Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/4/12

The Chicago Bears were 7-3 a year ago and looked like a legitimate threat in the NFC.

Then quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a season-ending injury. 

Caleb Hanie was brought in to man the helm, but he looked more like a Pop Warner kid trying out for the varsity team. 

Things spiraled even further out of control when Matt Forte suffered a season-ending injury.

They would only win one more game the remainder of the season and finish third in the NFC North behind Green Bay and Detroit.

This year they have a healthy Jay Cutler back who has been reunited with his favorite target in Denver, Brandon Marshall. They also have Matt Forte back, who is now paired with Michael Bush to make a dominant backfield for the Bears. 

They added rookie Alshon Jeffery to the receiving corps during the Draft, which rounds out the best offense the Bears have had in quite some time. 

Cutler will enter his fourth season as the Bears' quarterback, a feat that hasn't been reached since Jim Harbaugh was QB in Chicago. Bottom line -- the offense looks like they can put up points.

The staple of the Bears, however, has always been their defense. This year the defense will be led by a hobbled Brian Urlacher. Every other name that you will recognize on this defense is over the age of 30, which doesn't leave much room for growth with this group. 

The Bears need to win right now while they have this group together. Urlacher has acknowledged that his knee will never be the same, and Briggs and Peppers aren't exactly spry anymore. 

They are still dominant players, but Urlacher's injury shows that these guys are at the end of their careers and if they want to compete for a Super Bowl championship, now is the time to do it! 

They play in a brutal NFC North, having to face the Lions and Packers each twice, but outside of that their schedule is pretty friendly. They have the NFC West and the AFC South this year, which means they will play teams like the Colts, Rams, Vikings, and Jaguars. 

Yes that is similar to the draft order, which tells you these teams aren't that competitive. The Bears have a really good chance of winning 11 games this season and could compete for the NFC North crown. 

Green Bay isn't going to win 15 games again so look for that three-headed race in the North to be much closer this year. 

The Bears are on everyone's radar as a viable option to represent the NFC in New Orleans in February. If the defense can play like the Bears of old and the offense can stay healthy, I'd say it's a definite possibility. 



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