Nadel takes a look at this edition of the Bears, predicts their game outcomes and picks the playoff teams.

Maybe it's that Rex Grossman, a 27-year-old fifth-year pro quarterback, can't get through an entire game without throwing to the wrong team and fumbling at least one snap. And that he doesn't seem especially concerned about it.
 
Or maybe it's that Lovie Smith believes only incompetent, indecisive, idiot coaches ever change quarterbacks – you know, lunkheaded losers such as Don Shula, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Parcells and Mike Shanahan.
 
Or maybe it's that Smith and Bears management insist Grossman is a leader and future star, but they won't name him a team captain or give him a contract extension.
 
Or maybe this not-quite-right feeling I have about the Bears has less to do with Rex than with:
 
Questions about Cedric Benson being a true go-to tailback; the age of the offensive line; Tommie Harris' health; Smith's willingness to serve as an enabler when his players run afoul of the law; Lance Briggs' mindset in his final contract year; the durability of new offensive weapons Greg Olsen and Devin Hester; Smith's removal of successful defensive coordinator Ron Rivera so he could promote his buddy, Bob Babich; and the tendency of the Super Bowl loser to go into the tank the following season.
 
Whatever the reason, something feels just a little off about the 2007 Bears.
 
And yet ...
 
They still play in the NFC North - in which the three other "contenders" have such a litany of ills that it's impossible to envision the Bears failing to win the division handily for the third straight year.
 
The Bears also have a lot of talent.
 
Brian Urlacher. Hester. Peanut Tillman and Nate Vasher at the corners. Bernard Berrian, a receiver on the cusp of greatness. Olsen. An offensive front that, while aging, has been effective. Harris, if he's close to 100 percent. Ditto Mike Brown. Briggs. Sackmaster Mark Anderson.
 
Yes, and Rex Grossman, too.
 
It's no secret the national media has it in for Grossman because he called them "ignorant" during Super Bowl week and then wet his pants during the big game. They see a championship-caliber team but feel compelled to add: " ... as long as Rex doesn't screw it up."
 
Closer to home, coaches, players, fans, the media ... all of us have seen how good Grossman can be. He can do things no Bears QB had done for decades and had many excellent games last season.
 
We also have seen those stretches - stupefying, horrific stretches - during which it's impossible to look the other way no matter how gruesome the results. Call him Train Rex.
 
Equally interesting is the response reporters and fans get from Smith, whose "What? Are you crazy?" routine when legitimate inquiries are made about changing quarterbacks belies the fact that he benched Kyle Orton for Grossman during a winning season in 2005.
 
I have argued on Grossman's behalf many times and remain convinced he's their best QB. (Still, I reserve my right to poke fun at him when he treats the ball as if it were trying to bite off his fingers.) I also understand the position is special in that a coach can't make changes willy-nilly - not if he wants to win, anyway. But every great coach knows that a strategically timed quarterback switch can make a difference in a game or season.
 
Will Lovie's leash will be shorter in '07? Will Brian Griese finally see real (non-garbage-time) action? If so, how long will it take him to throw that first crucial interception, leading to "We want Orton!" chants at Soldier Field?
 
Remember the good old days of a year ago, when the big QB question was whether Grossman could stay healthy?

Crystal Ball

Sept. 9, at San Diego. Everybody's picking Chargers, so I want to pick Bears. But I can't. LOSS.
 
Sept. 16, Kansas City. First LT, then LJ. We'll find out early about the run defense. WIN.
 
Sept. 23, Dallas. Tony Romo sees Urlacher & Gang in his nightmares after prime-time whuppin'. WIN.
 
Sept. 30, at Detroit. Only overconfidence ... nah, not even that keeps Bears from jacking up Jon Kitna. WIN.
 
Oct. 7, at Green Bay. Emotions run high this night at Lambeau. I smell an upset. And cheese. LOSS.
 
Oct. 14, Minnesota. Emerging theme: Ced and Rex struggle; good thing Devin and D score. WIN.
 
Oct. 21, at Philadelphia. Lovie's seen enough ... but Griese shows why he's second-string. LOSS.
 
Oct. 28, Detroit. Matt Millen already scouting college receivers for top draft choice. WIN.
 
Nov. 11, at Oakland. Upset special? Not even if Ken Stabler connects with Fred Biletnikoff. WIN.
 
Nov. 18, at Seattle. Rain. Slop. And Seahawks avenge last season's playoffs. LOSS.
 
Nov. 25, Denver. Even good teams rarely go undefeated at home. LOSS.
 
Dec. 2, N.Y. Giants. Eli's no Peyton. Giants ain't Super. WIN.
 
Dec. 6, at Washington. Here's hoping your cable/satellite provider carries NFL Network. WIN.
 
Dec. 17, at Minnesota. Bears finish 3-5 on road. Bad omen for playoffs? LOSS.
 
Dec. 23, Green Bay. After this, Brett Favre really will retire. Really. No, really. WIN.
 
Dec. 30, New Orleans. Urlacher fights urge to taunt Reggie Bush. WIN.
 
As Denny Green said: "If you want to crown 'em, then crown their a--!" So I'm crowning the Bears division champions with a 10-6 record ... but that's it. Figure a loss at Seattle in the second round of the playoffs.

Postseason Picture

The playoff teams will be Bears (NFC North), Eagles (NFC East), Panthers (NFC South), Seahawks (NFC West), Cowboys (NFC Wild Card), Saints (NFC Wild Card), Ravens (AFC North), Patriots (AFC East), Colts (AFC South), Chargers (AFC West), Broncos (AFC Wild Card), Jaguars (AFC Wild Card).

And in Super Bowl XLII: Patriots over Seahawks. An AFC victory? Shocking!

Mike Nadel (mikenadel@sbcglobal.net) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com.