The Chicago Bears head into Sunday facing a team that was 2-14 last season. This year, they are far from that same team that was woefully awful last year. With around 30-something on-field changes, the Indianapolis Colts look to make last year just a one year mark on a franchise record that has been incredibly good over the past decade.
The biggest reason for that was quarterback Peyton Manning, who has now moved on to Denver. The Colts drafted Standford quarterback Andrew Luck in hopes of finding their next Manning. Luck has said it is impossible for him to avoid the comparisons to Manning, but he wants to make his own mark on the league.
Chicago’s team didn’t have the enormous number of changes the Colts did, but their additions on the outside on offense is something they are hoping will push them over the top this season.
The first of those additions was adding Brandon Marshall in a trade from Miami. Marshall has a solid relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler, and the on-field chemistry between the two has caused a lot of excitement in the windy city.
The second of those additions was Alshon Jeffery, who the Bears selected with their second pick in the first year player draft. Those two additions will mean less reps for Devin Hester, and Dane Sanzenbacher shouldn’t see the field except in special packages and blowouts.
The Bears haven’t had much to go off of in terms of scouting. Luck hasn’t yet played a meaningful game in the NFL, the coaches are new, and with the number of changes, it is uncertain exactly how the Colts gameplan will look. The Bears have even admitted it hasn’t been easy to scout them, and they have been putting in extra time to look at old tape of many of these guys and the coach’s gameplans.
With rainy conditions expected, the ground game should prove to be a huge factor in this one. The Bears added running back Michael Bush in the offseason to help in the ground game, and he should see plenty of touches in the red zone. Matt Forte ended his holdout when he received a new deal, but as history has shown us, running backs who have held out have gone on to drop dramatically in production, so it remains to be seen how it will effect Forte.
Also a lingering question is the health of Brian Urlacher. The Bears middle linebacker has had knee issues since he injured it in the season finale last year, and after an offseason procedure, the worries remain on if the knee is in fact ready to handle the grind of a full season. With a quick turnaround after Sunday’s game, keep an eye on how much of the game Urlacher sees.
While on paper the Bears look to be the better team, the unknown of Colts makes it hard to judge this matchup. With the lack of scouting certainly hurting the Bears, the Colts will be looking to kick off the Andrew Luck era with a win. The Bears can’t afford to look past the Colts to Thursday’s matchup with Green Bay, as the thought of playing the Packers 0-1 isn’t something Bears fans envision of a season that is starting with so much promise. I wouldn’t imagine coach Lovie Smith will allow that to happen.
Prediction: Bears 27 Colts 20
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