The Bears started out week 1 on a bit of a sluggish note, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals at halftime and falling behind 21-10 before scoring two touchdowns and taking the lead, and eventually the game, 24-21. There was certainly plenty displayed to provide some optimism for the remainder of the season, but again, it's only been one game thus far.
Game two should provide a clearer picture, as the Bears move into their first divisional matchup of the season, taking on the Minnesota Vikings.
Last Year: 10-6, second place in the NFC North and winning a tiebreaker over the Bears for a playoff spot, and leaving the likewise 10-6 Bears on the outside in January.
This Year: The Vikings didn't exactly get off to a horn-blowing start, losing their opener against the Detroit Lions 34-24.
When Last We Met: The last time these two teams met, it was Week 14 of the 2012 season and the Vikings had just lost back to back games to the Bears and the Packers to push them to 6-6. The Vikings wouldn't lose another game and they started by beating the Bears 21-14. Adrian Peterson scored two touchdowns and Harrison Smith gave the Bears a taste of their own medicine with an interception of Jay Cutler returned for a touchdown.
Total Yardage: 330 (19th)
Total Points: 24 (14th)
Passing Yardage: 225 (20th)
Rushing Yardage: 105 (11th)
I could just write two words here... J'Marcus Webb. Okay, maybe not those two words.
Adrian Peterson really is the core of this offense. And by core, I mean "this offense." Christian Ponder's been up and down, and really was pretty "down" last week against Detroit. The Vikings have to discover a passing game in order to make some more noise, and between Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and first round pick Cordarelle Patterson, they have some weapons, they just need a guy to get the ball to them. If Ponder's not that guy, maybe they turn to Matt Cassel sooner than later.
Also, the receiver with the most catches against Detroit? Jerome Simpson (7-140), a guy whom I've never really been a believer in and still am not, but if he becomes the primary option on the Vikings, more power to him.
The offensive line has some players, namely Matt Kalil, long-timer John Sullivan, and Phil Loadholt, and that creates a pretty solid unit overall.
Total Yardage: 469 (29th)
Total Points: 34 (29th)
Passing Yardage: 352 (29th)
Rushing Yardage: 117 (24th)
Jared Allen's the most recognizable name on the Minnesota defense (and for the record, he did say the Vikings weren't coming to Chicago to eat at Gibson's or something, though I don't know what steakhouses have to do with anything...). But last year's first-rounder of Harrison Smith and this year's first rounders of Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes are helping to refuel the Vikings' defense with some talented youth. Floyd filled in for Kevin Williams on Sunday against the Lions but had no tackles, while Rhodes had three stops and Smith batted a pass. That Allen guy picked up a sack too, and Brian Robison can't be overlooked.
If the Bears do this...
Offensively, the Bears have to work against a good pass rush and an underrated secondary with Rhodes, Chris Cook, Smith, and Jamarca Sanford to go with linebackers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway. Allen and Robison will be the key guys to stop, as if Jay Cutler can get some time, the Bears' receiving corps should still be able to work against the Vikings' defense. Jordan Mills will get the task of taking on Robison, and if he has a game like he did against the Bengals, the Bears' offense could be moving really well. Matt Forte needs to have a better game.
If the Vikings do this...
Stopping the Vikings begins with Adrian Peterson. Stephen Paea had himself a game against the Bengals, and needs to perform well here too against 7-year vet Charlie Johnson. The defensive line needs to step up in general, as one sack might not get the job done. In his career, Greg Jennings has 47 receptions with five touchdowns against the Bears; Charles Tillman will get that assignment in all likelihood. Patterson could develop into Percy Harvin, but he's not at that point just yet.
The first divisional matchup of the year is always exciting, because it's usually early enough that you have little true idea of what could happen. This should still be a fun one to watch.