It’s that time of year again, folks; time for “Joestradamus” to bust out the crystal ball and make Chicago Bears predictions for 2013.
Remind me to have my legal people to look into getting “Joestradamus” trademarked, I think I’m onto something here.
Last year in my prediction series, I correctly called the first eight Chicago Bears predictions en route to a 7-1 start. Things got a bit sketchy in the third quarter when I called for three more victories while the Bears were only able to eek out one.
Let’s also not mention that I never predicted the final four games of the season…
But fear not! I’ve been inspired by the news of J’Marcus Webb signing with the Vikings to find my prime predicting form from the first half of last season.
Without further ado, I give you my first installment of my annual foray into clairvoyance.
Week 1: September 8th vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals are the most balanced team in the AFC North and are the trendy pick to unseat the Baltimore Ravens as division champions.
The defense is highlighted by stud tackle Geno Atkins, one of the league’s brightest young stars you’ve likely never heard of. He’ll be hungry to follow up on his 12.5 sack campaign and prove he’s worth the $55 million Cincinnati tossed his way this offseason.
Atkins is going to give lone incumbent starting lineman Roberto Garza fits, and the line may have to send extra help his way. This will make for a tough early test for all the newcomers around Garza.
Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, along with linebacker James Harrison, can make life extremely tough for Jermon Bushrod and rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills.
If the Bengals send constant pressure on the edges and the Bears are preoccupied with Atkins, Jay Cutler may be getting comfortable with the Soldier Field turf this Sunday.
But let’s think happy thoughts. I have reason to believe the revamped offensive line can hold serve against the pass rush; a sack or two (or four) isn’t the end of the world.
Cutler is still learning the finer points of Marc Trestman’s offense, but nothing would be better than to see signs of progress against the Bengals middle-of-the-road pass defense.
Much will be made about the status of Brandon Marshall’s hip, which seems to be holding him back mentally more so than physically.
100% healthy or not, Marshall should expect the ball early and often. Cutler is going to try to establish a comfort zone before diving deeper into the playbook and calling on other options.
If Cutler takes a step forward, the Bears defense will still have their hands full. The Bengals feel like they finally have the backfield to compliment their passing attack.
The Law Firm, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, will provide the ‘smash’ in the running back duo. Second round draft pick Giovani Bernard will provide the ‘dash’.
If the Bengals can establish a run game early, which will be tough against the Bears front seven, then the skies will open up for Pro Bowlers Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
The Bengals also feature the NFL’s best tight end duo (sorry, New England). Notre Dame alum Tyler Eifert dealt with wrist issues all offseason, but he and Jermaine Gresham can create a lot of mismatches with the Bears secondary.
Eifert is my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but I don’t think we’ll see that kind of output from him in his first game.
If the Bengals do get the ground attack working early and set up deep passes, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings can help minimize the damage.
So who has the definitive edge? No one, this game can go either way.
If Cutler stumbles out of the gate, the Bengals can key in on stopping the ground game while Cutler will take care of stopping the passing attack all on his own.
If Cutler finds a rhythm early, we may be in for another 41 point outburst like we saw in week one last season against the Colts.
The Bengals would be forced to go to the air and play catch up all game, which is definitely within their ability. But against this Bears defense loaded with ball hawks? Unlikely.
Matt Forte will be the x-factor in a week one victory for the Bears.
That “comfort zone” for Jay Cutler won’t only be provided by Brandon Marshall. Whether he keeps the chains moving on the ground or gives Cutler a consistent check down option through the air, Forte will be Jay’s safety valve.
A healthy dose of Forte should be enough to stifle any growing pains the Cutler is still going through.
I see the Bengals scoring right out of the gate. They’ll hold a lead while the Bears feel out their offensive gameplan, but the Bears will pick it up in the middle quarters and hand the game over to the defense to close it out late.
Chicago Bears predictions time: they will extend their opening day winning streak to four years as they tame the Bengals, 24-17.
Cue the Super Fans chanting “SUPER BEARS! SUPER BOWL!”
But the last three seasons started with wins and ended nowhere. Will 2013 be different? I think it will, but only time will tell.
Agree or disagree with my prediction? Let me hear it in the comment section!