Here we go with our final Four Down Territory edition of the week. With the draft rapidly approaching, we'll hit a Q&A Monday through Friday next week doing our best to answer all of the draft questions you might have. Let's get right to it.
Q: It seems like the Bears have had so-called easy schedules the last few years based on the opponents' winning percentage the previous year and the easiest of all 32 this year. I'm wondering how well the previous year's win percentage actually correlates with the next year's win percentage. In other words does the preseason strength of schedule actually tell us much about how tough the actual season ends up being?
Julie R., Michigan
A: That's a good question and in order to do our best answering it we've crunched a few numbers. We've also got a link here to a good story by ESPN's John Clayton earlier this week that touches on this very subject. Clayton points out that the first-place schedule has been a tough collar for the NFC South winner to wear each year. In five of the last seven seasons, the NFC South champion from the previous year has finished last. Certainly a tough schedule was not much of an obstacle for some very good teams in 2008. Pittsburgh (1st), Indianapolis (2nd), Baltimore (4th) and Minnesota (5th) all faced supposedly difficult scheduled this past season and all four clubs reached the postseason. We took a look at the strength of schedule for every playoff team the past four seasons. Here is what we found:
2008--Average strength of schedule for playoff teams 14.5
2007--Average strength of schedule for playoff teams 15.9
2006--Average strength of schedule for playoff teams 17.1
2005--Average strength of schedule for playoff teams 17.0
It seems to show that the numbers pretty much even out.
Here is where the Bears' strength of schedule has ranked during the Lovie Smith era:
2006--32nd (reached Super Bowl)
2005--24th (reached postseason)
Some of that is no doubt a function of the NFC North being a relatively week division for some time now. Consider that over the last five seasons, the NFC North has had only one team each season with 10 wins or more. Conversely, eight teams have finished with six or less wins in that span. When you are factoring in a giant goose egg--0-32--into the equation like you do this year playing the Detroit Lions twice, your strength of schedule is going to drop big time.
Q: I don't want to see the Bears caught sleeping on the offensive line again like they have been the last two years with no younger players at offensive tackle, none that could step on the field and play any way. They need to find an eventual replacement for Olin Kreutz sooner rather than later. If Josh Beekman is too small to play left guard guess what? They're going to say the same thing about him at center. What are the chances the Bears do something now so we don't have to watch them scramble later when Kreutz's game is no longer there (it's already on the way).
Ron V., Wisconsin
A: You make an interesting point and the Bears would serve themselves well to get a solid look at Beekman behind Kreutz when preseason rolls along. That is if, indeed, the plan to put Frank Omiyale at left guard materializes. There are a couple of pretty good centers in this draft, but there is a possibility all of them will be off the board by the time the Bears' pick comes around at No. 49. Louisville's Eric Wood, Oregon's Max Unger and Cal's Alex Mack are all regarded as guys that could go in the late first round or early second round. Grooming someone behind Kreutz would be nice right now but that has to be viewed as a luxury when you consider the more pressing needs on that side of the ball at wide receiver and the position you already referenced--tackle.
Q: How does the depth chart look at wide receiver right now and how could Jerry Angelo consider any position but wide receiver with the first pick?
Michael T., Chicago
A: The depth chart looks just like it did the day the Bears terminated the contract of Marty Booker--there are plenty of holes to fill.
If you go by the final depth chart the team released at the end of last season, Rashied Davis, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Devin Aromashodu were stacked up on one side (in that order).
That leaves Brandon Rideau on the other side by himself as Booker and Brandon Lloyd have both departed. John Broussard, a practice squad player from last season, is also in the mix.
The Bears are talking about Bennett (6-foot) and Hester (5-11) being the two starters right now. I'm with you. They can talk about going for the BAP--best available player--at No. 49, but they cannot afford to not address wide receiver first and foremost. Say a linebacker with a top grade somehow freefalls to the slot. How is he going to develop the team's first-round pick this year and its first-round pick next year? That's right. He'd be of little help to Jay Cutler.
Angelo touched on this issue somewhat when he answered a question posed to him by a team employee in his bi-weekly PR campaign on club's Web site.
``You determine your needs and the positions you want to create more competition and depth,'' Angelo announced. ``Once that's been established, then you try and determine in what rounds you're going to address those positional `needs' and `wants.' Usually the best player on our board should facilitate one of our needs, because you usually have three to four needs going into any given draft.''
Q: Could the Eagles' trade for Buffalo left tackle Jason Peters today and the Giants' pursuit of Cleveland's Braylon Edwards push some wide receivers down the draft board to the Bears?
Kelly S., California
A: That's a good question and the answer is it certainly could. Provided issues surrounding Hakeem Nicks and Percy Harvin do not push them into the second round, it's still possible six wideouts could go in round one. While Brian Robiskie has long been a name that has been associated with the Bears at No. 49, multiple people have said they believe he will go to Indianapolis at the end of the first round at No. 27 overall. In fact, that is just how Nolan Nawrocki has it falling in his mock draft released today for Pro Football Weekly. If Nicks falls into the second round, and you cannot rule that out, it's hard to imagine him sliding 17 slots and into the Bears' lap. There is a chance Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi could be gone before the Bears select as well. There are plenty of teams in need of help at the position. Even if the Giants and Eagles get out of the running, I don't know if that is going to be enough to ensure the Bears benefit.
Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. We're going to check in later this afternoon with a look at some defensive back options that the Bears are considering.