How the Chicago Bears can win, lose Week 1

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An interesting preseason for the Chicago Bears has ended and the wait for meaningful football is finally over.

At noon on Sunday, the Bears open up their 2014-15 NFL campaign by welcoming the Buffalo Bills to Soldier Field. The Bills enter the season with as many issues and concerns as Chicago, meaning that this game may be a closer matchup than it appears.

The main objective in football is to outscore your opponent. Last I checked the Chicago Bears can score. The 2013-14 version finished tied for second with the New England Patriots averaging 27.8 points per game. Only Denver’s astounding 37.9 ppg topped Chicago’s balanced attack. Buffalo averaged 21.2 points per game if you were wondering.

The Bears have a distinct advantage in most phases offensively. The Bills boast superior depth at running back. It can be argued that the trio of C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown is the best in the NFL. The Bills’ fourth back, Anthony Dixon, is a nice bruiser who can get the short yards and plays an important role on special teams. Once you get past Matt Forte, the Bears are a huge question mark in the backfield.

Jay Cutler is a much better option at quarterback than E.J. Manuel. That’s it. Pretty simple.

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Chicago has Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, meaning that Buffalo’s top receiving threats of rookie Sammy Watkins and second year standout Robert Woods would have to take major steps in a matter of moments Sunday to be in Chicago’s stratosphere. That won’t happen, but if Manuel, Watkins and Woods can show improvement sooner than later, the future for Buffalo’s offense could be bright.

Buffalo can keep Sunday’s game close by showcasing their defense. Their front seven is better than Chicago’s, and the front four is younger than who the Bears will have on the field. If right tackle Jordan Mills cannot go for some reason on Sunday, expect to see the Bills load up the left side of their ‘D’ to put the pressure on Michael Ola. The former CFL product would be the next man up. Mills is also no guarantee to slow down Mario Williams and company.

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Chicago has to commit to stopping Buffalo’s running game. The Bears have a much better chance of winning if E.J. Manuel has to be the reason why Buffalo wins. The Chicago Bears should be better than the 32nd ranked rush defense they were in 2013, but how much better is yet to be seen. A healthy line facing Spiller and F-Jax is a great way to find out.

If the front four can get after Manuel, a lot of pressure would be taken off of the questionable secondary. A rotation at safety is more than enough to cause concern among Bears fans. A solid push from newbies such as Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young will alleviate the pressure bestowed on the secondary for majority of last season. A healthy Kyle Fuller will also help aging cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. The sooner that Fuller can show he belongs on the field in more than just nickel situations, the better.

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No prediction here. Just know that win or lose, you at least knew why.

Jeff is a production assistant @120Sports and contributor to hockey, football, and baseball for The Sports Bank. Follow him on Twitter @skcih_ffej.

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