Week 1. The Chicago Bears will be facing the Cincinnati Bengals in a home opener of epic proportions. The last time these two juggernauts faced each other in 2009, the Bengals came out victorious in lopsided score of 45-10.
Ugh… That game sucked. At least for us Bears fans. For Bengals fans, that game was epic and fun. It is all about perspective. So why preview the games just from a Bears fan’s perspective? Why don’t we mix it up and gain the perspective and knowledge from the opponents’ fans? So I contacted our friend Jason Marcum at Stripe Hype and asked him a few questions about the off season and the match-up between these two great NFL Franchises. We will do this again before week 1 and every week during the season in our weekly edition of 5 Questions.
1. What did you like and/or dislike about what the Bengals did in free agency and the draft?
I loved the fact that they stood firm in their belief of drafting and developing your own players, then re-signing them to long-term deals if they prove they’re worth it. They kept their best free agents in OT Andre Smith, DE Michael Johnson and CB Adam Jones.
Then they waited for the free agency dust to settle and got former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison on a bargain deal. While he’s clearly not able to perform at the level anymore, he’ll still be the best strong-side linebacker the Bengals have had since Mike Zimmer took over as defensive coordinator, so it’s still a great signing.
They killed it with their offensive needs in the draft. They added a dynamic pass-catching tight end, Tyler Eifert, who can line-up all over the field and be a great red-zone threat for an offense that settled for too many field goals in 2012.
They added the best multidimensional running back in this draft with Giovani Bernard, as he posses the pass-catching ability and game, breaking speed not seen in a Bengals’ back since Corey Dillon was toting the rock.
I didn’t like that in neither free agency nor in the draft did they add a true-impact strong safety who could come in and immediately start. They drafted Shawn Williams in the third-round, but I’m not even sure he’ll beat out the enigmatic Taylor Mays. Williams was used strictly as an in-the-box safety at Georgia, and almost never was asked to drop back into deep coverage.
Facing a Bears offense that will feature Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett in Week 1 makes me even more nervous. Baptism by fire as they say.
2. What is the Bengals most favorable and unfavorable match-up against the Bears?
I just mentioned the most unfavorable match-up. The Bears will undoubtedly look to isolate Williams into one-on-one match-ups with all of the aforementioned weapons they posses, and it will be a rough day for the rookie.
I’m also nervous about Julius Peppers going against Andrew Whitworth. Big Whit tends to have slow starts to the season, especially of late with the amount of off season surgeries he’s had.
He’ll be coming off of a knee procedure this time that’s already causing him to miss OTA’s, but even at 100%, I think he’ll be over-matched by Peppers.
I also went back and watched film on Peppers and noticed the Bears move him to defensive tackle on passing downs. If that’s the case, I’m even more frightened, as he’ll easily overpower Clint Boling in one-on-one match-ups.
As for favorable match-ups for the Bengals, Jermaine Gresham, Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert vs. the Bears linebackers will be a good one. Gresh and Eifert can have a field day against an aging and depleted Bears LB core, and that will eventually lead to some wide-open routes underneath for Bernard to showcase his skills as a pass-catching RB.
3. Who do you see as a better Quarterback/Receiver combo? Dalton/Green or Cutler/Marshall?
Dalton/Green. Cutler is a more talented QB, but he is far too erratic for my liking, and though Bears teammates repeatedly defend him, he doesn’t strike me as a player that inspires those around him. Despite his shortcomings, Dalton has better leadership qualities, and still has a bit of room to grow his abilities.
Green is clearly a better and more complete receiver who can beat you deep, or kill you slowly with short-intermediate routes.
4. What is your opinion about Jay Cutler as a quarterback and a person?
Well, I think I summed it up before – he’s a good, but not great QB who can win you a Super Bowl, if he has enough of a supporting cast. He has the offensive counterparts to do that now, but can the defense hold up enough is the question. If you could take this year’s offense and mix it with last year’s defense, this is a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They still can be, but I need to see how well Cutler adjusts to their new offensive scheme.
5. What is your prediction for the game, including a final score?
This has all the makings of a Week 1 thriller. The Bengals don’t have any way of adequately preparing for what Marc Trestman will unleash, and the Bears don’t have the horses on defense to keep up with the Bengals’ skill players. The Bengals typically struggle to contain dynamic backs like Matt Forte, and I think he’ll have big day. The Bears should control the line of scrimmage on defense with Peppers, Henry Melton and Stephen Paea, which puts the pressure on Dalton to get the ball to Green and the rest of his weapons.
If Peppers, Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton can keep up the pressure on Dalton, then I see the Bears outlasting the Bengals in a 24-23 game.
Be sure to check out Stripe Hype to find out more about the Chicago Bears’ Week 1 opponent.