Brandon Marshall's big impact

Brandon Marshall has given Jay Cutler a true No. 1 wide receiver in Chicago this season. Matthew Emmons/US Presswire

At first glance, the 2012 version of the Chicago Bears' offense doesn't look that much better than the 2011 version.

This year's team is gaining slightly more yards per play (5.2 versus 5.1 last year) and is scoring more points per game (21.2 versus 17.8 -- not counting defensive and return touchdowns). But last year's team had to deal with the loss of QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte for a significant portion of the season. The 2012 Bears did lose Forte for a time but have had those two available for most of the season, and therefore should seemingly be outperforming last year's club by a much larger statistical scale.

Those numbers can be somewhat deceiving, however, as a closer review illustrates how changes from last year to this year have actually moved Chicago's 2012 offense a lot closer to achieving top-10 status than the statistics indicate.

Let's start with the Bears' most notable offseason personnel addition, WR Brandon Marshall.