By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) The Bears will win the NFC North this season.
That's how I see it after nearly a month and a half of seeing the Bears adapt to Marc Trestman's system on a daily basis.
Granted, I haven't been around the Packers, Vikings and Lions, but from afar, I see flaws with all of those teams.
That's not to say the Bears don't have flaws -- they do. But every team does. And if this unit stays healthy, they can be very good.
Here's the genesis of my reasoning:
- An underestimated head coach. As I've pointed out before, I've been very impressed with Marc Trestman from the standpoint that he came in with a calculated plan and has not wavered from it. Whether or not he can coach at the NFL level on Sundays remains to be seen, but the preseason contests were an indication that the players are buying into what he's been preaching. There were very few pre-snap penalties, wasted timeouts and confusion at the line of scrimmage. Between plays, everything was smooth and that's a big improvement from what we've seen in years past.
- Talent inherited. New head coaches usually inherit bad teams. Trestman is taking over a 10-6 team with upgrades at a lot of positions. Sure, no regular season games have been played yet, but judging from training camp and the preseason, I believe the following positions are better than they were last year: Left tackle (Jermon Bushrod), left guard (Matt Slauson), right guard (Kyle Long), right tackle (Jordan Mills), tight end (Martellus Bennett), No. 2 wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery is healthy and improved) and strong side linebacker (James Anderson).
As you probably noticed, almost all of those positions are on offense, which was the unit holding this team back under Lovie Smith. And you can add in there that Trestman's offense is better suited for Jay Cutler and especially Matt Forte, which should lead to more overall production.
- No dip on the defense. From a talent standpoint, there's nothing indicating there will be a dip in production on defense. The only thing still worrisome is that Lance Briggs was on the podium Wednesday still talking about the loss of Brian Urlacher from a leadership standpoint. That's a real concern, but at the same time, both D.J. Williams and Jon Bostic should be an upgrade in physical production compared to what Urlacher was able to give a year ago.
Meanwhile, you can make the same argument about talent inherited for Mel Tucker, who is pretty much the head coach of the defense. Tucker is a very good defensive coordinator who inherits a defense that is better at probably 10 of the 11 positions than his Jaguars unit a year ago. That has to have him excited. And just like Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli, Tucker is always preaching the importance of takeaways. Basically, this unit won't look much different than it has in the past, even without Urlacher in the middle.
- Contract year. You heard all about this at the start of training camp. The Bears have a large number of players playing on the final year of their current contract. From the quarterback to the kicker, you're going to see a lot of motivated guys "trying to feed their family" as Robbie Gould infamously put it back in July.
- The Packers are overrated. I'm usually the guy talking up the Packers, but this is a team with flaws this year. The receiving unit has gotten worse and the offensive line isn't any better. Of course, Eddie Lacy is an upgrade at running back and Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, so you know this team will be good, but I think they are definitely beatable.
The bottom-line is that if the Bears want to win the division, they have to beat the Packers at least once, and here's why I think that will happen: Marc Trestman. The Packers' defense has always had holes (you saw them exposed in the playoffs last year), but Dom Capers has had the Bears' number and the offensive coordinators in Chicago haven't been able to come up with a scheme to move the football efficiently on Green Bay. Trestman's offense is all about efficiency and I believe he'll come up with a game plan to beat the Packers at least once -- maybe twice.
Sure, the Vikings and Lions are decent teams too, but remember: Lovie Smith lost his job because he couldn't beat the Packers anymore. That's how you win the NFC North.
And that's why Marc Trestman was brought here to Chicago.
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The Bears practice at 10:55 a.m. Friday. Head coach Marc Trestman will speak to the media following practice.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.
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