Hub Arkush: Bears have path to Super Bowl

Why not the Bears?

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler warms up before a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 14 at Soldier Field. (Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)

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One team from the NFC is going to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. Why can’t it be the Bears?

I’m not picking them because I believe the 49ers, Seahawks, Packers, Saints and Eagles all have fewer questions to answer and more talented rosters.

I’m also troubled by the Bears' lack of depth at quarterback, running back and on the offensive line, and the fact that as far as we know they still may not have starting safeties or a starting strongside linebacker.

But you know what? Nobody’s perfect, and the best team(s) at the start of the season is(are) almost never the best team(s) at the end.

Is there a path the Bears can follow to the promised land? Why can’t this glass be half full?

Actually there is, and it can be.

Although depth is a real concern of the Bears, almost every team that has ever appeared in a Super Bowl has stayed at least relatively healthy over the course of a season. If we assume the Bears will . . .

Jay Cutler has probably already eliminated himself from any hopes for a permanent home in Canton, Ohio, but he does possess enough unique quarterbacking tangibles to post an elite season.

Many believe in his second year with Marc Trestman, it is coming this year.

Just because Ka’Deem Carey, Shaun Draughn and Senorice Perry gave no indication during the preseason that any of them can log quality minutes in relief of running back Matt Forte, that doesn’t mean one of them can’t.

Josh Morgan has been a starter in the NFL and Santonio Holmes is a former Super Bowl MVP. Maybe Marquess Wilson may be back at midseason.

Add them to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and this club may have gone from a tremendous lack of depth at wideout to the best group in the NFL.

Martellus Bennett is better than most tight ends, and Dante Rosario and Matt Mulligan are fine in reserve.

The Bears are solid on the left side of the offensive line with Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson and Jermon Bushrod, and if Kyle Long improves this year from Week 1 to Week 17 as much as he did last year, he’ll be one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

Jordan Mills just needs to be good enough, and why can’t Michael Ola be Eben Britton?

The Bears had arguably the worst defensive line in football last year. Jared Allen, Jeremiah Ratliff, Stephen Paea, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young may not be the best, but they’re a huge upgrade.

If Allen and Ratliff still have Pro Bowl-type seasons in them, and Houston is the player the Bears are paying him to be, everybody else on the defense is suddenly better.

Although undersized for the position, Ratliff was the best 3-4 nose tackle in the league for four consecutive seasons. Playing a more natural three technique tackle spot, Ratliff just might dominate.

Houston is one of if not the best run defending defensive ends in the league, and Allen will be a Hall of Famer some day. What if he plays like one for one more season?

Pressure bursts pipes, and if those three have career years, the Bears' defense can make the kind of leap this year that the offense made last year.

Remember, Lance Briggs, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are Pro Bowlers until they aren’t anymore, not until we just suspect they won’t be. Maybe, just maybe, they’ve got one more year in them, too.

No, I don’t trust Shea McClellin at linebacker or any of the safeties, but that can be irrelevant if the five former Pro Bowlers the Bears will start on defense can once again play to that level.

Special teams scare the heck out of me, but again, what if Holmes keeps his head on straight? Kick coverage is an acquired skill, not a god-given talent. These groups could be fine, too.

Do I think the Bears are going to the Super Bowl? No. But it’s really easy to see how I might be wrong.

• Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at harkush@chicagofootball.com and on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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