Through week 10 of the 2010 NFL season, the way the Chicago Bears have been playing is comparable to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They look great one week, such as week three when the Bears took down their division rival, the heavily favored Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. But they follow up with a horrendous performance in week four versus the New York Giants when the Bears put up a meager three points in an embarrassing defeat. The Chicago Bears are a roller coaster ride, but they have the talent to be a great NFL team. There are mixed opinions regarding the Chicago Bears, but they are 6-3 and leading the NFC North. The Bears need a similar record in the latter portion of the season to remain a playoff contender which will not be easy with games against the Dolphins, Eagles, Jets, Patriots, Packers, and Vikings. Here is a breakdown of the Chicago Bears’ report card so far this season.
Overall Grade: B-
The Chicago Bears are 6-3. They have won the games they are supposed to such as wins against the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, and Carolina Panthers. The Bears also have impressive wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, and are 3-0 in the NFC North. The Bears could have beaten the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins, but Bears fans cannot complain too much with the second most wins in the NFL.
Jay Cutler has struggled at times this year with poor decision making. His 61.0 completion percentage, 12 touchdowns, 86.2 quarterback rating, and 238.5 yards per game are average for NFL quarterbacks, and has had interception problems as well with nine. But four of those interceptions were in one game, and if you look at Jay Cutler’s stats minus the New York Giants game he has 11 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Jay Cutler has been able to put up decent numbers despite been sacked more than any other NFL QB (29 times) even though he missed a game and a half due to a concussion. He is also sacked 10.5% of the time he drops back for a pass which is the highest percentage in the NFL. Overall, Jay gets a B- for putting up respectable numbers despite the poor offensive line play of the Chicago Bears.
Running backs: D+
The Chicago Bears have struggled all year running the ball. They are 23rd in the league in rushing yards per game at 95.0 ypg, and have an average of 3.8yards per carry. One reason for their struggle is that Matt Forte and Chester Taylor have had problems establishing themselves this season. Forte has only 470 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns so far which is not much better than Chester Taylor’s 206 yards and 1 touchdown. This Chicago Bears are a pass heavy team, but their talented running backs need to step up when called upon. Look for the Bears to rely more on Forte and Taylor in weeks to come as they transition to a more balanced football team.
Wide Receivers: C
The Bears receivers are the fastest in the league. This speed cannot make up for the fact that the Bears do not have a big possession wide receiver than can make the big catch over the middle. The Bears receivers are also young and occasionally leave Jay Cutler out to dry. Johnny Knox is the lone quality receiver on the Bears. Knox leads the team in catches (32) and yards (617). He has only found the end zone one time this year, but he is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL with his 19.3 average yards per reception. The Bears spread the ball well with five players who have between 24-32 receptions. Mike Martz, Bears offensive coordinator explained why the Bears have been distributed the ball so evenly, "We’re trying to give all these guys opportunities to make plays because it helps us. You don’t become so predictable offensively, and they’ve really risen to the occasion". Their receiving touchdown leaders are Greg Olsen- four, and Matt Forte-three. Not many NFL teams have a tight end and running back leading their team in touchdown receptions. The Bears need to upgrade their wide receivers in the off season, but they are acceptable for the time being.
Offensive Line: D-
The sole reason the offensive line is not getting an F is because they have given up just two sacks combined in their last two games against the Bills and Vikings. Most of the season the offensive line has not been able to stop anyone, and the Bears running game has suffered greatly because of it. If the O-line can continue to play well then Jay Cutler will have time to make better decisions, and the running backs will be able to at least get back to the line of scrimmage before being taken down by defenders.
The Monsters of the Midway are back. The Chicago Bears defense has been playing outstanding this year. The Chicago Bears are 4th in the league in total defense giving up only 301.9 yards per game. The Bears have given up the fewest passing touchdowns (six) in the NFL, and have intercepted the opposing quarterback 14 times, which is the 2nd most in the NFL. They have held the opposing quarterback to a league best 66.7 quarterback rating. And while the Chicago Bears run defense has given up too many touchdowns (nine), they have held opponents to just 82.3 yards per game which is the 2nd best in the NFL. The Bears also have the most takeaways in the NFL with 24. Lovie Smith’s defenses have always forced turnovers. Bears Head Coach said, "It's early in the season, but I like where the defense is right now, and I like where I think we'll be at the end of the season." The only major cause for concern is the defensive line, and their lack of sacks. The Bears only have 12 sacks on the year which is the bottom of the league. The defensive line show how talent they are last week when they held Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings to just 51 yards on 3.0 yards per carry. The Bears are forcing turnovers, shutting down quarterbacks and running backs, and are a force to be reckoned with.
Special Teams: A+
Jeff Joniak’s famous comment "Devin Hester you are ridiculous" is as true as it was in 2007. Teams cannot kick to Devin Hester. Hester has re-emerged as one of the most electrifying players in the NFL. Hester has two punt return touchdowns this year, and is just one return shy of the all-time return record. Devin Hester’s ability to change games benefits the Bears even if he does not score a touchdown because teams have to kick away from him, which gives the Bears better field position.
The Chicago Bears have exceeded expectations this year with their 6-3 mark, and have a legitimate chance of sneaking into the playoffs and making some noise. Defense, special teams, and balanced play calling is what got the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2007, and this year’s roster is more talented. On ESPN’s Countdown Daily senior NFL Writer and Commentator John Clayton also graded the NFC North and gave the Chicago Bears a B citing Cutler’s turnover issues, and the resurgence of the Bears defense. If the Chicago Bears can continue to play the way they have in weeks 9 and 10 they will fighting for the NFC crown in January.