By Bryan Dietzler
The Bears earned their first victory of the season last Sunday over the Detroit Lions and will attempt to make it two in a row this weekend as they play the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis. The Colts played last Sunday in London, England and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-27. The normally high powered Colts attack, headed by quarterback Andrew Luck, has been tempered this year and isn’t as effective as it has been in previous seasons. Can the Bears take advantage of the lull in productivity from the Colts and beat them this Sunday? The Bears certainly hope so.
Most fans should know by now that starting quarterback Jay Cutler is going to be out, again for this one. That means Brian Hoyer will get the nod and he has been playing reasonably well in relief of Cutler. If Hoyer has a strong game this Sunday, it’s possible the Bears may let him run the offense a little while longer while Cutler either comes back from his injury and heals more or they technically bench Cutler and see how Hoyer progresses. This makes for an interesting dilemma but it can only help the team giving the Bears competition at the quarterback position which is desperately needed. The Bears have not had that for a while.
The running game got going very well last week with Jordan Howard leading the way for an injured Jeremy Langford. Its possible Ka’Deem Carey could be back this week but the Bears will stick with the hot hand in Howard and run with him. They will also throw in Joique Bell and keep the running game going well over the course of the game. The Colts defense is allowing 105 yards per game on the ground which is about middle of the pack in the NFL. The Bears gained a lot of yards against the Lions this past Sunday and could turn around and do it against the Colts. Keeping the ball out of Luck’s hands will be key in this one and the way to do it is to get the ground game churning. With Howard, they should be able to do that.
The wide receiving corps took a hit this week as it looks like Kevin White is going to be out for the remainder of the year with a broken leg and bad ankle. This means that guys like Alshon Jeffery, their number one wide receiver and others (like Cameron Meredith) are going to have to step up and make plays. Hoyer had success getting the wide receivers the ball last week and there is no reason to think that he won’t have the same success again. Eddie Royal is a little banged and may not play on Sunday which will make things a little dicey for the Bears as well. Tight end Zach Miller will probably see more passes thrown his way due to the issues with the wide receivers.
The offensive line finally got going in the game against the Lions and looked better than they had all in the previous three games. They still have some issues but they are getting better and will hopefully continue to do so over the course of the next few games. Cody Whitehair is starting to impress at the center position and Kyle Long is playing his usual best. Other players are stepping up and playing better making this unit a big reason why the offense had solid success running and passing the ball against the Lions last Sunday. Now they have to step up and do it against the same thing against the Colts.
The Colts are allowing an average of 277 yards of passing per game so there is some yardage to be gained by the Bears, through the air, if they can move the ball down the field with Hoyer and his limited group of receivers. They were able to do it against the Lions and it is believed that they should be able to do it against the Colts. The Bears offense will have to make do with what it has available on Sunday.
Chicago’s defense took a big step forward last Sunday and they hope to continue that trend this weekend. The defensive line finally started to earn its money as Akeem Hicks got into the act and played well. The Bears big free agent acquisition finally started to look like he was worth the price the Bears paid to bring him to Chicago. The other guys in the group stepped up and played well keeping the Lions rushing production at a minimum. Will they be able to do the same against a Colts team that has Frank Gore as its leading rusher? The Colts have been averaging just 88 yards per game on the ground so their rushing attack isn’t that daunting. The Bears should be able to keep them from running the ball all over them and force the Colts to pass the ball to move it up and down the field.
The linebacking corps is the backbone of the defense and, despite injuries, they have been pretty solid. It would appear as if they may end up getting Danny Trevethan back for this game and that would be a huge plus for Chicago. They are also approaching the time when Pernell McPhee will be healthy enough to step in and play so that will be exciting. Against the Colts, this group will need to help make sure the running game doesn’t breach the second level and that the tight ends are well covered. We should also keep in mind that stud linebacker Jerrell Freeman will be playing against his former team so this might give him a little extra motivation. He’s been rock solid all year and could really shine in this game.
The secondary, despite the varying injuries, stepped up against the Lions and played very well. The Colts receiving corps is just about on the same level as the Lions but their quarterback may be a little better (although Luck hasn’t shown much his talent lately). Guys like T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle have been the Colt’s primary targets so the Bear’s secondary is going to have to keep these two in check. A majority of the secondary is getting back to being healthy (they will be without starter Kyle Fuller who was placed on injured reserve) so things are looking up. The depth has also developed (as we saw last week with the improved play and effort from Deiondre Hall) so there may not be too many concerns here.
Where there will be and have been some concerns is with special teams. Kicking (field goals) hasn’t been as solid as it has been in the past and Connor Barth has been a little frustrating. Punting has been solid as has been the punt return game but with Royal reeling from an injury the Bears may have to look for someone else to help them out there. After starting out the season solid, the punt coverage unit had a breakdown last week against the Lions. Hopefully they will get back to being better against Indianapolis.
The coaching staffs on both teams are very talented and have had a history of doing great things. Both coaches are well respected and solid teachers and their players reflect that. Admittedly, both the Colts and the Bears are a little down on their luck right now having started off the season struggling so while this may not be one of the cleanest games fought (as there could be a lot of mistakes) it will be a hard fought game.
Like a few games earlier this season, it’s been hard to predict whether or not the Bears will win. It was hard to predict their potential game play ability against the Lions and it’s just as hard or harder to do it against the Colts. This game is a matchup of two similar teams that are better than each other in some ways (the Bears are better at running the ball while the Colts are better throwing the ball) and perhaps it will all even out. We may see a sloppy mistake laden game or we may see a clean and crisp game with few mistakes culminating in a hard fought battle. Most likely it will be a combination of the two, hard fought with some mistakes.
The Bears will be playing away from Soldier Field but over the last couple of years that has not mattered as home field advantage has meant little to Chicago. This will be a good game, perhaps one of the better games of the weekend and it will be a close and hard fought perhaps just like the Bear’s game last Sunday against the Lions. For the first time all season, it would appear that if the Bears play well enough, they could and should actually win. Sure, it may appear that this writer is on a high after the Bears first and only win of the season (and maybe the Bears are as well) but this team is heading in the right direction and, barring further injuries, should keep on moving forward.
Look for the Bears to win this game earning their second win of 2016.
Prediction: Chicago 23 Indianapolis 17