Mullin: Holding off on the Bears' record prediction

Mullin: Holding off on the Bears' record prediction
April 20, 2011, 6:04 pm
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 1:01 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears' record for 2011 will be.... Umm, let's hold off on that one.

Last year I put together my prediction for an 11-5 Bear season record with the benefit of some analysis off of some minicamps, free agency, the draft. I actually was in the 8-8 thinking and then ratcheted it up after seeing and learning a few things.

With the 2011 schedule coming out this week, the questions begin in earnest about what to expect from the Bears this year.

Im going to wait on that one.

A prime reason behind that 11-5 call last year was the addition of Julius Peppers and the returning to health for Matt Forte, besides the obvious of Jay Cutler having been with his offensive teammates for a full season. The Bears had gotten better and they were playing the schedule of a team coming off a 7-9 season.

But any assessment right now of the 2011 outlook would be nothing more than re-playing 2010, since theres been no draft and no free agency. And the latter may not be here anytime soon, depending on the outcome of the case before Judge Susan Nelson and any anticipated appeal.

Also, the Bears draw division winners Atlanta, Philadelphia and Seattle in addition to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers in the stroll through the AFC West. Plus there are the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to deal with from the NFC South.

The point there: The Bears will have to be better than they were in 2010 to do as well as they did. Right now, theyre not. For that matter, nobody is.

If the Bears do manage to lure Cullen Jenkins away from Green Bay and onto their defensive line, I like the future there. Or rather, the present, since Jenkins, Peppers, Anthony Adams and Israel Idonije all are 30-something. Henry Melton at the three-technique projects as an upgrade over the Tommie Harris of now, but thats still in fact an unknown. And if the defensive line takes a step closer to dominant, the entire defense upgrades.

If the draft brings the Bears a projected starter on the offensive line, that unit also becomes a significantly better group, given JMarcus Webb with a year of experience, Chris Williams possibly at right tackle, and Olin Kreutz re-signed to tie it all together.

Notice that the last two paragraphs begin with Ifs? Thats why Ill wait a week or so before taking a run through the schedule. The Bears wouldnt mind a repeat of 2010 (except for that Cutler knee thing at the end) but right now every team is still right where it was last year, so lets see what changes in the next 10 days.

But heres something to consider: Beyond the well-chronicled jinx plaguing Super Bowl runners-up, the losers in NFC Championship games have fared just as badly the following seasons.

Since 2002, only twice has the NFC Championship loser even made the playoffs the following season, and that was the Philadelphia Eagles after their loss to the Arizona Cardinals in 2008 and when they returned to the playoffs in 2003. The Eagles have managed playoff returns several times, largely because of one Donovan McNabb, but the Bears will be fighting a bit of history to get back to within a touchdown of a second straight Super Bowl.

So, if you want to make a prediction for 2011, go ahead. Me, Im waiting until I have some 2011 information.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

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