On Thursday, Tyler Juranovich wrote about his much-improved Chicago Bears and how he believes that they are now the favorites in the NFC North.
I’ll be the first person to admit the Bears are improved.
But just because that Chicago is improved does not mean that they are at the level of the Green Bay Packers. And, thus, the Bears are absolutely not the team to beat in the NFC North.
Let me tell you why.
Just kidding. That’s what the arrogant Packers fan would say.
Don’t worry, I’m going to back up my belief in the Packers’ continued supremacy even with the Bears’ improvements.
Packers Offense v Bears Offense
For example, I absolutely love the Michael Bush signing for Chicago. He will some of the workload away from Matt Forte in a role that should very much complement what Forte can do. If Bush can take away some of the between-the-tackles carries that Forte was normally called on for, that can only make the Bears better.
I also like the acquisitions of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in the WR corp for Jay Cutler. They give him solid Nos. 1 and 2 options to throw to, no doubt.
But let’s slow the “Cutler’s an elite QB” bandwagon that seems to be somehow gaining steam.
In Jay Cutler’s 10 games last season, he threw for 231.9 yards per game, with 13 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He completed 58 percent of his passes and finished with a passer rating of 85.7.
Over that same 10-game span, Rodgers threw for 316.8 yards per game, with 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Rodgers completed 68.3 percent of passes on the season and finished with a passer rating of 122.5.
Rodgers’ stats through the first 10 games of the season were far superior to those of Cutler’s. And through that stretch, the Bears went 7-3 while the Packers were 10-0.
The counterargument that Bears fans present is how much better that Chicago will be with the additions of Bush, Marshall, and Jeffery. And while it’s impossible to quantify exactly what impact those men will have for the Bears this fall, I’d argue that Chicago’s offense still doesn’t stack up with the Packers’.
I’m not going to tell you that Green Bay’s running game will be as good as the Bush/Forte combo will be. But from what I’ve seen so far in the preseason, the Packers’ run game will certainly be respectable.
On Cedric Benson’s first drive as a Packer, he did not carry the ball once, but he drew enough respect from the linebackers that Green Bay was able to waltz down the field for an easy six. I think this will happen more often than people think.
The Packers do not need Cedric Benson to rush for 1,000 yards. They need 8-12 carries from Benson for roughly 50 yards, and then Alex Green and Brandon Saine/James Starks to pitch in roughly the same.
I can’t see Mike McCarthy taking the ball out of Rodgers’ hands more than 20 times a game. But I believe those 20 runs, if used effectively, will make Green Bay’s offense even more dangerous than last year.
And while Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are nice, give me Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson any day of the week.
Packers Defense v Bears Defense
And as for defense? Chicago is aging. The Bears’ defense goes as Brian Urlacher does, and with his health in question, so is the defense as a whole.
Plus, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs are both 32, while Charles Tillman is 31.
The Packers’ defense, on the other hand, will be remarkably better than last season.
Charles Woodson isn’t getting any younger either, but the move to safety was a smart one by Dom Capers. Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, and Jerron McMillian will all contribute as rookies and will need to, considering Desmond Bishop won’t be coming back any time soon.
I also think this is the year BJ Raji becomes a top 5 defensive lineman, plus the Packers still have Clay Matthews too.
As for other teams in the division: Detroit has a talented offense and should be good again; I have very low expectations for the Vikings, and they’ll still probably come up short of that.
I understand why Tyler and other Bears fans are genuinely optimistic. I think that this is a 10- or 11-win Chicago team. But I still think the Packers are the team to beat not only in the NFC North but in the entire league.
I’m expecting a 13-3 season from the green and gold and another division championship.