The Bears and the Colts will meet Sunday at Soldier Field. This is only the second time they’ve met since 2007, where the Bears lost to the Colts in the Superbowl. Every year, each team shows promise, and every fan waits anxiously in anticipation for that opening kickoff. This particular match up is a very interesting one on several levels. Both teams had high expectations last year that eventually faded into the misery of a terrible finish; brought mostly from injuries suffered by their starting Quarterback. Both teams have reason to be confident of success this year, but still have yet to go out and prove it.
For the Colts, Peyton Manning – one of the best Quarterbacks of our day- sustained an unfortunate neck injury that had him sidelined for the entire season. Things only spiraled down from that point, leading to a forgettable season where they ended with only 2 wins that came at the end of the year. However, it has been said that there is no great loss without a little gain, and after finishing at the very bottom, they drafted rookie Andrew Luck, who now carries the hope of an entire franchise, and the burden of standing in the shoes of a former legend. I don’t know that Luck will ever be able to escape the comparisons to Manning (there are many), but I don’t believe that is such a terrible thing.
For the Colts, a change at Quarterback was only the beginning. As the Andrew Luck era begins, the entire shape and structure of the franchise is changing with him. Many of the old names Colts fans have been familiar with, are now gone. Names such as Pierre Garcon, Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Blair White and Jacob Tamme to name a few. Initially I hadn’t expected the Colts to clean house so acutely, I was impressed enough that they had the discernment to release Manning into free agency. Although Jim Irsay drew much criticism from the move, I believe ultimately it will work out for the best – for both, the Colts and Manning. In the meantime, it will take the Colts a few years to get back on their feet, but the addition of Luck is a good beginning.
He has yet to play a single game in the regular season, but if the pre-season is any indication, I believe Luck will do well in his career. He has demonstrated a very controlled and calm pocket presence, and his accuracy and arm strength looked right on the mark. Nevertheless, he is still a rookie and the NFL is a very cruel and unforgiving world. It doesn’t help that he is making his debut game at Soldier Field, against a veteran defense and arguably, one of the harsher environments in the NFL. It will give us all a very good look at exactly what Andrew Luck is made of, and is perhaps a very fitting baptism into a career that I expect to be successful.
As for the Bears, Jay Cutler and his offensive line have drawn an aggressive amount of criticism, both from the media and their own fans. In spite of an offensive line that has faltered at times, and a receiving corps that struggled to produce, Cutler led the Bears to the NFC Championship match in 2010, where he had to be taken out of the game by order of his medical staff due to injuries sustained in that game. Last year, after starting out 3-3, the Cutler led his team on a five game winning streak, where he looked poised to make another bid in the playoffs, until he sustained yet another injury in his last game against the San Diego chargers.
The offseason that followed was arguably one of, if not the most active in Bears history. It included changes almost everywhere. From Phil Emery taking the reins at General Manager, to Mike Tice assuming the role of Offensive Coordinator, to Brandon Marshall coming in, in an unexpected trade with the Miami Dolphins. For the first time in…well, forever…the Bears offense looks explosive, and Cutler went from having Matt Forte as his single reliable offensive weapon, to having an arsenal of extraordinary depth.
And while the offense seems ripe and ready to play, the defense is struggling with age and injuries. Most notably, Brian Urlacher, who hurt his knee in the final match up against the Minnesota Vikings, has stated that his knee will “never be the same.” While it is expected that Urlacher will play in week 1, at the age of 34, it is only a matter of time before the Future Hall of Famer comes to terms with the gravity of the situation. This is the final year of his contract, and every Bear fan wishes him to remain healthy and finish the year, hopefully with the ever-elusive Superbowl Ring, but only time itself can answer some questions. Along with Urlacher, Brandon Hardin – a Third Round draft pick this year, has sustained a season-ending injury before the regular season has even began. The Bears have struggled to maintain healthy Safety’s in recent history, and they are growing thin at that position.
Sunday will give us our first preview into what the future has in store for both of these organizations. I expect there will be more good than bad, but admittedly, I am generally more optimistic in my evaluations of players than perhaps the next guy. Even so, it is an exciting time, and as a die-hard Bears fan, I am very enthusiastic here at the beginning. I think Emery has done a marvelous job so far in his offseason acquisitions, and I am eager to see it come together on the field.
As for the Colts, I truly do wish Andrew Luck the best. I very much enjoy watching talented, young Quarterbacks enter the league. There aren’t very many of them. I only regret that he has to make his entrance in Chicago. I believe Luck will keep the Colts competitive, but there are just too many factors playing against him in his debut. For this game, I am predicting the Bears to win 27-17.
Disclaimer: This is my first year making predictions, so we’ll see how it goes!