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Jay Cutler not best, but best of rest?

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) walks off field after taking late hit by HoustTexans linebacker Tim Dobbins after Cutler

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) walks off the field after taking a late hit by Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins after Cutler threw an illegal forward pass during the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. Officials discuss the play. Dobbins was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play. Cutler did not return in the second half after suffering a concussion. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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The chart includes where each player’s team ranks in total offense and passing offense.

Rec. Yards Offense Passing

Calvin Johnson, Lions 73 1,257 2 1

Reggie Wayne, Colts 84 1,105 5 7

Andre Johnson, Texans 69 1,058 3 10

A.J. Green, Bengals 67 1,022 13 12

Brandon Marshall, Bears 81 1,017 30 32

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos 61 1,015 4 6

Roddy White, Falcons 67 1,003 6 2

Wes Welker, Patriots 80 961 1 4

Vincent Jackson, Bucs 47 959 12 13

Julio Jones, Falcons 53 883 6 2

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Updated: December 29, 2012 6:34AM

Where would the Bears be without Jay Cutler?

It would be more worthwhile to lament that question if we knew the answer to an even better one: Where will the Bears be with Jay Cutler?

And furthermore, while we know exactly where the Bears would be without Jay Cutler, we don’t know where they’d be if they never had Jay Cutler. Where would they be with Kyle Orton? Or Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick or any other quarterback they might have drafted had Jerry Angelo not acquired Cutler?

On the present roster, Cutler obviously is the Bears’ most valuable player. Since the start of the 2010 season, the Bears are 26-8 in games he finishes and 2-9 in games in which he does not.

But therein lies the problem: Cutler has missed all or parts of 11 games in the last three seasons, including the biggest one of all — the NFC Championship Game in 2011. He’s missed all or part of two of the three biggest games this season — losses to the Texans and 49ers. In the one big game he played, he threw four interceptions and had a 28.2 passer rating in a 23-10 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field.

While he has yet to reach that elite level of NFL quarterbacks, Cutler at least is moving toward the top of the veteran group of ‘‘next-tier’’ quarterbacks — behind the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Texans’ Matt Schaub, ahead of the Ravens’ Joe Flacco — who aspire to stand with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning but do not.

And he’s separating himself from the onetime leaders of that group, the Cowboys’ Tony Romo and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, who, typically, played just badly enough to get beat last week: Romo threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns in the second half against the Redskins — after falling behind 26-3. Rivers was efficiently effective (one touchdown, 100.3 rating) in building a 13-3 lead against the Ravens, but he couldn’t finish — he was 7-for-11 for 39 yards in three drives as the Ravens rallied for a 16-13 overtime victory.

Cutler avoided that fate against the Vikings — though it remains to be seen if his luck is changing. While he threw several darts through the smallest of windows to Brandon Marshall for key completions, the few misses were close to disaster. Of his five incompletions intended for Marshall, two were deflected at the line and two were deflected by Marshall. The one that was intercepted led to guard Lance Louis suffering a season-ending injury.

That’s just bad luck. But Cutler has had enough of it since joining the Bears that it can’t be discounted as another hurdle he has to clear to become a true MVP. The Most Valuable Bear Award is not one for the trophy case.

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