Chicago's two-game win streak has almost completely turned their season around. Suddenly sitting at 4-5 doesn't seem so bad and with another upset victory over the Broncos Sunday, the team could by in the playoff hunt.
A win over the Broncos would be nice for head coach John Fox and quarterback Jay Cutler, considering both have history with the organization and that both were dumped by the team for different reasons. The coach and the player can harp on the "just another game, just another opponent" line all they want but they have be feeling a little extra juice.
Maybe not for Cutler, who was jettisoned by coaches and managers long gone from Denver, but especially for Fox, whose "mutual parting" was the subject of many rumors about philosophical differences.
Denver's supposed loss has certainly been Chicago's gain as the Bears have picked up the pieces from the broken regime of 2013-2014 and hardly anyone would argue the future isn't bright with Fox on the Bears' sideline.
Heading into the clash on Lake Shore Drive Sunday, the two teams come in riding opposite two-game streaks: the Bears winning their last two and Denver losing two straight. There are plenty of articles out there this week saying that the Bears have a good chance for the upset.
While it should still be considered somewhat of a long shot, anything can happen on any given Sunday in the National Football League. If the Bears are to pull off the upset, which players need to come through big?
Jay Cutler, QB: It's all about the QB in this league, right, and Cutler is playing some really, really good football right now. Aided by Adam Gase's wonderful game-planning, Cutler is playing the best football of his Chicago career and it will have to continue against a stingy defense like Denver's. While the Broncos have suddenly slipped the past two games, surrendering 334 yards per game in their two losses after allowing only 277.3 in their first seven contests. They have also allowed 226 rushing yards in their last two games (states courtesy of CBS Sports). Cutler needs to keep playing smart and Gase needs to keep with his clever game planning but both will go a long way towards helping the Bears slow down the Broncos nasty defense.
Jeremy Langford, RB: Yes, it's Langford again. I think the Bears could be wise to hold out Matt Forte (as well as other injured players Alshon Jeffery and Pernell McPhee) for one more week because they face such a short turnaround ahead of next Thursday's Thanksgiving contest. Let the injured guys get one more week of rest and maybe they can go against Green Bay and then get another long week to recover for the December push.
With that said, Langford will need to pick up where he left off in St. Louis last week and San Diego the week before. By making plays in the screen game and out of the backfield as a receiver, as well as between the tackles and running to the outside. As I mentioned before the Broncos' run defense has suffered the past two weeks and there will be an opportunity to grind it out against them and win the time of possession. Langford can be the bell cow for one more week.
Tracy Porter, CB: While it is easy to say that without Peyton Manning that Denver will try to use their running game to take pressure off of Brock Osweiler in his first career start, I still think the secondary will be key in this game for a couple of reasons. One, Denver's rushing attack has been bad all year and the Bears' rushing defense has been improving. With Shea McClellin and Antrel Rolle had big tackle numbers last week in helping slow down Todd Gurley. This week the 'backers will have to do that again but against lesser backs and a bad offensive line so the task isn't quite as tall. I'm looking at Porter as a key player because he will be asked to cover Demaryius Thomas. Thomas may not have the gaudy touchdown numbers of years past (just one) but he is still the Broncos' leading receiver and likely to be the main target for Osweiler in his first start. The secondary needs to come up big here and hopefully the front seven can get after Osweiler and force him to make bad throws and that is were Porter will be key. Turn a bad throw or two into picks or at the very least, stop Thomas from using his size and speed to make bad throws turn into completions.
Honorable mentions: Bryce Callahan and Kyle Fuller vs. Emmanuel Sanders, Shea McClellin in run D, Martellus Bennett, Marquess Wilson if Jeffery can't go
Who are your key players?