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Fantasy football: Bears have viable options for first time in years

1/16/11 ChicagoIL Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis (87) collects his 4th quarter touchdown behind Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas

1/16/11 Chicago,IL Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis (87) collects his 4th quarter touchdown behind Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29). | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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Redskins at Saints: Everyone is eager to see if Robert Griffin III can make an impact similar to Cam Newton last season. Never mind Bounty-gate; the Saints are still the Saints.


Jaguars at Vikings: Maurice Jones-Drew will play second-fiddle to Rashad Jennings. Adrian Peterson (knee) will be a game-time decision. And those are the top two fantasy players in this game.


Rams RB Steven Jackson: Despite all their bluster, the Lions struggled against the run last season.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown: With their running game in flux, the Steelers will lean more on Ben Roethlisberger, and he’ll lean more on Brown.

Titans WR Nate Washington: Remember how bad the Patriots’ pass defense was last season? Let’s see how far it’s come.


Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Jets might have the best defense in the league.

Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis: He’s dependable, not special. To run on the Ravens, you need to be special.

Packers RB Cedric Benson: He’s been a popular pick given James Starks’ turf toe, but the 49ers had the top run defense in the league last season.

Updated: October 6, 2012 1:47PM

Not long along, it was a fantasy to consider any Bears for your fantasy team. We’re talking about a 92-year-old franchise that just found its all-time best quarterback.

This season, fans have six viable options to choose from, including the defense/special teams, which has been the Bears’ most consistent point producer for years, and steady kicker Robbie Gould.

The highest-ranked Bear on most draft boards is running back Matt Forte. Granted, he’s better in a yardage league than a scoring league, but he can be very productive. When he hurt his knee in Week 13 last season, he was on pace for 1,982 rushing/receiving yards, 267 more than his career high, which he set as a rookie.

Forte’s touchdown totals have run the gamut, going 12-4-9-4 in his four seasons. He won’t break out in that category this season with Michael Bush on board. The former Raider has had much more success in short-yardage situations, so expect to see him get most of the work near the goal line. He should be a good flex play as a touchdown vulture.

But Bush shouldn’t steal too much of Forte’s worth. In seven of the first eight games last season, Forte scored more than 10 fantasy points on yards alone (one point for 10 yards rushing and receiving). He also is productive in point-per-reception leagues, finishing sixth among running backs with 52 catches last season. Start him with confidence.

Jay Cutler is a high-end No. 2 quarterback, but he could reach a new level with buddy Brandon Marshall in tow. In three seasons with the Bears, Cutler has the second- and third-best single-season passing totals in franchise history. He was on pace for 3,710 passing yards when he broke his thumb in Week 11 last season. He has a realistic shot at Erik Kramer’s team record of 3,838 this season.

Marshall has a lot to do with that. It’s evident they’re on the same page, and Marshall has the size (6-4, 230) to give Cutler a margin of error with his throws. Marshall caught more than 100 passes twice with Cutler as his quarterback with the Broncos, and he has five consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 yards, the last two as part of a bad Dolphins passing game.

Marshall’s problem has been scoring touchdowns. He had 10 touchdown catches in 2009 with the Broncos (with Kyle Orton at quarterback), but his next-highest total is seven. He has 34 touchdowns in 91 career games, an average of six per season. Still, Marshall clearly is the Bears’ top receiver, and he should be viewed as a high-end No. 2 wideout.

Rookie Alshon Jeffery has been dubbed as a mini-Marshall, but it’s best to wait and see. Devin Hester is supposed to play a larger role in the offense every year, but his production never shows it. Earl Bennett isn’t worth your time, either.

If the Bears have a sleeper, it’s tight end Kellen Davis. Did you know he led the team in touchdown catches last season with five? The coaches have talked him up for two years, and he has the size (6-7, 267) to make an impact. Perhaps Mike Martz’s departure will mean more catches. He had only 18 last season, but it’s hard to imagine him turning into Rob Gronkowski.

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