The halfway point in the season is where the foggy view we have of the NFL starts getting a little bit clearer and a handful of teams emerge as real threats to win it all. The Chicago Bears have done everything in their power to be among the NFL’s elite, posting a 6-1 record thus far. While the only team in the NFL with a better record than the Chicago Bears is the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons, not everyone is convinced that the Chicago Bears have what it takes to go all the way. The skeptics have valid points, citing the offensive line struggles and Jay Cutlers sour attitude at times, but here are a few reasons why the Chicago Bears do in fact deserve to be in the Super Bowl conversation.
1) The defense
Enough cannot be said about what the Chicago Bears defense has done so far this season. They give up the least amount of rushing yards per game and are amongst the league’s best in all other defensive categories as well. On top of the overall stinginess of the defense, they have also been able to create turnovers, tied for the league lead with 16 interceptions thus far. Not to mention they have returned six of those interceptions for touchdowns, which is already a franchise record only seven games into the season. The ability of the defense to score points has been a spark plug for the entire team in a few games this season including the Monday night game in Dallas as well as the game against Jacksonville a few weeks ago. In both games interception returns for touchdowns by Charles Tillman ignited the entire team, leading to blowout victories in both games. It only took the Chicago Bears defense seven games to all but disprove the preseason fear that they are too old and slow to perform the way everyone in Chicago expects Chicago Bears defenses to.
2) Brandon Marshall
The Chicago Bears have never had a receiver as physically talented as Brandon Marshall. There were a few questions about his off the field antics when the Chicago Bears acquired him in the off-season, but it appears he has cleaned up his act since joining the team. He already has 675 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season, which puts him on pace to put up receiving numbers that Chicago Bears fans haven’t seen in a long time. It appears that Jay Cutler is loving the fact that he has a true number one receiver who he can trust to make plays in crucial situations, such as the fingertip catch Marshall made on a third down play late in the fourth quarter against Carolina on Sunday. The Cutler to Marshall combination will only become more lethal as the season goes on and they develop an even better feel for each other as well as the offense, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses.
3) Matt Forte
Forte’s ability to make plays in both the run and pass game has been invaluable to the Chicago Bears offense since he became the starter. For proof of his impact just go back and look at how much the Bears offense suffered when Forte went down with a knee injury last season. While Caleb Hanie’s atrocious play also had a lot to do with the offenses downfall, it was evident that they sorely missed Forte’s ability to make defenders miss and create big plays. Even with the offensive line struggling a bit this year, Forte has been able to be effective running for 4.6 yards per carry. This is due in large part to the aforementioned Brandon Marshall whose presence on the outside has prevented defenses from stacking the box as they have been so used to doing against the Chicago Bears in the past. The Chicago Bears need Forte to remain healthy all season if they want to be able to make it deep into the playoffs.
4) Devin Hester
Some people will scoff at my choice to include Devin Hester on this list and tell me I’m living in the past, but hear me out. Hester is sitting on 18 career total return touchdowns, just one behind the all time mark set by Deion Sanders. It is hard to believe that the best kick returner of all time will be held the entire season without a touchdown, especially when he is one shy of the all-time record. It seems that Hester has been doing too much lateral running this year and he needs to return to his signature north-south, cut and go style. If Hester figures that out and goes back to being even half as good as he used to be, the Chicago Bears have a dangerous weapon in their back pocket. Even if Hester continues his lackluster play, his mere presence influences the game. Teams refuse to let Hester beat them, which results in games like this past Sunday against Carolina where the Panthers refused to kick the ball deep and therefore gave the Chicago Bears excellent field position on nearly every possession. Despite what anyone says, any team that has Devin Hester on it has an automatic edge on their opponent going into every single game.