Chicago Bears Host Arizona Cardinals Sunday


The 0-1 Chicago Bears host the 1-0 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, looking to score their first victory of the season and at the same time beat one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. EST.

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In their Week 1 loss to Green Bay, the Chicago Bears looked competitive but still missing some of the pieces needed to be a playoff contender. The passing game and protection were inconsistent, and the defense is still weak in just about every facet imaginable, failing to stop the run, rush the passer, force a turnover or hinder the Packers’ passing game.

Still, that’s only one game, and there were plenty of positives to be found. Matt Forte ran wild, Jay Cutler protected the ball (for the most part) and the receiving corps looked strong despite some injury concerns.

Arizona, meanwhile, looked great in its win against New Orleans. Carson Palmer, returning from tearing his ACL last year, threw for more than 300 yards and a couple touchdowns.

Sep 13, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer looks to pass in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He’s got one Hall-of-Famer to throw to in Larry Fitzgerald, and another good wide receiver in Michael Floyd. Their running game, a liability in 2014 (ranked 31st in yards gained), looked solid against New Orleans, running for 120 yards and almost five yards a carry.

Defensively, they struggled to stop New Orleans’ passing game (354 yards allowed), but managed to hold the Saints to 54 rushing yards. The Saints threw for more than 300 yards in seven games last year, so I don’t put too much stock in the Cardinals’ struggle to stop the New Orleans passing attack. The Saints can throw the ball on anyone.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins (96) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears will be looking to take a few steps forward this week, and if they’re able to do that I think they can come away with a win.

The first step is on defense, where they need to pressure Palmer. The defense didn’t collect a sack or a hit on Rodgers last week, and now they’re dealing with more injuries and Jeremiah Ratliff is still suspended.

That task got harder on Friday, when ESPN reported that Pernell McPhee, the Bears’ top free agent acquisition, is questionable with injuries to his wrist and knee. The talented outside linebacker had six tackles last week, and is one of the best players on the defense and one of the few familiar with a 3-4 scheme. If he can’t go, look for Willie Young, the recently re-signed Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston to chip-in opposite Jared Allen at the outside linebacker slots.

The Bears’ pass rush was weak last week, and I’m not sure how they can fix it this week, particularly as cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Alan Ball will need help covering the Cardinals’ receivers. Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio will have to be creative in coming up with schemes to pressure Palmer, who doesn’t have great arm strength and isn’t overly mobile.

On offense, the Bears need to keep running the ball with Matt Forte, protect Cutler against a good Cardinals’ defense and protect the football.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs for a touchdown and Green Bay Packers linebacker Nate Palmer (51) loses his helmet attempting a tackle during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Those are familiar battle cries for the Bears, but each of them will impact each other and holds a key to the Bears staying close and pulling out a win. If they can run the ball, they can wear down the pass rush (helping to protect Cutler) and lessen the chances the turnover-prone quarterback has to throw the ball.

If they can protect Cutler, they’ll also cut down on those turnover chances. This is the second week Kyle Long will have played right tackle, and he’ll have his hands full with talented defensive end Calais Campbell. The Bears need to run at Campbell to wear him down, and help Long in pass protection.

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) runs after catching a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

On the injury front, aside from McPhee, Alshon Jeffery, who missed all of the preseason, re-aggravated his injuries this week, according to ESPN, and is listed as questionable. The Bears also listed Ego Ferguson (knee) as questionable and ruled reserve linebacker Jonathan Bostic (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) out for the game. Acho (illness), left tackle Jermon Bushrod (back) and Sherrick McManis (thigh) were listed as probable.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, listed starting running back Andre Ellington out for the game with a knee injury suffered against the Saints, and top-notch guard Mike Iupati was also ruled out for the game with a knee injury. Floyd and tight end Jermaine Gresham are listed as probable with hand and hamstring injuries, respectively.

Even without all those injuries, the Bears had a tall task ahead of them. The Cardinals have one great cornerback in Patrick Peterson, and a talented front seven. On offense, the Cardinals have a handful of weapons that, if deployed correctly against a weak Bears defense, will pose problems.

But the Bears have several things going for them. The 1 p.m. start time should work against Arizona, and Palmer is prone to turnovers. If the Bears can pressure him – a big “if” after last week’s showing – he will give the Bears a chance to force turnovers. And Arizona didn’t face a running back of Forte’s talent last week. Look for the Bears to have far more success on the ground than the Saints did.

If the Bears can pressure Palmer and Cutler can improve in at least one facet of his game (turnovers or completion percentage), the Bears could upset the likely playoff contenders from Arizona.

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