Preseason's finally over, the regular season is here, and now we can finally get to the business of watching the Chicago Bears embark on what they and thirty-one other clubs hope ends with them hoisting a shiny silver trophy not unlike the shiny silver trophy the Chicago Blackhawks won in 2010. But man, am I getting sick of referencing the past when it comes to championships won by a Chicago sports team. And speaking of past championships, how about that 2006 title, Colts fans? ... I think I just made myself sick.
Anyway, the Bears start that journey with a single step, and hopefully that step is a beating of the team owning the number one overall pick in this past April's draft, the Indianapolis Colts, although this year's edition of the Colts may well be similar to the past editions only in that they are called the Colts.
Last Year: Finished 2-14, the worst record in the NFL, much less the AFC South, picked up the first overall pick, parted ways with their franchise quarterback and picked up what they hope is their franchise quarterback.
This Year: Well, um... Nothing's happened yet, but at least they haven't started 0-1 like the Giants. Yet.
When Last We Met: Well thank Ditka that's not the 2006 Super Bowl. We have to go all the way back to Week 1 of 2008, literally as far back as we could go, to find the Bears' 29-13 victory. Matt Forte broke onto the scene with his 23-carry, 123-yard performance with a touchdown. Kyle Orton only had 150 yards in that game as the team's quarterback, and aside from Forte, no receiver had more than two catches.
Offense: Gone are Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Jacob Tamme and Pierre Garcon; hello Andrew Luck, Donnie Avery, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Yep, in the past draft Indy added Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck's favorite target at Stanford, and another highly-rated tight end. And so far, Luck hasn't had a bad preseason. Then again, who does.
That being said, Fleener and Allen provide two big targets in the middle of the field for the rookie quarterback, and the Colts still have other weapons at their disposal - Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie are still around, and even with the Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky "Quarterback" Show Wayne still almost put up a thousand yards. And with a new offensive coordinator, Donald Brown might get more than the 134 carries he got last year, and if he earns close to last year's 4.8 yards per carry, could lead to a more dangerous running game.
They also have a couple other, smaller, shiftier receivers such as T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill, which could prove dangerous if given enough space. And they also have former WCG Receiver-Crush Kris Adams.
Defense: The biggest change comes in the addition of Baltimore defensive guru Chuck Pagano as head coach, converting the Colts defense to a 3-4 base look. That means no more Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at 4-3 End. Instead they'll be at 3-4 OLBs, giving the offensive like and pass protection fits with something they struggle at anyway. But they also add Vontae Davis at defensive back for the cost of a second round pick, which should be a very good look for Indy, particularly as Davis goes along. While it's a unit in transition, and therefore might not be that good, I'd expect them to get to Cutler once or twice.
The unit did bring over a couple familiar faces through - they bring in former Ravens castoffs DE Cory Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski to help bring the transition along.
If the Bears do this... It's hard to really see how the Indy defense (or offense) will look and play on Sunday, but one of the better ways to beat a unit in transition is to go after them. And while yes, the Broncos lost when Brandon Marshall set his receptions record in that game in 2009 (21 receptions), and this is a different unit in general, get Marshall involved early and open things up for the other receivers and Matt Forte. And on a tangent, why do we care that a team lost when something generally recognized as a "good thing" happened? There's no causation in that - Marshall's receptions didn't cause his own team to lose the game (unless they, you know, directly result in his team losing, but he did have 200 yards and 2 TDs, so, highly doubtful there - I imagine Indy's 14-0 first quarter lead had more to do with it, though, and probably helped Marshall get his record through required passing. Holy run-on parenthetical expression, Batman!). Defensively, pass rush will be huge. The Colts' offensive line isn't very good itself, and if Peppers, Melton, Toeaina, Idonije and McClellin can keep Luck and the running game off balance, the Bears should pick this game up.
If the Colts do this... Freeney and Mathis scare me, as they always do. They're adjusting to rushing from a stand as opposed to a three-point stance, but I still expect them to be dangerous. Plus, knowing how much difficulty the Bears had with tight ends last year, I expect Fleener and Allen to get lots of looks, especially if Urlacher struggles at all.
Closing Thoughts: It's week one. No more vanilla playcalls and gameplans. It's go time.