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Posted: Wednesday August 5, 2009 12:33PM; Updated: Wednesday August 5, 2009 2:17PM
John P. Lopez John P. Lopez >

Gettin' Trendy: Sleepers, surprises and flops come out in camp

The trendy pick: The Chiefs are on their way back

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Jay Cutler
Perhaps the greatest thing going for new Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (above) is that he's not Rex Grossman.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Image

Why this pick makes sense:
Scott Pioli
certainly knows the formula for success -- he helped draw it up alongside names like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Already, Pioli has turned over the Chiefs' roster in quick order, making several daring moves along the way. No one is expecting a Super Bowl appearance, but there are lots of good vibes in Kansas City and a sense that the turnaround isn't too far down the road.

Pioli is easily among the best personnel in the business. If he says quarterback Matt Cassel is worth a six-year, $63 million contract, then he probably is. It is a huge risk putting so much faith in a mostly unproven backup quarterback. But Pioli and first-year coach Todd Haley, who has Super Bowl experience with the Arizona Cardinals, are establishing an entirely new football culture within the organization and trusting themselves with Cassel.

Gone are the country club days of not holding all players to the same standards of professionalism. The perfect example: It took 2008 first-round pick Glenn Dorsey five days to pass the conditioning test that allowed him to begin practice. While his teammates practiced, the $22 million out-of-shape Dorsey had to go through humiliating conditioning drills on the sideline. The message was clear. No matter who you are or how much money you make, if you slack, you sit.

Also gone are the days of hiring re-tread coaches. And the Carl Peterson front-office that got passed by a younger, hungrier, more eager NFL generation is gone, too.

Let's not forget the importance of 44-year-old Clark Hunt, either. The son of Chiefs patriarch Lamar Hunt, Clark inherited the title of Chairman of the Board of the organization when his father died in 2006. He definitely has the ambition and energy to put his own stamp on the franchise.

Why it may not fly:
This is a bad team. I mean, really, really bad. Winning just six times in its last 32 games tells the biggest part of the story. But the problems run deeper.

There has been a lot of attitude and complacency on this team, a product of the previous regime. That doesn't get better overnight. Veteran players are griping, Larry Johnson is hinting at wanting a trade and the talent holes are gaping.

The offensive line is mediocre: Gone is Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, the secondary is pitiful and the linebacking corps has been fortified with Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas -- proven players and leaders who are on their last NFL legs.

Pioli also added 14-year veteran Amani Toomer, 14-year wide receiver Bobby Engram, 12th-year guard Mike Goff and 10th-year safety Mike Brown.

The club's sponsor should be Band-Aid.

And did we mention that the $63 million franchise quarterback never has started a playoff game or been a regular NFL starter?

So, will it happen?
Nope. It's just asking too much. The Chiefs have cleared some cap space, but they are at least four or five years away.

The trendy pick: The Bears are going to shock the NFL world

Why this pick makes sense:
The best thing about Jay Cutler to Bears fans is that he's not Rex Grossman.

This is a team that has needed only the slightest of jolts to make the leap from good to great. And Cutler is looking like he's it.

Because of a couple of off-field stories involving Cutler's uneasy departure from Denver and rumored squabble with Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher -- a name-calling episode that both players said never happened -- people forget about Cutler's talent.

He's the most productive quarterback the Bears have had since Jim Harbaugh in the early 90s (Yeah, it's been that bad for the Bears at the most important position on the field. Who'd you think I was going to say, Peter Tom Willis or Steve Walsh?) And he's possibly the most talented, ever.

On an otherwise good team, a quarterback can indeed make a huge difference, especially when that team plays defense and has a terrific running back, like the Bears do in Matt Forte. Simply put, if teams put eight defenders in the box like they did last year to stop Forte, Cutler will torch them.

Despite quarterbacking a bad Denver team, Cutler still threw for more than 9,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, while completing better than 60 percent of his passes.

Yes, Brandon Marshall sure helped, but Cutler is the real deal. The Bears could be, too, especially with the addition of Orlando Pace to protect Cutler, Forte available for play action and that defense shortening the field.

Why it may not fly:
Exactly who's going to catch all those beautiful Jay Cutler spirals?

It was the biggest question the Bears faced going into camp, the biggest question now and likely will be the question until someone proves otherwise.

Devin Hester can impact a game and Forte is decent out of the backfield. Tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen are efficient, but otherwise there's 2008 third-round pick Earl Bennett, who couldn't find the field last year, and the talented and unproven rookies, Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. The Bears wideouts will scare no one.

One other thing. The Bears pride themselves on always playing great defense and certainly have Pro Bowl talent all over the field, with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Nathan Vasher, Alex Brown, Charles Tillman and Tommie Harris.

It was that kind of talent that helped the Bears rank No. 1 in the league in scoring defense in 2005, and No. 3 in 2006, when the Bears advanced to the Super Bowl. But where has that defense gone? The last two seasons, the Bears have dropped to 28th and 21st in the league.

So, will it happen?
Yup. Fear the Bears in 2009. I'm not saying Super Bowl, but if Cutler has any receiver step up, good things will happen. The Vikings flirted with Brett Favre for a reason. And the Packers playing footsy with Michael Vick? Not exactly a confidence-booster.

Award-winning Houston columnist John P. Lopez writes a blog and hosts a daily sports talk show on 790 AM in Houston. He can be reached at

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