Over or under 9.5 wins?
DON'T LET MAY OPTIMISM CLOUD SEASON OUTLOOK
Nothing stirs optimism like a Chicago Bears' mini-camp in May. Aside from Brian Urlacher's knee, Johnny Knox's back and Matt Forte's wallet, everyone is healthy, happy and in the best shape of their lives.
Where's the Super Bowl this year?
Everything is perfect for a team that made a ton of positive moves in the offseason. Jay Cutler is in love with his quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, Brandon Marshall is the messiah, and Devin Hester is, once again, about to become a Pro Bowl receiver. The defense, well, not much has changed there either. Just change the oil and go. Right?
I could see the Bears being very good this year. We all could. But I'd advise anyone to get too giddy with anticipation. The beautiful thing about the NFL is that almost any team has a chance to reverse its fortunes from one season to the next. That's what makes prediction such an inexact science.
On face value, the Bears don't have such an easy schedule that double-digit wins are guaranteed. I can easily see them going 9-7. Road games against Green Bay, Dallas, Tennessee, San Francisco and Detroit look formidable, not to mention a late-season date at Arizona. Home games against Carolina and Houston won't be easy either.
While Marshall surely will remake the offense, is the depth there? Can Mike Tice find a way to utilize Hester's strengths? Can the offensive line protect Cutler? A healthy Gabe Carimi will help, but this is the Bears we're talking about.
Defensively, we're all waiting for the other cleat to drop. When will this defense age? Hopefully for Bears fans, it won't be this year.
More than nine wins? Don't count on it. After all, the Bears were 7-3 last year before Cutler went down. The one great unknown is health.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
SCHEDULE, IMPROVED TALENT MAKES 10-PLUS WINS A SAFE BET
Interesting that the over/under in Vegas for Bears' victories in the 2012 season is eight and a half. This is the same team that was 7-3, riding a five-game winning streak and surely playoff-bound last season when Cutler went down last season, correct?
Well, no actually. This is a better Bears team.
Few could argue that healthy or even semi-healthy, the 2012 Bears are a superior team on paper. Now consider the additions of Marshall at wide receiver, Michael Bush backing up at running back and the prospects of Shea McClellin at defensive end and Alshon "the peanut picker" Jeffery at receiver, who will surely help take pressure off Devin Hester, and already the Bears appear better.
Add a more realistic offensive coordinator in Mike Tice and one big source of Cutler's smiles this spring in quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates.
The offensive line is not likely to become five blocks of granite with the returns of Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi, but you have to figure it will be better as it was already improving last season without them.
The Bears will play five of their first 10 games on prime time TV, three times on Monday Night Football, where they have won seven of their past nine times. They should win two of their first three games against Indianapolis and St. Louis, sandwiched around the Packers at Green Bay. The toughest weeks appear to be Week 4 at Dallas on Monday Night Football, and then a three-week swing at Tennessee, at home against Houston and then at San Francisco.
Ten wins is a good benchmark -- every time I go through the schedule, I waver between nine and 10 wins. But hey, it's May, so over looks good.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.