You can read how he came up with this pick, but here's the Bears' related stuff:
Drumroll, please ... the official 2009 Peter Schrager sleeper pick:
Chicago Bears: Just three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance in Miami, I'm all about the Bears and the prospect of another conference championship run in '09. No, I'm not crazy.
Hear me out.
Based on the formula detailed above, the '09 Bears match all the criteria for the perfect Sleeper choice . . . and then some.
|Even though he struggled in his first game as a Bear, Cutler beats Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman any day. (Rick Stewart / Getty Images)
Nonplayoff team in '08? Check.
Infusion of new talent in '09? Check. A Pro Bowl franchise quarterback who has gone 12-1 in the 13 games his defense has given up 21 points or less? Yeah, that's a nice upgrade from Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman ... veteran tackle and locker room mentor Orlando Pace off the scrap heap? Yep, that works ... and I love what the Bears did in the April draft. Despite surrendering their first-round pick in the Cutler trade, they picked up potential starters in defensive end Jarron Gilbert, big play receiver Juaquin Iglesias and sixth-round pick Al Afalava out of Oregon State. Henry Melton, a guy who played both running back and defensive end at Texas, could be used in all sorts of packages. Cornerback D.J. Moore and small school speedster Johnny Knox could see the field lots, too.
Stable coaching staff? Check. Lovie Smith still is the coach and Ron Turner will guide the offense, but there are some wrinkles to the Bears coaching staff, particularly the defense. To address an uncharacteristically bad Bears D from '08 (21st overall and 30th against the pass), Smith will be taking over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Bob Babich and also brought in former Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who he worked with at Tampa Bay. Marinelli, who most casual NFL fans may only think of as the guy behind the first 0-16 team in NFL history, is a mastermind when it comes to the workings of a defensive line in the Tampa 2. Veteran secondary coach Jon Hoke also joins the Bears coaching staff. All told, they're a stable, competent, and innovative staff.
Low key offseason? Check. Aside from bringing in Cutler, that maybe/maybe not trash talking from Brian Urlacher and possibly derogatory comments about Devin Hester, plus some confusion and uncertainty over Tommie Harris' ACL, things were fairly quiet in Bears country this offseason. That's a good thing.
Fan base in need of a winner? Check. Neither the Cubbies nor the White Sox are leading their respective divisions. Spilled beers and hockey players screwing over cab drivers have been the two biggest stories out of Chi-Town this summer.
Manageable schedule? Check. Based on 2008 records, Bears' opponents had a .412 winning percentage, the lowest in the league. There's a six-week stretch in October and November where the Bears play the Lions, Bengals, Browns, Cardinals and the 49ers. In that stretch, they also travel to Atlanta for revenge from what might have been the team's worst loss of 2008 — the fourth-quarter collapse vs. the Falcons last season. There's a good chance Chicago goes 6-0 over that stretch.
Skeptics far and wide? Everyone's saying the defense is too old and broken. There are all those questions about the wide receiver position. The world thinks Cutler is some cantankerous baby who needs a pacifier, not a playbook. That only makes Chicago more of a sleeper pick.
So, there you have it. The Chicago Bears, your official sleeper team of '09. Eureka!
If you'd like to join the bandwagon, get on now. "We" don't want any midseason posers.