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Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to take my thoughts in a different direction today and give my predictions for the 2015 NFL season. Later on this week the entire Windy City Gridiron staff will drop our division, playoff and awards predictions, but I wanted to give a little meat to my division picks today.


1) AFC South

While I think the Houston Texans will push for a playoff spot, I don't think they'll have enough on offense to overtake the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts made two veteran acquisitions that could make this a legit Super Bowl contender. Running back Frank Gore and wide out Andre Johnson will both be playing with a chip on their shoulders.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans will both improve this year, but a .500 record could still be out of reach.

2) AFC West

As long as Peyton Manning is healthy, the Denver Broncos will be the favorite to win the AFC West. I think the Oakland Raiders will be better, with 2nd year players Khalil Mack (OLB) and Derek Carr (QB) poised for break out seasons. Rookie wide out Amari Cooper will really give their offense a boost, but I don't see them having enough overall talent to push for the playoffs.

The Kansas City Chiefs could be a surprise team, with the biggest surprise coming from QB Alex Smith. I think he'll have his best year as a pro throwing to Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. The San Diego Chargers have finished between 7 and 9 wins the last five years, and I think that continues.

3) AFC East

Much like a healthy Manning drives the Broncs to the top of their Division, a healthy Tom Brady will always keep the New England Patriots atop the AFC East. Now that his suspension has been eliminated, there's nothing stopping them from a 7th straight Division title.

The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins will be in the wild card hunt, and the New York Jets will bring up the rear again.

4) AFC North

I would not be surprised to see any of the top three teams in this division come out on top. I'm picking the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens will be in the mix. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger should be a candidate for NFL offensive MVP with the talented group of skill players he has to work with. The Cleveland Browns, who haven't made the playoffs since 2002, will miss the postseason again.

5) NFC South

This division is a tough one, because no one really wanted to win it last year. In 2014, the Carolina Panthers "won" the South with a losing record (7-8-1). I do think the Panthers will be up near the top of the division again, but I'm taking the Atlanta Falcons to win it this year. Their offense should be the best in the division and their defense has to be better with rookie Vic Beasley getting after the passer.

The New Orleans Saints seem to be a team in transition and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are breaking in a rookie QB.

6) NFC West

I'd love to take the St. Louis Rams as my upset pick, but the Seattle Seahawks are just too good of a roster from top to bottom. The Arizona Cardinals will probably take a step back, and the San Francisco 49ers had one on the most tumultuous offseasons in recent memory. Things were so bad in San Francisco, that SB Nation created a way to Ninerize your team, just so you can see how bad it was.

7) NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles' head coach Chip Kelly is doing things his way and he doesn't care if you disagree. Consecutive 10 win seasons weren't good enough for him so he's shaking things up with a new QB, a new one two punch at RB, a new MLB, a new CB, and that's just off the top of my head.

The Dallas Cowboys will always be in the hunt for the division with their fantastic offensive line, an o-line that recently added Jordan Mills as a back up. If their defense can take a jump in year two of Rod Marinelli's Tampa 2, they could win back to back division titles.

The New York Giants and Washington Redskins will fight it out for 3rd place.

8) NFC North

Gross. I don't like doing what I have to do, but no sane person will pick the Chicago Bears to win the division. So I'm going Green Bay Packers (1), Detroit Lions (2), Minnesota Vikings (3) and the Bears in last with a 6-10 record.

I do think that head coach John Fox will have the Bears playing better than in 2014, but the division is simply too strong from top to bottom. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Vikes leapfrog the Lions for 2nd with an angry Adrian Peterson back running the ball.

Now a couple Bearcentric thoughts to wrap things up...

9) Have you heard about the Eddie Royal tweet from last night?

His alma mater, the Virginia Tech Hokies, was playing the Ohio State Buckeyes last night and they lost 42-24. At one point the Hokies lost their QB to an injury while Ohio State had QBs all over the field doing good things like this;

Yeah, that was Ohio State QB turned WR Braxton Miller making the defense look silly.

Current Chicago Bears' wide out Royal tweeted this out as his Hokie team was losing.

A few Bears' fans, some idiotic bloggers and even some members of the mainstream media picked up on the Royal tweet and assumed he was taking a shot at Jay Cutler.

I gave my take on it via Twitter last night...

10) Shea McClellin may have finally found a home at his latest position in the Bears new 3-4 defense. As the Mike backer and signal caller, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio may have empowered McClellin into becoming a leader of the defense.

Think about that for a second.

A OLB/DE tweener drafted to play as a 4-3 Tampa 2, 1 gap edge rusher, morphed into a 4-3 strong side outside linebacker in whatever that Mel Tucker D was, but is now doing enough as a 3-4 ILB to impress one of the most respected defensive coordinators of the last 10 years.

Even with McClellin seemingly locking down his ILB spot, what if the Bears didn't draft him at 19th overall in the 2012 draft? did a re-draft of that 2012 draft and they went this direction for Chicago.

19. Chicago Bears
Shea McClellin
Do-over: Cordy Glenn
Comment: Glenn has proven he can handle the rigors of being an NFL left tackle, and the Bears were gambling with J'Marcus Webb as the starter at that time.

Glenn was a 2nd round pick of the Bills back then, but he has quite the impressive resume. He has 45 starts in 45 career games, and while not a pro bowler, he has been a rock of consistency on their left side.

How sad is it that the Bears are still trying to find help at the offensive tackle position since then. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod was a solid addition, but his health may be failing him.

What are some of your thoughts this week?