The odds are long for a Super Bowl in 2014 but the Chicago Bears don’t fear them. What must they do in order to make it happen?
Keeping Jay Cutler healthy late in the season
What the Bears got out of backup Josh McCown last season can’t possibly be duplicated again. If they want to execute their offense at its peak in 2014, then it rests on the entire team to do whatever it takes to keep quarterback Jay Cutler healthy. Naturally having him for all 16 games would be ideal, but if given a choice, Chicago must find a way to ensure he’s there late in the season. Nothing matters more to a playoff run than finding a rhythm down the stretch, something the Bears haven’t been able to do because of Jay’s injury problems.
Defense ranking in the top 12
A team doesn’t need a great defense to win a championship in today’s NFL, but they do need a respectable one. For the Chicago Bears they are in the process of figuring out what they have. After crashing to 30th overall in 2013, they totally revamped the roster and parts of the coaching staff in order to improve. Names like Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young join an influx of promising rookies to put together a turnaround. On paper the improvements seem solid, but for it to have an effect the Bears need results. Top 5 is not necessary but for a realistic shot in the NFC, top 12 is.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery play like stars
People can always talk about the need for great depth to win championships. That’s fine and all but the reality is in order to hoist the trophy the superstars of the team need to play like superstars when it matters. That is why the Bears can’t afford letdowns from the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte. That trio is expected to carry the offense and indeed the team in 2014. If any one of them falters then the odds get stacked even higher against a team that just isn’t used to winning.
Keep the Green Bay Packers out of the playoffs
As if they didn’t have enough issues to sort through, perhaps the most herculean task for the Bears to undertake is finding a way to dethrone the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. No team has given Chicago more headaches and heartbreakers in just the past five years. However, simply winning the division isn’t enough. An opportunity may arise during one of the two games this season where the Bears have a chance to put the Packers on their heels and possibly even knock them out of playoff contention. If that opportunity is there, Chicago must seize it. The easiest way to fall in the playoffs is running into an opponent that knows how to beat you.
Play well against the San Francisco 49ers
It’s almost assured that any thoughts of a Super Bowl berth will have to go through the NFC West division. The Seattle Seahawks are the defending champions. The San Francisco 49ers nearly beat them in the NFC championship. The Arizona Cardinals went 10-6 and the St. Louis Rams probably improved more than any of the four teams this off-season. In order to get ready for that level of football, the Chicago Bears need a trial by fire and they will get it when they visit the 49ers in their brand new stadium in week 2. It’s the sort of game that has the feel of a barometer test. How the Bears play may determine whether they have a prayer come playoff time. They don’t necessarily have to win the game, but a strong showing could provide ample motivation when it’s win-or-go home time.