Preview: Chicago Bears take on Cincinnati Bengals


Boasting a 2-0 record (unfortunately comprised of meaningless preseason games), the Chicago Bears head east to Cincinnati on Saturday to take on the Bengals, a team they topped in the opener of the 2013 season.

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Despite massive overhauls to the coaching staff, schemes and certain positions, the Bears have looked solid in their first two preseason games, securing victories over Miami and Indianapolis. This third game is typically the dress rehearsal for the regular season, with the coaching staff hopefully making final decisions on starters and primary backups. The Bears are facing a handful of tough decisions – starter at right tackle, depth at running back and tight end, fixing the mess of injuries at wide receiver, and that’s just the offense – so those choices could filter into the fourth preseason game next week.

Writing this, it’s staggering to go back and look at what’s happened to these two teams since that 2013 opener, won by the Bears 24-21 on a fourth quarter touchdown toss from quarterback Jay Cutler to wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Sep 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) reacts after making a touchdown catch against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. Chicago defeats Cincinnati 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

I had the opportunity to watch that game with a Bengals fan, and we spent much of the time complaining about our teams. The Bears struggled to run the ball – 81 yards on 28 carries – and Cutler threw the standard pick. The Bears defense couldn’t get off the field, allowing the Bengals to go seven of 11 on third downs. Still, the defense forced three turnovers, and the offense ran out the last 6:38 on the clock for the win.

Since then, the Bengals have gone 21-9-1 while the Bears have gone 12-19. The Bengals have made the playoffs four straight years, although advancing no further than their first game, and have boasted complete teams on both sides of the ball. The Bears, in an era that started strong (the first six games, anyway) under former coach Marc Trestman, sank under internal strife and abysmal defense, missing the playoffs in 2013 and 2014. Trestman was given the boot, and here we are now under Head Coach John Fox.

Aug 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While the Bears have looked strong in the preseason, the Bengals have looked up and down, with a strong showing against the Giants in a 23-10 victory mitigated by a horrendous showing against Tampa Bay in a game the Striped Ones lost 25-11. Watching that game Monday, the starting Bengals defense struggled to stop the run and pass, while quarterback Andy Dalton threw a pair of picks, though one was AJ Green’s fault, as the easily catchable ball deflected off his hands.

The Bears come into this game boasting a slew of injuries. Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson are all injured and could miss the game, while rookie receiver Kevin White will definitely miss the game dealing with a shin injury. According to ESPN, Wilson and Jeffrey were listed as questionable on Thursday, while Royal and linebacker Willie Young were listed as probable.

For the Bengals, linebacker Vontaze Burfict is out for the game, while backup quarterback AJ McCarron is probable.

The Bears are also dealing with a three-game suspension to Jeremiah Ratliff. The suspension doesn’t kick-in until the regular season, but the team needs to get more snaps for rookie Eddie Goldman, who will likely start in Ratliff’s place, and for whomever Goldman’s backup will be.

Aug 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford (36) with the ball during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to finding solutions to injuries and suspensions, the Bears are also looking for the final answer in the backup battles across the roster. Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey and Jacquizz Rodgers are all fighting to be Matt Forte’s backup, while Cameron Meredith, Rashad Lawrence, Marc Mariani and Josh Bellamy are looking to take advantage of the injuries to the top four receivers on the Bears’ roster. Charles Leno Jr. and Jordan Mills are continuing the battle to out-fail each other to start at right tackle.

On defense, the line seems set, although Willie Sutton has flashed strong potential at defensive end and could push Ego Ferguson and Jarvis Jenkins for playing time. The main controversy with the defense is at linebacker, where Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho are making cases to start at outside linebacker opposite Pernell McPhee.

With only tonight’s game and one more left before actual football starts, the Bears have plenty on their plate to figure out. Hopefully they can do so without more injuries affecting their decisions.

Next: Bears at Bengals: 5 Things to Watch For

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