NFL magazine picks Bears to capture NFC North
The trade for quarterback Jay Cutler is the major reason why Athlon Sports is picking the Bears to win the NFC North a year after struggling to a 9-7, second-place finish behind Minnesota.
Athlon's predictions are revealed in its 2009 Pro Football magazine, which went on sale today.
"Will Jay Cutler be better than (Jim) McMahon? With his arm strength and accuracy, you'd think so," says Mike Nahrstedt, Athlon Sports deputy editor. "Better than Sid Luckman was in his day? Maybe. The thing is, both McMahon and Luckman won league championships, and Cutler hasn't even made a playoff appearance yet. But Athlon expects that to change this year. And if things fall right for the Bears, who have the benefit of a relatively soft schedule, they could make a nice little playoff run."
Sporting News Today, however, only goes as far as listing the Bears as one of five teams "poised to make the playoffs" after missing the playoffs last season. "Despite the hoopla surrounding Cutler, it's the Bears' defense that needs the most improvement for the team to make the postseason," according to Sporting News Today columnist Clifton Brown.
Athlon picks the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions to go 2-3-4 in the NFC North.