6:51 PM CDT, September 5, 2013
The national appeal of the Bears always ranks high with the networks. CBS is making the most of its two Bears games this season, and it will send its No. 1 crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to Soldier Field for Sunday's season opener against the Bengals.
However, the network's various NFL analysts are mixed on the Bears' outlook for 2013, with a few of them decidedly down.
CBS' Boomer Esiason says the Bears will be "a second-rung team in the NFC."
NBC's Rodney Harrison, a Chicago-area native, was blunt about his hometown team.
"I would almost have to say at this point I wouldn't fear the Bears," Harrison said. "Just too much inconsistent play at the quarterback position."
Indeed, the analysts all contend Jay Cutler will be the focal point. As he goes, so go the Bears.
Esiason called Cutler "one of the most frustrating players in the NFL." He even wrestled with whether he's a top-15 quarterback.
Bill Cowher, the former Steelers coach, contends the time has come for Cutler to dramatically step up his game.
"When the head coach or the quarterback goes into the last year of his contract, it's a storyline," Cowher said. "It was last year with Joe Flacco. We know how that unfolded. We have all seen Jay Cutler at times and his mannerisms, and you just wonder if they don't get off to a good start how much that will play into it. This is very much a career-defining year for him. How he handles the questions and his performance week-in and week-out will be something to watch."
Fox Sports' Troy Aikman says he's "skeptical" about Cutler despite a change in coaches. The Hall of Fame quarterback rattled off the list of offensive coordinators who have come and gone during Cutler's years with the Bears.
"Every year, you wonder, 'Is this guy going to be the guy?' " Aikman said. "Until I see it, I'm going to be skeptical. Jay has not played well in big games, especially against the Packers. That has to change if they are going to contend."
The revamped Bears, though, did get a favorable review from Jon Gruden. The ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst had Trestman on his staff in Oakland.
"I have a lot of confidence that Marc Trestman because I know how meticulous he is," Gruden said. "Trestman will do an excellent job with Jay Cutler, and they desperately need Brandon Marshall to not only play but be healthy when he plays because he's the most targeted wide receiver in football, and he's Jay Cutler's favorite go to guy. That'll be critical in how healthy he is. It's going to have a lot to say with how good this offense is."
Game one: Nantz didn't get a chance to do a Bears game in Chicago last year. He and Simms also figure to get a return visit for the Bears-Ravens game Nov. 17.
"I'm excited to be in Chicago again," Nantz said. "There will be no shortage of storylines Sunday. Trestman making his debut and Cincinnati has high expectations. When was the last time you could say that (about the Bengals)?"
Simms will be interested to see how far the Bears have come with Trestman's offense.
"How much will we see of it?" Simms said. "They are facing one of the top defenses in the NFL. There will be some questions answered Sunday."
On the radio side: WBBM-AM 780 is gearing up for another year with the Bears. In addition to the game coverage with Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer, Trestman can be heard on "The Bears Coaches Show" on Monday nights at 6:30 p.m. A different assistant coach will join the show each week. Monday's guest is tight ends coach Andy Bischoff. Trestman also appears live on WBBM every Monday at 6:45 a.m. Thayer previews the upcoming game every Friday at 6:45 a.m.
North view: Even though the Packers remain the favorites in the NFC North, NBC's Cris Collinsworth thinks the Lions can be a dangerous team.
"When you start with that kind of front seven and especially that front four (on defense), you can control a lot of games," Collinsworth said. "I think Reggie Bush adds an element to that team. If you can take a little pressure off of Calvin Johnson, it's just a team with the chance."
Fox Sports' Jimmy Johnson still thinks it's the Packers and everyone else in the North.
"None of those three teams will challenge Green Bay if they stay healthy," Johnson said.
Remote patrol: Newly retired Randy Moss says he's enjoying his new role as an analyst for Fox Sports 1. "It's definitely been eye-opening," he said. "It's a work in progress. Each and every day, I learn something new."....CBS Sports Network jumps into the Sunday-morning fray with "That Other Pregame Show." The show begins at 8 a.m. and will run four hours until the noon kickoffs. It all begs the question whether there's a saturation level for NFL coverage on TV. "It's logical when you ask when is too much enough?" CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said. "The answer is, I don't think we've reached the saturation level yet."
Pam Oliver returns to the sidelines for Fox Sports' coverage of the Packers-49ers game. The sideline reporter suffered a concussion after being hit by an errant pass prior to a Colts-Giants exhibition game. ... ESPN has ditched music for its opening to it "Monday Night Football" games. Instead, it has hired director Peter Berg to produce pieces highlighting the history of MNF.
Special contributor Ed Sherman writes at shermanreport.com. Follow him @Sherman_Report
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