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Offseason Primers: Chicago Bears

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Lovie Smith era ended with another whiff at a postseason berth. The Bears cleaned house as a result and went on the offensive with their next head coach, choosing Montreal Alouettes head coach and long-time NFL offensive assistant Marc Trestman. The theory behind the hire is that the Bears will finally have some stability on offense after having two offenses and three playcallers over the last four years.

Those last four years have been a nightmare for Jay Cutler as he's navigated through those scheme changes while playing behind a clumsy, unimproved offensive line. Many people will characterize Cutler as a malcontent through his actions and body language but the reality is that he's been stuck on a roster bereft of talent.

Not until last season did he have a legit No. 1 receiver in Chicago and he made the most out of throwing 193 passes to Brandon Marshall, affording the receiver to have a career year. Having Matt Forte in the backfield has been a perk for Cutler too, as the rusher recorded another year with over 1,400 total yards. The Bears' run game tallied 11 touchdowns but Forte only had five on the ground. In order for Forte's touchdown numbers to get better, Cutler will need to find him.

2012 Touches Leaders
757 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Matt Forte 292 (248 car., 44 rec.) 38.6%
Michael Bush 123 (114 car., 9 rec.) 16.2%
Brandon Marshall 119 (118 rec., 1 car.) 15.7%
Jay Cutler 41 car. 5.4%
Earl Bennett 29 rec. 3.8%
Alshon Jeffery 24 rec. 3.2%
All Others 129 17.1%

The rest of the Bears offense, for lack of a better term, stunk out loud. The offensive line struggled to protect Cutler, the receivers behind Marshall were either banged up or overmatched and the tight ends couldn't contribute much, be it as blockers or pass catchers. Trestman has his work cut out for him, but fortunately he has a modest track record going back to his days with George Seifert and the San Francisco 49ers. Though only twice in his NFL coaching career has Trestman fielded a quarterback that has thrown for over 4,000 yards, he has a solid history of being unafraid to throw often while developing versatile running backs.

While handing the defensive duties over to veteran coordinator Mel Tucker, who probably won't change much, Trestman should be able to breathe life into the Bears offense. In turn, Cutler should be able to perform to levels he hasn't had since joining Chicago. For a playoff-hungry team like the Bears, the plan better work out as good as it sounds.

Jay Cutler -- Late-round flier

2012 Target Leaders
485 pass attempts
Brandon Marshall 194 40.0%
Matt Forte 60 12.4%
Earl Bennett 49 10.1%
Alshon Jeffery 48 9.9%
Kellen Davis 44 9.1%
All Others 90 18.5%

It seems like every year we're labeling Cutler as a quarterback worth a late-round gamble. Well, this might be the last. Cutler is entering a contract year and the Bears could opt to go in a different direction, or at least not sign him to a long-term deal, if he doesn't perform to the expectations they had for him when the traded for him in 2009. To Cutler's credit, he's balanced so many schematic changes while dancing behind a brutal offensive line since he's started in Chicago, yet he's still led the Bears to one NFC title game, two 10-plus-win seasons and three non-losing campaigns. Many quarterbacks swear by Trestman's knowledge and play-calling abilities and there's little doubt he will lean on Cutler this season, so it should afford him the chance to put up 4,000 passing yards, a number he has yet to reach while in Chicago. Cutler sees Joe Flacco go from pumpkin to hero and could do the exact same thing in 2013. That's why he should be a late round consideration after the likes of Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger are off the board.

Alshon Jeffery -- Bust

It took the Bears an eternity to land a legitimate receiving threat, and now you think they're good enough to have two?! Marshall is going to get his targets, which means he'll get his numbers. The only way that doesn't happen is if he misses playing time, in which case Jeffery could step in and be a factor. Last year, Jeffery scored in three of 10 games and posted seven or more Fantasy points in four of eight games where he played at least 40 snaps. Those are decent jumping off points for a young receiver but they don't necessarily translate well to Fantasy. What's more, Trestman's track record suggests his offenses will tilt toward one receiver rather than aim for balance. In the last 22 years he's coached in the pros, college and in Canada, Trestman has had two or more highly productive receivers seven times (four in the pass-happy CFL).

Michael Bush -- Bust

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Jay Cutler Late-round pick
Matt Forte 13-22 overall
Michael Bush Late-round handcuff
Brandon Marshall 20-30 overall
Alshon Jeffery Undrafted
Kellen Davis Undrafted
Robbie Gould Late-round pick
Bears DST 125-135 overall

The only Fantasy owners who should spend time staring at Bush's name on Draft Day are those who spend a second-round pick on Matt Forte (or those looking for running back depth in Round 15). A year ago we were frustrated that Bush "settled" for a part-time gig in Chicago but it looks like NFL decision makers knew what they were doing. Over 114 carries Bush averaged a career-worst 3.6 yards per and paired it with a three-year low in receiving average (a still-good 9.2 but on just nine catches). About the only positive to Bush's game is his touchdown production and Trestman has shown a willingness in the past to use a fresh back at the goal line. All you have to do is figure out when Bush will score and you'll have yourself a Fantasy stud -- but that's obviously hard to do. Steer clear of him in drafts this summer.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made five extra points but missed his only field-goal attempt in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Dawson didn't have much of a shot at converting his lone field-goal try, as his team tasked him with attempting to avoid overtime by nailing a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn't come close, and the 49ers went on to lose in overtime.

Dawson has made 23 of his 29 attempts this season and is now 5 for 8 from 50 yards or more. He'll square off with the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree plays sparingly vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree managed just one catch for five yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Crabtree, who was questionable to play Saturday due to a knee injury, remained on the sidelines for large portions of the game, even donning a baseball cap at one point. It appeared he was set to play only in an emergency situation. However, the receiving corps was struck by multiple injuries, leaving the team to turn to Crabtree late, and he recorded his only catch in overtime.

Crabtree will try and heal up in time to serve a larger role in his team's season finale against the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Anquan Boldin catches seven passes vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin recorded a team-high seven receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Boldin managed more than half of the team's receiving production Saturday, as the other San Francisco players combined for only 53 yards on eight receptions, though rookie Bruce Ellington did managed to catch a touchdown.

Boldin had his best performance since a nine-catch, 137-yard breakout in Week 12. He's racked up 81 receptions for 981 yards with four touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals, a team for which he played from 2003 to 2009. He'll be looking to secure his seventh career 1,000-yard performance in the season finale.


49ers WR Bruce Ellington scores twice in Week 16 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington tallied three rushing attempts for 12 yards and a touchdown and added an eight-yard touchdown reception in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Ellington scored both of his touchdowns in the second quarter, first hauling in the eight-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for which he was wide open. He then added the rushing touchdown on a jet play on third-and-goal where he took the ball on the move immediately after the snap and found a crease on the right side for the score.

It wasn't all positive for the rookie, as he was ruled out in the second half with a hamstring injury. If he can heal sufficiently during the upcoming week, he'll be in line to face the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers RB Frank Gore rumbles for 158 yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore racked up 26 carries for 158 rushing yards with one touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Both numbers represent season highs for Gore, who hasn't had a better rushing day since the 2009 season. He set the tone early, shaking off would-be tacklers en route to a 52-yard score less than two minutes into the game. Gore continually proved difficult to tackle, as he would have managed his third 100-yard game of the season even without the long touchdown.

Gore is now up to 962 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 230 carries. He has a reasonable shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick tallies 151 rushing yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 pass attempts for jsut 114 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions but added 151 rushing yards on seven carries in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Kaepernick had little trouble picking up chunks of yards against a defense that seemed adverse to tackling -- the 49ers set a new team record with 355 rushing yards in the game -- but his highlight came on a 90-yard scamper where he went untouched after crossing the line of scrimmage, with the Chargers committing a penalty on the play for good measure.

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Kaepernick, and his 151 rushing yards marked a new regular-season high. However, he's also failed to top 175 passing yards in any of his last four games. The 49ers will look to close out the season in strong fashion when they face the Cardinals in Week 17.


Chargers K Nick Novak nails game-winner in Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Chargers kicker Nick Novak made his only field-goal attempt Saturday, hitting the game-winning kick from 40 yards out in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Novak had all week to think about missing two of his three attempts against the Broncos in Week 15 but drilled the key attempt early in the overtime period to send the Chargers home with a win. He also added five extra points, giving him his best point total in three December contests. Novak has a matchup with the Chiefs on the calendar for Week 17.


Chargers WR Malcom Floyd scores key TD in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd caught just four of his season-high 10 targets for 50 yards Saturday but also scored a crucial touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Floyd hadn't been on the same page as quarterback Philip Rivers for much of the night but came through when it mattered, hauling in the game-tying touchdown on an 11-yard post play with just 29 seconds left in regulation. He's up to 49 receptions, 827 yards and six touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs.


Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman catches seven passes Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman racked up seven receptions on nine targets for 79 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

The coaches opened the second half with Inman in the lineup and the team down 28-7, and the little-used receiver was able to reward the gamble with an excellent half of football, picking up all his receptions in the second half. It was the first time this season Inman had even seen a target in a game, but he was able to pick up three first downs, including one on a crucial fourth-and-10 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and his team down seven points. The Chargers tied the game two plays later before winning in overtime.

Inman may have earned himself a significant role in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs, especially if Keenan Allen is unable to return to action.


Chargers TE Antonio Gates scores twice in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates caught seven of his nine targets for 92 yards with two touchdowns in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Gates had a quiet first half but helped lead the charge to come back from a three-touchdown deficit. His first score was on a one-yard catch on third-and-goal that he juggled a bit, but he was able to hang on while taking a hit at the goal line. His second score was on a wide-open 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter to bring his team to within one touchdown.

It was the fourth multiscore game of the season for Gates, who is now up to 65 receptions, 754 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He'll match up with the Chiefs in Week 17.


 
 
 
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