At the beginning of the White Sox season this year I put up a post full of foreboding about how I felt like the guy at the craps table who was all set up on the numbers feeling like someone was going to roll a "7" and sweep all his chips away. Sadly enough, all my bad visions came through as the Sox fell into the cellar in a terrible season that just keeps getting worse...
Now the Bears season is about to begin - their first home (pre-season) game is this Saturday, with another game the following Thursday. How do I feel about that?
Strangely enough, I am randomly optimistic. In 2005, the season with Kyle Orton taking the lead, the Bears started out horribly; Chad Hutchinson was QB for one AMAZING pre-season game where he went from #1 starter to cut from the team based on a single half performance. His performance as a QB was so bad I think I could have played better; he stood stock-still and was sacked like a lamppost - or he threw the ball to their receivers IN STRIDE for interception touchdown receipts. And yet that season they climbed up, on the back of a (not too talented) rookie QB and made the playoffs and actually had a pretty successful season.
In 2006 their first few games were simply unbelievable - it was as if a space ship landed and, for the first time since Jim McMahon, an offense walked out on the field (OK, I am forgetting about that random team with Kramer). Their defense was great and their offense was THROWING THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD. As a Bears fan, the fact that a QB was throwing down field is literally astounding. We know how 2006 ended... in the Super Bowl with Rex throwing away the TD return by Hester and... well I intentionally removed the rest of the game from my memory.
So what is the plan for 2007? Briggs came back and some important guys, namely Brown and Harris, are healthy again. Rex seemed great in camp but kind of folded against Indy; maybe it was a Vietnam flashback or something. Their backup QB's are actually quite good; but the Bears aren't trying to be OK - they are trying to win a Super Bowl. They got rid of Thomas Jones but the Bears are too cheap to draft a guy like Benson and then leave him on the bench - they need to ride him until he is either successful or broken.
I think their offense will be quite good - we put all the pressure on Rex and Benson but really it is about the offensive line... I think that they can get one more decent year out of them but if not it is a 9-7 season and bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.
The defense and special teams need to WIN some games; they can't just be good, they need to be DOMINATING. Else they will be bounced before the AFC comes to town and cleans house.
The alternative view is that post Super Bowl teams suck the year after the big game. For the Bears this is unlikely just because their division is so awful that they have a lot of easy games. Their non divisional opponents are tough - luckily a bunch of them (Cowboys, Denver, New Orleans) are at home. Now a team like New Orleans, they played out of their mind last year - they are headed for a fall. But the Bears didn't play that far above their ability - and so they aren't going down.
Unfortunately, however, they don't just need to get into the playoffs, they need to win a Super Bowl. Against the AFC, that is quite a crap shoot - we will see how they do against San Diego and later against Denver. If they don't do well and play tough in both games it will be a bad preview of their likely New England / Indy opponent. If Brady / Manning get hurt (hey, it happens, everyone isn't Favre) then we will have much better odds.
Let's hope my luck on the Bears is a hell of a lot better than my luck on the Sox.