game over that stretch still went for 122 total yards. The Jags have turned into the NFL's version of Shrek. Here's hoping MoJo can withstand this workload, because superb matchups are coming (OAK, @IND, WAS).