Bears season prediction: 9-7

The initial prediction when the schedule came out was 8-8. Although this team is so much better than that in terms of talent, the direction it’s taking under new head coach Marc Trestman, not to mention all the work done by general manager Phil Emery, ultimately this will all come down to quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler possesses elite arm talent and superior intelligence. Emery, meanwhile, took care of his end by bolstering protection, adding a weapon in tight end Martellus Bennett and hiring an offensive-minded coach in Trestman, who has a track record as somewhat of a quarterback whisperer.

The problem here is twofold in that (1) despite what’s said publicly, the defense is not yet sold on Trestman, and (2) Cutler, who is playing in his fourth offense in five seasons with the Bears, is leading a club facing a brutal schedule featuring five 2012 playoff teams. What's more is the right side of the offensive line is expected to feature a pair of rookies who will inevitably experience growing pains. How will Cutler manage those? How will Cutler handle two explosive personalities, like his own, in Brandon Marshall and new tight end Bennett when things aren’t going well?

Predicted finish in NFC North: Second