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Five questions with PFW publisher Hub Arkush

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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By Dan Parr

Each week throughout the season we'll ask five questions of PFW publisher and Bears expert Hub Arkush to get his analysis on some of the top issues facing the team. This week, Hub says RB Matt Forté surprised him more than any other Bears player in the regular season and he also shares his vote for Chicago's defensive MVP.

1. If you’re compiling power rankings for the six playoff teams coming out of the NFC, where do you put the Bears?

Arkush: In my NFC power rankings I'd have the Bears third with Green Bay first, New Orleans second, Falcons fourth, Eagles fifth and Seahawks sixth. I think the Packers get an edge on everybody on defense and are near the top on offense. If healthy, the Saints have a clear edge on offense. The Bears have probably the second-best defense in the NFC, but Chicago finished the year 30th in the NFL in total offense, 21st in points scored and the defense doesn't give them enough of an edge to overcome that vs. the Packers and Saints.

2. Who gets your vote for the Bears' defensive MVP?

Arkush: I would honestly call it a tie between Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. I know everyone seems to be on the Peppers bandwagon right now, but without Urlacher behind him cleaning things up, Peppers' effort might be just as good but the results simply wouldn't be there. And for what it's worth, I'd have Peanut Tillman third and Lance Briggs fourth. Briggs made some plays, but not nearly as many as he has in recent years.

3. What Bears player surprised you the most this regular season?

Arkush: Matt Forté. He's still not an elite back, but he's certainly a starter you can win with and I didn't see that coming. I thought he'd have to be a complementary part in a two-headed running back scheme along with Chester Taylor, but Taylor has struggled and Forté picked up the slack nicely. He's definitely shown a fifth gear he didn't have last year and has also learned to dip a shoulder and turn a corner, at times looking like a completely different back than in the past. I'd rate Israel Idonije second in this category and Earl Bennett third.

4. Who was the Bears' most valuable assistant coach during the regular season?

Arkush: Hands down, (special-teams coordinator) Dave Toub. For all the talk about Mike Martz, Mike Tice and Rod Marinelli, it's the special teams that have made the biggest difference for the Bears, who rank No. 1 in the NFL in average starting field position on offense. Don't forget that coming into the season Toub was without his three best special-teams players from recent years — Jamar Williams, Adrian Peterson and Darrell McClover — and he's basically reinvented Devin Hester this year.

5. What Bears player or position group concerns you most heading into the postseason?

Arkush: It's a close call between the offensive line and the secondary. Both have been exposed badly at various times this year and the Bears have found ways to hide both for periods of time. Because the front seven on defense can cover for the secondary so well, I suppose it's the offensive line we have to fear the most. Their Week 17 performance vs. the Packers was one of their worst in what overall has been a terrible year for them.

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