Kickoff season previews  


Bears still have issues, even with Martz, big-name free agents

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Chicago Bears

2009 record: 7-9 (Third in NFC North)
Bucky Brooks
Bears win behind a defense that excels at creating turnovers. The unit's performance is enough to end a three-year playoff drought.
Prediction:  10-6, second in NFC North
Vic Carucci
The Bears spent a lot of money to upgrade their defense and hired Mike Martz to fix Jay Cutler. Yet their offensive line remains a problem.
Prediction:  7-9, third in NFC North
Pat Kirwan
Bears will be better on offense, especially passing, but can Jay Cutler's protection hold up against Packers' and Vikings' pressure?
Prediction:  8-8, third in NFC North
Jason La Canfora
I'm still not sold on their O-line, ability to pound the ball, and overall strength of the D. Organizational shake-up could be looming.
Prediction:  8-8, third in NFC North
Michael Lombardi
Will be much improved on offense; can't say that about the defense. The Bears must be able to spice up their defensive scheme.
Prediction:  7-9, third in NFC North
Steve Wyche
Jay Cutler will improve and his targets are better than assumed. Issues on O-line, secondary are legit, but Bears could surprise.
Prediction:  8-8, third in NFC North
Interceptions averaged by Kurt Warner in the five seasons he and Mike Martz teammed up in St. Louis. Jay Cutler threw 26 in his first season with the Bears, who brought in Martz to work with the young QB.
Lovie Smith
The mild-mannered Smith finds himself squarely on the hot seat after failing to make the playoffs the past three seasons. Smith has taken significant steps to shake up the team by bringing in new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and working with GM Jerry Angelo to add a few high-priced free agents (Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor) to get them over the hump.
Devin Aromashodu
Aromashodu came on like gangbusters at the end of the season, and has quietly become Jay Cutler's favorite target. A big, physical receiver with good speed and quickness, Aromashodu has a knack for making explosive plays down the field. With Mike Martz's system set to emphasize a vertical passing game, Aromashodu could emerge as the Bears' top playmaker.
Opportunity Knox
The addition of Mike Martz as the new offensive coordinator makes it likely that a sleeper wide receiver will emerge in Chicago. That wideout could be Johnny Knox. He's a real burner with the speed to stretch defenses. That makes Knox a tremendous fit for Martz's aggressive downfield scheme.
Three pivotal games
Sept. 27 vs. Green Bay
The Bears were 7-3 against the Packers under coach Lovie Smith until getting swept by their division rival last season. With revenge on their mind, this matchup will provide Chicago's new-look roster an opportunity to see how it stacks up against a team many are picking to win the NFC North. The Monday night atmosphere should only enhance the intensity.
Oct. 10 at Carolina
The Bears landed prize free agent Julius Peppers this offseason. Now the defensive end gets a chance to go up against his old team and prove to his new one that he was worth the $91.5 million investment. If the Bears are going to stay in the playoff hunt, they must find a way to take advantage of winnable games on the road. A rebuilding Carolina squad presents that opportunity.
Dec. 20 at Minnesota
With Brett Favre back for a 20th season, this could be the final time the future Hall of Famer goes up against the Bears. He's dominated the franchise during his career, going 23-11. If Chicago's hopes of winning a division title are going to come to fruition, this could prove to be a make-or-break game in Smith's tenure.


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