Here's five NFL teams that will take a step forward this year, and five that will take a step back.
By RALPH VACCHIANO
No one has ever won an NFL championship in the spring and summer, and no one has ever lost one either. That’s not for lack of trying, of course.
Just ask the “Dream Team” in Philadelphia, or any of the up-and-comers pumping up their chests and thinking about a Super Bowl run. There are probably 32 teams thinking that way at the moment, even though a few of them are clearly braced for a fall.
Looks like the Chicago Bears QB's wedding has been sacked for good.
Friends and family members who had already bought Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler a wedding gift now have bought themselves a credit card refund from Crate and Barrel. Cutler called off his wedding to reality show star Kristin Cavallari last week. But since they were so close to their wedding, some efficient friends had already gotten their gift shopping out of the way.
CHICAGO • Inside the Locker Room
With Bobby LeGere of the Daily Herald
Will Matt Forté be on the field more in goal line situations?
There’s a good chance Forté will be on the field more in goal line situations this year after Chester Taylor’s disappointing 2010 season in which he averaged just 2.4 yards per carry and seemed to go downhill in a hurry at age 31. Forté had his best season as a pro, averaging a career-best 4.5 yards per carry. The idea when the Bears acquired the veteran was for Taylor to give Forté a breather without much of a drop-off in performance. That wasn’t the case, and since the Bears have already paid Taylor a big chunk of the money they owe him, he could be cut.
Who will post better fantasy numbers: Earl Bennett or Devin Hester? Keep in mind 40 return yards equals one point.
I’ll go with Bennett. He will very likely catch more passes than Devin Hester, but Hester is the better big-play threat, and even if he is an afterthought in the passing game, he is still the best in the business as a return man. His performance as a punt returner actually seemed to improve as his role in the offense diminished. Bennett is a reliable target and a favorite of Jay Cutler’s, but he will need to get more chances in the red zone to improve his TD total.
Can Mike Martz keep this collection of talent focused and productive?
It would be overly optimistic to expect great improvement from the Bears’ offense barring significant additions in free agency. The draft may have provided some upgrade to the offense with Gabe Carimi, but his presence means another transition on an offensive line that still has below-average talent and will again have to shuffle bodies.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @DEN, SEA, @GB
If you’re a Matt Forté owner, you have to like these three numbers for your fantasy playoffs — 31st, 21st and 18th. That’s where the Bears’ three fantasy playoff opponents ranked in run defense last season. And if you’re a Jay Cutler owner, the first two weeks aren’t too shabby either, as Denver (25th) and Seattle (27th) were both in the bottom eight in the NFL in pass defense.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Roy Williams, WR Deep-Sleeper: Andy Fantuz, WR Overvalued: Devin Hester, WR Top Rookie: Stephen Paea, DL Bounce-Back: Jay Cutler, QB Top IDP: Julius Peppers, DL
• Try to Avoid Marion Barber, RB
Barber has played the “big back” role before and could not do much with it in Dallas. Yes, he will steal a few TDs around the goal line because Forté has trouble knocking it in, but that’s about all you can expect: A mini TD vulture. WAIT UNTIL: Never
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
With most of its offensive core returning and only five picks in the draft, Chicago’s rookie class won’t be on many fantasy radars. The offensive line has been a questionable unit over the past couple of seasons, but the addition of Gabe Carimi should help bring some stability to the unit and improved pass protection for Jay Cutler. The Bears were already one of the NFL’s top fantasy defenses for 2011, and Paea will bolster the interior of a solid line. Nathan Enderle has long-term upside but is Chicago’s No. 3 quarterback for now.