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Chicago Bears could be the NFL's surprise package

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Jay Cutler will be staying in Chicago until 2020.

Despite Josh McCown's impressive play while Cutler was out with an injury, the Bears chose Cutler and rewarded him with a long term contract, putting all their faith in him for the foreseeable future.

In the 11 games he played last year, Cutler had a QB rating of 89.2% with 19 TDs to 12 interceptions, ranking him about average for QBs last year. The problem is that was his best statistical year since joining the Bears in 2009. Unless he takes a big step forward now - in his 9th season - the Bears will have to be content with an average QB leading them forward.

You don't always need a star quarterback to win a Super Bowl (see Joe Flacco) - and having two incredible WRs certainly help.

Brandon Marshall is a 5 time Pro-Bowler and a 1 time All-Pro - not bad for someone who was drafted in the 4th round. He had exactly 100 receptions last season (ranking him 5th) for 1,295 yards (11th) and 12 TDs (4th). He recently resigned with a 3 year contract worth around $10 million per year, making him the 7th highest paid WR in the league. But when see players like Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace ahead of him, he's actually pretty good value for money.

Talking of value for money, his partner in crime Alshon Jeffery is still on his rookie contract, earning just over $1 million a year, and if there's a more dynamic and explosive player in the league I'm yet to see him. He was sixth in the league with 1,421 yards and added 7 TDs - many of which seemed like impossible catches. He routinely out-jumped double coverage in the endzone and making a catch that was over everyone or behind them (Cutler doesn't even have to be semi-accurate with him on the field).

The only thing better than having an amazing receiving attack? An amazing receiving attack with an equally as good rushing game.

Matt Forte was second in the league in rushing yards last year (1,339) - ranking him ahead of backs such as Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson. He was also fourth in average yards per carry (4.6) and added 9 TDs which ranked him sixth.

Not enough for you? He was an impressive dual-threat back last year, gaining 594 yards on 74 receptions and 3 more TDs. If this Bears offence can stay fully healthy they'll be up there with the best of them come the end of the season.

Unfortunately, based on last years defensive performance, they might have to be. The Bears defence was abysmal last year, ranking near the bottom in essentially every category.

That explains why Jared Allen was headhunted to swap the purple of Minnesota (who ironically were the one team who had a worse defence) for the orange worn by their rival Bears.

It's funny how many people say that he's now over the hill - after all, he did have 11.5 sacks last year. It's a testament to how good he was - and still is. Just 2 seasons prior to that he had 22 sacks.

Take a second to let that sink in. He had 11.5 sacks last year, and that's just over half the production he had two seasons ago.

His team-mate at the other DE spot is another player new to the franchise. Lamarr Houston has been a solid but unspectacular performer in the NFL, with a career high 69 tackles and 6 sacks last season. The two new ends give them an instant upgrade (in fairness a downgrade would have been near impossible).

At OLB is the (so far) bust Shea McClellin. With just 30 tackles and 4 sacks in 14 games and 10 starts, it's fair to say he hasn't lived up to exceptions when he was drafted as a first round pick in 2012. He's coming into his third season and should get another chance as a starter, but it's very much a case of being his last chance with the team.

The other OLB is Lance Briggs, who's one of the most consistent players around - aside from his rookie year, he's reached 100 tackles in every season that he's played all 16 games. However he's 33 and is coming off an injury, so it's fair to question if he can keep that up this season.

Charles Tillman was perhaps one of the best cornerbacks in the league in 2012. While he was injured for a large part of the season (he suffered a season ending injury in week 10) his play before that hadn't been at the same level. It will be really interesting to see what Charles Tillman shows up this year, and whether he can still be as productive as he used to be.

The exact same could be said about Tim Jennings - he went from being an All-Pro in 2012 to being an above average corner in 2013 (although he did make it into the Pro-Bowl when Sherman dropped out). If these two get back to the level they played at in 2012, other teams better be wary. In fact, it would probably be best to just run it nearly every play. You're in trouble if you don't.

First round draft pick Kyle Fuller is there to step up if things don't go so well. For now, he'll probably be starting as their slot cornerback, but there's no reason why he can't take one of the two main positions and make them his if Jennings or Tillman slips again.

Verdict: Yes. This was a really hard call, but I'm saying that they can. Their defence certainly has it's weaknesses (I didn't mention the safety's because there's nothing to mention, average at best) and is heavily reliant on the two corners getting back to their best. The reason I plumped for yes is simple. Even if they can't, and their defence does give up as many points as last year, this is an offence that can go right back out and score straight away. Their offence will need to put up a huge number of points next year, but with the weapons they have there's no reason they can't produce when they're needed and carry this team.

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