Julius Peppers

What? We're not your pick for the Super Bowl?

I’ll be honest, I like to laugh at the Chicago Bears, whether they’re mortgaging their future to acquire Jay Cutler, pretending they have serviceable wide receivers or completely bungling their search for an offensive coordinator.

Under general manager Jerry Angelo, the Bears are funny. And yes, I mean funny like a clown.

So, the Bears charged full steam into the first day of free agency this year and signed defensive end Julius Peppers, running back Chester Taylor and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. All are good signings, especially Peppers, who addresses one of the Bears major deficiencies – the pass rush.

The Bears offseason moves thus far did just enough to make them… the third best team in the NFC North.

Yup, that’s the same place they finished last season. While Chicago has good reason to be excited about the free agent signings, anyone predicting playoffs is overlooking several things – namely the holes on the offensive line and at wide receiver and safety.

It’s funny that the Bears went out and signed a running back when their offensive line was largely accountable for their lack of running game in 2009, but hey, that’s how they roll in Chicago.

Are the Bears better than they were in 2009? They should be, but Gene Wojciechowski makes some interesting comparisons between the Bears and the best teams in the NFC North – the Vikings and Packers.

If Brett Favre returns to the Minnesota Vikings for his 20th NFL season — and you can make a compelling case why he would and should — then the Vikings remain the favorites to win the NFC North. Their version of Peppers (Jared Allen) is two years younger. Their running back (Adrian Peterson) is a lot better than everyone else’s running back. Their receiving corps is more complete.

Question: Whom would you want as your franchise quarterback — Cutler, who led the NFL in interceptions last season and must learn his third offensive system in three years, or Aaron Rodgers? Rodgers.

Whose wide receivers would you want — the Bears’ or the Packers’? The Packers’.

Whose running game would you want — the 29th-ranked Bears’ or the 14th-ranked Packers’, whose rushing attack accounted for 14 more touchdowns than Chicago’s last season? The Packers’.

Whose defense would you want — the Packers’ D, which finished second in total defense, or the Bears’ D, which was 17th? Peppers’ arrival and Urlacher’s return make this at least a push.

The Bears have Peppers, but the Packers have the 23rd and 56th selections in next month’s draft, while the Vikings have the 30th and the 62nd picks. Barring a trade, the Bears don’t choose anyone until the third round and the 76th overall spot.

Despite Chicago’s apparent improvement, it doesn’t put them on the level of the Vikings or Packers, both of whom are more complete teams.

A lot can happen between now and the season opener, but as it stands, Bears coach Lovie Smith – who is under a playoffs or else mandate – is likely to be looking for a job in 2011.

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