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PFW associate editor Dan Parr presents a running meter that indicates the Bears' top MVP candidates through Week 17. (Last week's ranking in parentheses):
1. DE Julius Peppers (1): There's no easy way to decide between Peppers and Brian Urlacher for the team MVP award, as both players are deserving, but putting pressure on quarterbacks is considered the key to the Bears' defense, so that leads me to give Peppers the nod. His numbers, including the eight sacks he made, which tied for the team lead, are not gaudy. The statistics don't include the number of times he was double-teamed, leaving a fellow pass rusher in a one-on-one situation, or the number of penalties he drew for false starts or holding. Peppers was stout vs. the run, too. He's a complete player and was the biggest difference maker on one of the league's better defenses for much of the season.
2. MLB Brian Urlacher (2): It was a great comeback year for Urlacher, who will be heading back to the Pro Bowl. While Peppers edged him out for the top spot, Urlacher is still considered the vocal and emotional leader of the Bears' defense and he has a strong case to make for being first on this list. He has promoted Peppers as the defensive player of the year, however, and having Peppers cause disruptions at the line of scrimmage often helped Urlacher and the rest of the team's defenders.
3. QB Jay Cutler (3): Cutler and the entire offense were showing improvement in the second half of the season, but they sputtered out with a three-point performance in Green Bay. He overcame some obstacles — a porous offensive line and young receiving corps without a true No. 1 didn't give him the best help — but turnovers are still an issue for Cutler. He had 22 turnovers (16 interceptions, six lost fumbles) this season, which is only five fewer giveaways than he had in 2009, when he threw a career-high 26 picks and lost one fumble.
4. WR-RS Devin Hester (4): The NFL's all-time leader in kick returns for a touchdown established career highs in kickoff-return average (35.6) and punt-return average (17.1) this season. He was the spark for an offense that often needed a jolt, and not only on special teams. Hester made 40 grabs — the fifth-most on the team — and had a career-high four TD catches.
5. RB Matt Forté (5): Getting Forté more involved after a Week Eight bye served the Bears and Forté well. He responded, setting career highs in rushing average (4.5 yards per carry), receiving yards (547) and receiving average (10.7 yards per reception). Forté is just the second player in franchise history — Walter Payton was the first — to rush for more than 1,000 yards and gain more than 500 yards receiving in a season.