Picked up the pre-season preview magazine published by Athlon Sports today thinking they would go with everyone else and put the Vikings ahead of the Bears.
It seems to be the glamor pick to make even with their quarterback problems. However I was pleasantly surprised to find out my assumption was wrong.
They did in fact choose the Bears to win the division over the Packers. The Vikings were picked third due to their lack of a solid signal caller.
Further delving into the Bears’ season Athlon has the Bears as the fourth seed in the playoffs albeit as a wild card loser to the New York Giants. Intriguing match up and loss to say the least. I sorta lose respect for Athlon based on their projections in the NFC.
I am completely against the idea of the Arizona Cardinals have two consecutive playoff runs. Much less enough wins to qualify as the second best team in the conference.
The Eagles seem to be the team to beat regardless of their running game problems based simply on the selection of Jeremy Maclin. The assumption their running game will improve is based on the drafting of LeSean McCoy. Whether or not he’s going to live up to his billing remains to be seen.
The Bears don’t get much love for the receivers they drafted so I’m not sure if that’s the instant boost to their passing game anymore than I think McCoy will impact the Eagles running game.
The Bears also have defeated the Eagles the last two seasons, both in Philly and Chicago. Proving the Bears can step up and beat a team like the Eagles really should give the Bears a better standing of respect in the league.
Perhaps the team to beat in the NFC is the Atlanta Falcons. The combination of their running game and passing game puts them on a level of an elite offense. While their defense last season was not in the upper echelon of the league, the Falcons did address some of their shortcomings in the off-season.
The fact of the conference is pretty simple, there is no real elite team.
The Giants minus Plaxico Burress and their three headed rushing attack have taken a step down.
The Vikings and Brett Favre or not are still going to need to an upgrade at the QB position.
The Cardinals have never been a consistent contender and still have problems on defense. Add in their inner team turmoil with their contract problems.
The Bears like every team have their shortcomings at receiver and on defense. However the weaknesses the Bears show up with are not any more glaring than any other NFC team.
Add in the Bears having perhaps the easiest schedule in all of football and the chances the Bears win 11 or more games increases greatly. A first round playoff bye or a home game at Soldier Field makes it all the more likely the Bears can be a player and a force in the playoffs.