Week One: Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears Preview
The Bears are 5-1 in their last six home openers. The Falcons have lost their last four road openers and haven’t won at Soldier Field since 1983.
The Bears are coming off an 11-5 season where they made into the NFC Championship, but fell to the soon to be Super Bowl champion Packers.
They will be focused today. After changes on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, the Bears are ready to get back on the field and prove their doubters wrong.
RB Marion Barber was added to be a nice change of pace back with Matt Forte, but unfortunately he won’t be able to go with a calf injury. Third-year back Kahlil Bell will backup Forte today.
Dane Sanzenbacher, an undrafted rookie out of the Ohio State University will likely serve as the fifth receiver, with off-season acquisition Sam Hurd questionable with a sprained ankle.
It will be interesting to see how much the Bears use recently signed Brandon Meriweather today. They give him a nice chunk of money and it was reported that 13 other teams were looking to add him once the Patriots released him on Saturday.
The biggest question mark for the Bears this season is their offensive line. Can QB Jay Cutler take that next step in his second year with Mike Martz’s scheme?
The offensive line is not the same unit from last season. With the selection of tackle Gabe Carimi, the line has received some much needed youth and talent. Last season’s seventh-round pick J’Marcus Webb will move over to left tackle, while Chris Williams and Lance Louis serving at guard.
That means Roberto Garza will take over at center, the position that Olin Kreutz played at for 13 years with the Bears. Garza needs to lead by example because their will be no excuses for false starts come game time.
Is this season’s starting five on the offensive line better than the line that gave up 52 sacks a year ago?
I believe so, Carimi automatically gives the Bears a better chance at keeping Cutler upright. It could be rough at times, but don’t be surprised if this team comes out of the gate quicker than last season because of their offensive line.
Players Who Must Step Up:
1. Earl Bennett– Bennett has shown that he knows to play in Mike Martz’s offense. He has been the most dependable receiver as of late, so expect him to be a target all day for Jay Cutler. Bennett is maturing as a person and a player, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he had a season where he totaled almost 1,000 yards receiving.
Projections: Six catches, 68 yards, one touchdown.
2. D.J. Moore– Moore shined last season playing as the nickel cornerback. He reeled in four interceptions and forced one fumble. He has a big stress in speedy WR Harry Douglas today. Moore is still maturing, so he will only get better with time, but the confidence level is there, so look for him to be consistent.
Projections: Five tackles, one sack and two passes deflected.
3. Henry Melton– The converted defensive end will likely start at defensive tackle. Bears coaches have been raving about his athleticism all off-season. In limited time last season, Melton made three sacks and forced one fumble. With Melton now moved in as a starter this defense line could be scary. The Bears defense needs pressure from it’s defensive line for it to succeed, so Melton will need to be a big part of that mentality.
Projections: Four tackles, one sack, one pass deflected.
Who Will Win?
Projections: Bears 27, Falcons 21
Weather: It should be a nice sunny day at Soldier Field. With a high of 78 degrees, it will likely stay in the mid-70’s. The Bears will be donning their navy tops, with their white pants.
Expect a good game today between the top two NFC seeds from the last season’s postseason.
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