The Chicago Bears have always been known for their defense. However, with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Bears are establishing an offensive identity. It remains to be seen how all of the pieces will come together under offensive coordinator Mike Tice, but even with some improvement, the Bears face a steep challenge of unseating the Green Bay Packers for the divisional crown.
Ever since Jay Cutler arrived in Chicago, he has lacked a top-tier receiver. But that has changed now that the Bears have brought in his former teammate from Denver, Brandon Marshall. The two have already established a rapport, so look for a seamless transition. While Marshall is a big plus for Cutler, there are still concerns about the offensive line, which allowed 49 sacks last season. If the line struggles again, Cutler is in danger of suffering another injury. As we all saw last year, the Bears were clearly not the same when he was sidelined. Cutler is talented, but a suspect offensive line and a commitment to run more will limit his fantasy production. Draft him solely as a backup quarterback.
Before spraining his MCL in Week 13, Matt Forte virtually carried the offense on his back with his running and receiving ability. He was on his way of finishing with top running back numbers before missing the final three games. But despite being the featured running back, he only scored four total touchdowns. To complement Forte, the Bears signed Michael Bush to be his backup. Forte should still post decent yardage totals and will take less pounding from week to week, but Bush could have a prominent role in goal-line situations. All seven of Bush's rushing touchdowns came within the three-yard line last season, so the Bears figure to use him the same way. If that's the case, Forte will have difficulty topping five scores. Given Forte's current contract dispute and the addition of Bush, Forte is a No. 2 fantasy running back. Bush makes for a valuable handcuff should Forte miss time.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
Marshall instantly becomes the Bears' top receiver. Since 2007, he has totaled at least 80 receptions for 1,000 yards. Considering the poor quarterback play that has plagued him the past three years, that consistency is impressive. Reuniting with Cutler only means good things are in store for the seventh-year wideout. In their last two years together in Denver, Marshall finished with 102 and 104 receptions; he's a No. 1 fantasy receiver. Earl Bennett had a three-week stretch of solid performances in 2011, but wasn't much of a factor the rest of the year. However, early reports out of camp like what he can do in the new offense. He may be a waiver-wire add if he clicks at the start of the season. Rookie Alshon Jeffery has the size (6'3'', 216 pounds) to be a dominant receiver, but his impact could be restricted this year. Devin Hester projects to contribute more at wideout, but he's never made a full transition and his strength has always been returning kicks.
Kellen Davis only caught 18 passes last season, but five went for touchdowns. Four of those scores came within the 10-yard line, so despite his limited opportunities, Cutler already views him as a top red-zone target. Davis should see more looks under Tice, making him a deep sleeper candidate.
Despite kicking in nasty weather, Robbie Gould has always been reliable. Not only is he accurate, but over the past three seasons, he has made 85 percent of his field goals from 50 yards and beyond. Last season, he went a perfect six-for-six from that distance, including a 57-yarder. Gould should be in line for another quality season, so view him as a top-10 kicker.
The Bears defense was ranked 14th in points per game and 17th in yards per game, however, they still finished as a top-three fantasy defense. Those averages are mediocre, but scoring six touchdowns off turnovers propelled their fantasy point totals. Hester even contributed with three special teams touchdowns. The Bears have relied heavily on their tough defense and outstanding kickoff return unit, making them a safe bet to excel in those areas. With Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher together for another year, Chicago should finish as a top-five fantasy defense.
Travis Chan is a fantasy sports enthusiast and contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Travischan1.
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