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Chicago Bears will finish 3rd, says the Sporting News

Making a prediction at this point in the game is pointless (except for these guys).  No free agency, no OTA's, no training camps, no telling who'll hold out, and no preseason injuries.  But the sporting tools at the Sporting News have had their say, and they say Bears, third place, NFC North.  Their main reason...  Lingering drama surrounding Jay CutlerSeriously?  No team circles the wagons and successfully adopts an us against the world mentality better than the Chicago Bears, and it's that reason why the NFC Title game is a distant memory.

...when a team's offensive star leaves an elimination game under circumstances peculiar enough to stir league-wide ridicule, it's possible that doubt will creep into his teammates' thoughts.

Because 'doubt' has been the predominant theme this off season from his teammates.  Is it possible?  Yeah, just like it's possible that the writer of the SN prediction will do some homework the next time he decides to write about the Bears.  He goes on to say;

However, there may be decline because of an offensive line that allowed a league-high 56 sacks last season, a retooled defensive line and the potential for teammates to question the quarterback's leadership in pressure situations.

I think 99% of those in the know, feel that the Bears offensive line will be better in 2011.  Rookie Gabe Carimi is an upgrade, second year pro J'Marcus Webb showed promise and will make a step in play, and there's a possibility a free agent will be brought in.  And does cutting Tommie Harris and drafting Stephen Paea really constitute retooling?  Then there he goes with the 'potential for teammates to question' B.S., give it a rest.  Is there potential?  Sure, just like there's potential the SN writer will go on to bat 1.000 with the remainder of his prediction.

First-round pick Gabe Carimi should be in the mix at left tackle with Frank Omiyale or Chris Williams next to him at left guard.

Omiyale is in the left guard mix?  State your source please...

The Bears rely heavily on their nickel defense, with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs playing the linebacker spots. It's here where they need rookie J.T. Thomas to step up and bolster depth.

What does a rookie linebacker have to do with the Bears nickle defense?  While I have high hopes for Thomas, I think either Nick Roach or Pisa Tinoisamoa will be re-signed and either one of those will be counted on as the primary nickle LB backup.

I can say that I honestly wouldn't be that surprised if the Bears did end up in third.  The Packers are the defending Super Bowl champs, the Lions are a team coming up with a lot of good pieces in place, and the Bears were fortunate with injuries last year.  But come on SN, you gotta come stronger than this to support your premise.