11/14/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

After Urlacher Injury, Cutler Picks, Are Bears Still Super Bowl Contenders? (POLL)

The Bears season began with such promise. Rocket-armed Jay Cutler gave the team its first potential franchise quarterback in recent memory. Defensive rock Brian Urlacher was finally healthy after struggling to play through back, neck and thumb injuries the past two seasons. Expectations were so high that Sports Illustrated's Peter King picked the Bears to win the NFC and face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl (though some downplayed the hype). And then, in the first game of the year, the bubble burst.

In his Bears debut, Jay Cutler threw a career-worst four interceptions as the Bears lost to the Green Bay Packers 21-15. Cutler, however, can rebound. More alarming is the loss of Brian Urlacher, who will miss the season after injuring his wrist in the first half.

The Bears confirmed Monday that Urlacher is expected to be out for the entire season after having surgery to repair his dislocated right wrist. Pisa Tinoisamoa, another starting linebacker, will also miss some time with an injured knee.

Tribune NFL writer Dan Pompei says that Urlacher's loss could be "huge" for the Bears:

The Bears are going to miss more than his playing ability. They are going to miss his leadership.[...] At some point, that is bound to show up because other players looked to those players for guidance in terms of pre-snap direction.

The Bears do have some depth at linebacker, however, and Da' Bears Blog's Jeff Hughes argues that that bench makes Urlacher the team's most expendable star:

Now I'm not arguing that the Bears defense will be more productive without 54. They'll miss his ability to get sideline-to-sideline and he still can be a force in coverage. But Nick Roach and Jamar Williams are good, solid back-ups and linebacker is the deepest position on this roster.

So, are the Bears still a playoff team, let alone Super Bowl contenders?