Mayock: Bears aren’t contenders until line improves

Are the Chicago Bears legitimate contenders? It’s been one of the hottest topics around the NFL Network offices this week.

The fact that we’re discussing whether a 4-1 team — one of only two in the NFC — is interesting in itself.  But the Bears have both won and lost in dramatic fashion. Defensively, the Bears have been dominant and rank No. 5 in scoring defense. The special teams play is solid as usual. The well-documented plight of the offensive line — both in the run game and in pass protection — is another story.

Playbook analyst Mike Mayock points to the line as the reason why he doesn’t consider the Bears legitimate contenders.

“The Bears are 4-1 and playing extremely well on the defensive side of the ball, and are a big play waiting to happen on special teams,” Mayock said. “Offensively, they have to get better to be considered a legitimate playoff team. I think that Mike Tice is one of the better offensive line coaches in the league, but right now, that line is struggling with a lack of talent and injuries. Until they can run the ball more consistently and protect the quarterback, I don’t consider them a title contender.”

Jay Cutler is set to return against the Seahawks, and will have a revamped offensive line in front of him  according to The Chicago Tribune, with Chris Williams at left guard and Frank Omiyale staying at left tackle.

With the Vikings and Lions off to slow starts and the Packers battling injuries, the Bears also find themselves in pole position in the NFC North. They have arguably the most favorable upcoming schedule among division teams, facing Seattle (2-2) and Washington (3-2) at home, at Buffalo (0-5) and then Minnesota (1-3) at home.

Is a collapse looming, or will they establish an offensive identity behind Cutler? The circumstances surrounding the Bears certainly merit the discussion. So, I’ll turn it over to you, NFL Nation: Are the Bears contenders or pretenders?

— Frank Tadych

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