Five Chicago Bears To Watch This Week

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Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) is called for pass interference against Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones (89) during the second half at Soldier Field. Green Bay won 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears play their second straight home game to open the 2015 season on Sunday, hosting Carson Palmer, Bruce Arians and the Arizona Cardinals.

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The Chicago Bears looked better than many (including me) thought they would in their Week 1 loss to Green Bay. They ran the ball very well, protected the ball (for the most part), the receivers and tight end Martellus Bennett looked good and quarterback Jay Cutler looked confident running the new system.

Still, there was plenty to be concerned about. The defense, while it didn’t give up many big plays, struggled to get off the field, there was no pass rush and they didn’t generate a turnover. The pass protection was average, particularly in the first half, when the Bears allowed two sacks.

This week, the Bears are taking on the Arizona Cardinals, a team that made the playoffs last year even though their starting quarterback, Palmer, was injured in Week 7 and missed the rest of the season.

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) against the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Saints 31-19. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Returning from a torn ACL, Palmer looked great last week against New Orleans, going 19 of 32 for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ 31-19 win. He’s throwing to two great receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, and has two decent backs in Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson. Ellington, though, left the game early with a knee injury and didn’t practice Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) and strong safety Deone Bucannon (20) look on during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals are also stocked on defense, where cornerback Patrick Peterson, defensive end Calais Campbell and linebackers Kevin Minter and Sean Witherspoon lead a talented bunch that finished fifth in points allowed last season. They lost then-Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles, who is now the head coach of the New York Jets, but they showed little trouble in handling that problem, allowing only 19 points in their Week 1 win against New Orleans and holding the Saints to less than 60 rushing yards.

The Cardinals did allow more than 350 passing yards, but the Saints, with Drew Brees and Sean Payton running the show, have one of the most efficient passing games in the league. The Bears’ passing game is still a work in progress.

The Bears should be confident heading into this game. They played well last week, losing a close contest to Green Bay. The offense committed only one turnover and ran well; the defense gave ground grudgingly. They’re playing a team that ran 25 times for 120 yards, but Ellington may not play. Johnson is a veteran backup with a great history, but is no longer a featured back.

If the Bears can force Arizona to become one dimensional, they could pressure Palmer and force him into mistakes.

We’ll do a full preview of this game later this week, but for now let’s look at five players to watch in Sunday’s game.

Next: No Surprises Here