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Week 4 Game Preview: Bears-Colts

The Bears are out to prove they are deserving of being 3-0 with a new QB against the best defense in the league

New York Jets v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Are the Bears imposters? Are they for real? It seems like the national narrative is that they belong in the former category but perhaps with Nick Foles starting the offense will get the jump it needs to demonstrate they can hang with the best of them.

They’ll need that offense this week, with the Colts coming to town with the number one ranked defense. But is their defense for real? They’ve been able to feed on the lowly Jets and struggling Vikings and even though they lost to the Jaguars, I’m not sure that Jacksonville is really an offensive powerhouse either.

Equally questions surround our Bears though, with them beating the lowly Giants, the stumbling Falcons, and the Lions, who just can’t get out of their own way at times.

So perhaps by late Sunday we’ll have a better idea of where both of these teams stand. Or maybe the questions will continue to linger.

Indianapolis Colts

SB Nation site: Stampede Blue

Record: 2-1, second in AFC South

Last week: 36-7 win over the Jets

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, CBS

Bears all-time record against: 19-23 regular season, 0-1 postseason (no I don’t want to talk about it)

Historical meetings: Back in 2000, the 1-7 Bears hosted the 6-1 Colts at Soldier Field. Vegas had the Colts as touchdown favorites on the road.

The Bears caught the Colts sleeping and managed to jump out to a 27-0 lead behind a Curtis Enis touchdown run, a Jim Miller-to-Marcus Robinson pass and a Walt Harris pick six, to with two Paul Edinger field goals.

But the Colts came roaring back, with 6 minutes left in the third quarter, Edgerrin James scored on a one-yard run and Peyton Manning hit Marcus Pollard for the two-point conversion.

A Mike Vanderjagt field goal and a 21-yard TD pass from Manning to James brought the Colts to within 10 but a second two-point attempt failed. The Bears couldn’t manage any offense in the second half, punting three times with two three-and-outs and turning it over on downs once.

Indianapolis made it a three point game with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Pathon with 1:42 to play.

The Colts recovered the onside kick but Rosevelt Colvin sacked Manning, forced a fumble that was recovered by Phillip Daniels and held on for the 27-24 win.

Last meeting: Week 5, 2016. The John Fox-led Bears and the Chuck Pagano-led Colts met in Indy. The Bears came in 1-3 and the Colts 2-2.

Brian Hoyer started for the Bears in place of the injured Cutler and went toe-to-toe with Andrew Luck, throwing for 397 yards and two touchdowns while Luck threw for 322 yards and a pair of TDs of his own.

The game went back and forth and remained close until midway through the fourth quarter when Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for a 35-yard touchdown and Adam Vinatieri hit a late field goal to put the Colts ahead 29 to 23.

Willie Young sacked Luck three times and Cameron Meredith had 130 yards receiving and a touchdown, but fumbled late, setting the Colts up for the Vinatieri field goal.

The Bears lost 29-23. I remember Hoyer missing a wide open Alshon Jeffery or something, but I can’t remember for sure what it was, specifically, so sound off if you do.

Injury report: The Colts listed four players on their Thursday injury report:

Did not participate: WR Michael Pittman Jr. (calf)

Limited: CB T.J. Carrie (shoulder)

Full participation: RB Nyheim Hines (shoulder), CB Rock Ya-Sin (non-football illness)

Offense: The Colts offense enters week four ranked 12th in yards and 13th in points. They rank 10th in passing yards and 15th in rushing yards.

Leading the offense is veteran QB Philip Rivers (78.3 cmp. pct./794 yds./3 TD/3 INT) throwing to T.Y. Hilton (10 rec./133 yds./0 TD), Zach Pascal (7/71/0), Michael Pittman Jr. (9/73/0) at receiver, as well as his leading targets in RB Nyheim Hines (13/89/1), TE Mo Alie-Cox (10/181/1) and RB Jonathan Taylor (9/79/0).

That’s an eclectic collection of leading receivers, as far as targets go, head coach Frank Reich likes to spread the ball around.

As far the ground game goes the Colts lost Marlon Mack in week one but have a solid fall back player in Jonathan Taylor (48 att./182 yds./2 TD). He’s spelled by Jordan Wilkins (18/79/0) and Hines (14/29/1).

Reich is a chip off the Andy Reid tree, so the defense may be able to see some similarities in the Colts’ offense that they see in practice.

Defense: The Colts come in boasting the top defense in the league in terms of both points and yards.

They are the number one pass defense in the league and the number four rushing defense.

They’re led by Darius Leonard (27 tkls/2 TFL/2 PD), DeForest Buckner (15 tkls/1.5 sacks/5 QB hits/2 TFL), Xavier Rhodes (2 INT/3 PD) and T.J. Carrie (2 INT/3 PD).

It appears from the injury report that they may be getting starting corner Rock Ya-Sin back this week.

Key match ups: On paper, the Bears offense is going to get tested unlike they have so far this season. The Colts defense is good, but it’s fair to ask how good because they haven’t really been tested, playing against the Jaguars, Vikings and Jets.

Let’s see how these receivers match up against the Colts’ secondary, particularly rookie Darnell Mooney.

Nick Foles will have to play smart against a defense that’s off to a hot start and has the third-most turnovers in the league.

For the defense, I see interesting match ups in the trenches with Akiem Hicks taking on Quinten Nelson and just the Colts OL against the Bears’ DL in general. The OL is one of the strengths of their team and it’s going to be fun to see who can get the best of the other side snap to snap.

Other than the obvious Jaylon Johnson and Kyle Fuller against T.Y. Hilton, the match up between the Bears’ linebackers, particularly Roquan Smith, against Alie-Cox will be interesting.

As we all know, the Andy Reid tree offense is very dependent on a tight end and Alie-Cox is becoming that guy for Reich.

Key stats:

  • The Colts OL has allowed the sixth fewest pressures so far this season. Philip Rivers has the fastest average time to throw this year at 2.36 seconds. (Source: PFF Brad)
  • According to Football Outsiders, the Bears are the worst 3-0 team by DVOA since the 2005 Washington Football Team. The Colts are the best team by DVOA currently.
  • Colts have the second-highest point differential in the NFL (+39), behind San Francisco
  • The combined records of the Colts’ and Bears’ opponents this season is 2-16.
  • Football Outsiders has the Bears offensive line as the seventh best in terms of adjusted line yards.
  • Darius Leonard was taken 28 picks after Roquan Smith. He has three more interceptions and 29 more tackles than Smith.

Is this a bigger test for the Colts or the Bears so far? Is the match up pretty even?