The Chicago Bears enter week two at 0-1 on the season and are preparing for a second-straight home game at Soldier Field. After losing to the Green Bay Packers, the Bears schedule doesn’t get much easier. This week they host the Arizona Cardinals who are coming off a playoff birth in 2014 and are looking to contend for the NFC West title this year.
Here’s what you need to know:
2014 record: 11-5 (Lost in NFC Wild Card)
Head Coach: Bruce Arians. Record of 22-11.
Key returners: Patrick Peterson, Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Tyrann Mathieu
Key Newcomers: Mike Iupati, Sean Weatherspoon, DJ Humphries, Chris Johnson
Key losses: Antonio Cromartie (free agency), Darnell Dockett (free agency), Larry Foote (retirement)
Pass DEF: 30th (354 YPG)
Rush DEF: 1st (54 YPG)
Pass OFF: 6th (307 YPG)
Rush OFF: 11th (120 YPG)
Three key players
Patrick Peterson; CB
Chris Johnson; RB
Tyrann Mathieu; DB
Last meeting in Arizona
The two teams last met in the 2012 season when the Chicago Bears defeated the Cardinals in Arizona 28-13. The game was huge for the Bears who kept their playoff hopes alive with a 9-6 record.
The Bears dominated the game from the start as Arizona’s improving young defense couldn’t contain the Bears dual threat of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver. The Bears also got a second half interception return for a touchdown by Charles Tillman.
You can watch full highlights here.
The Cardinals have a young defense that is led by playmakers Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, which can help turn a game around in a hurry. While the Bears attacked a vulnerable Packers secondary last week, this week it won’t be as easy. The ball hawking defensive backs won’t be scared to play up on the Bears receivers and could make life tough on quarterback Jay Cutler.
Then there’s the Broncos front seven which has also improved. In last week’s win over the New Orleans Saints, linebacker Alex Okafor registered the team’s only two sacks but the unit shouldn’t be taken lightly. Arizona’s defense will be the toughest test for the Bears offense as they will look to attack it with Matt Forte and short high-percentage throws.
I’m not going to say that the Arizona Cardinals aren’t a good team, because they are. But this week is a very winnable game for the Bears and if their defense can play well, they should come out victorious. If the Cardinals have one weakness, it may just be their offense. The team is missing running back Andre Ellington and despite a proven track record, Larry Fitzgerald may have lost a step.
The weakness isn’t much however as the Cardinals can still put up points. Last week they caught the Saints defense on their heels several times and put up 31 points.
Player to watch
Wide receiver John Brown is coming off an impressive rookie campaign and is expected to be a breakout player this season for the Cardinals. We already know about Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, but Brown could be the biggest difference maker in this game.
Last week the Bears allowed James Jones to have a big game against its struggling secondary and it could happen for Brown this week. While second year cornerback Kyle Fuller will likely be on Fitzgerald, we could see Alan Ball or Sherrick McManis with the task of covering Brown. If Chicago’s secondary can’t find Brown and he goes off, it will open up the run game for the Cardinals offense.
Last week I predicted the Bears to lose too Green Bay, but this week I think this is a very winnable game. Arizona isn’t a great team and is vulnerable but it won’t be easy. I’ll take the Bears 18-16.