Bears-Cardinals Ultimate Game Preview

Our overflowing game preview for Sunday's contest between the Chicago Bears (0-1) and the Arizona Cardinals (1-0), including player notes, key stats, matchups and much more.

Game Information

Who: Chicago Bears (0-1) vs. Arizona Cardinals (1-0)

When: Noon CT

Where: Soldier Field

Series History

The two oldest franchises in the NFL and only remaining founding franchises of the American Professional Football Association (APFA) - renamed the NFL in 1922 - will square off on Sunday. The historic series dates back to 1920, the founding year of the NFL, when both teams were located in Illinois. The Bears, who were then the Decatur Staleys, and the Chicago Cardinals faced each other at Normal Park in Chicago during back-to-back weekends, with each team taking a contest.

In the all-time series, the Bears own a 58-27-6 lead in 91 previous meetings with the Cardinals. The Bears hold a 37-11-5 edge in "home" contests, which does not include games at both Wrigley Field and Solider Field when the Bears were considered the visiting team. The Bears are 2-1 at home against the Cardinals since the franchise moved to Arizona. Chicago has won six of the last eight meetings between the two teams.

Bears-Cardinals Connections

-Bears defensive coorindaotr Vic Fangio held the same role in Indianapolis when Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was the Colts quarterbacks coach in 1999-2000 and Arizona assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore was the Colts offensive coordinator.

-Chicago head coach John Fox was in his first season as an NFL assistant coach with Pittsburgh in 1989 (secondary) when Moore was in his final season as the Steelers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

-Arizona wide receivers coach Darryl Drake held the same role with the Bears for nine seasons (2004-12).

-Bears linebackers coach Glenn Pires held the same role with the Cardinals from 1996-2000.

-Chicago OLB Sam Acho spent four seasons (2011-14) with Arizona, while S Harold Jones-Quartey was signed by the Cardinals this season as an undrafted free agent and was claimed by the Bears after he was waived at the end of the preseason.

Head-Coach Comparison

John Fox Bruc Arians
119-90 (.569) Regular Season Record 22-11 (.667)
8-7

Playoff Record

0-1
14th Years as NFL head coach 3rd
1st Years as team's head coach 3rd
1-0 Career Head-to-Head 0-1
8-2 Career vs. Team 0-0

Head-to-Head Comparison

Bears (NFL Rank) Cardinals (NFL Rank)
23.0 (17th) Points Scored 31.0 (T-5th)
402.0 (6th) Total Offense 427.0 (4th)
189.0 (2nd) Rushing Offense 120.0 (11th)
213.0 (17th) Passing Offense 307.0 (6th)
31.0 (T-25th) Points Allowed 19.0 (T-10th)
322.0 (14th) Total Defense 408.0 (28th)
133.0 (26th) Rushing Defense 54.0 (1st)
189.0 (13th) Passing Defense 354.0 (30th)
-1 (T-20th) Turnover Ratio 0 (T-14th)

Injury Report

Out for the Bears are LB Jon Bostic (ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (hamstring). Questionable for the Bears are WR Alshon Jeffery (calf/hamstring), OLB Pernell McPhee (wrist) and DL Ego Ferguson (knee), none of whom practiced on Friday.

Probable for Chicago are OT Jermon Bushrod (back), OLB Sam Acho (illness) and CB Sherrick McManis (thigh).

For the Cardinals, RB Andre Ellington (knee) and G Mike Iupati (knee) have been ruled out. Both are starters for Arizona's offense.

Questionable are S Deone Buccanon (groin) and S Tony Jefferson (hamstring). Buccanon was limited in practice on Friday.

Probable for the Cardinals are WR Michael Floyd (hand), TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and TE Troy Niklas, all of whom were full participants in Friday's practice.

The Cutty Files

In the regular-season opener against the Packers, Jay Cutler completed 18 of 36 passes for 225 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His touchdown came in garbage time when the Bears were down two scores and his interception sealed the game for Green Bay. In addition, offensive coordinator Adam Gase put the ball in Cutler's hands four straight times with goal-to-go and he failed to score a touchdown.

Cutler has taken his lumps from fans and media this week. Despite the offense running the ball at will - the Bears' 189 rushing yards were second most in the NFL in Week 1 - Cutler and the offense mustered just 16 points before the garbage-time TD. They were just 1-for-3 in the red zone and had three drives of 11 plays or more that resulted in just field goals.

The Bears were able to move the ball - they had the 6th most total yards in the NFL last week - but they couldn't finish drives. Not all of that falls on Cutler, who actually played very well for most the game, but when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scored touchdowns on four of their final six drives, at some point Cutler needed to step up. That never happened.

The good news is that Cutler was very judicious with the football against Green Bay and did not put many passes in harm's way. Even the interception was as much an amazing play by Clay Matthews as it was a bad throw by Cutler. That's a positive Cutler can build on going forward.

For the Bears to pull off the upset on Sunday, Cutler has to do two things. The first is limit the turnovers. That's an obvious one.

The second is to raise his level of play during the three or four crucial snaps that will likely decide this game. Rodgers does it on a weekly basis, so why can't Cutler?

Bears on Offense

Matchups to Watch

LT Jermon Bushrod vs. OLB Alex Okafor
Okafor burst onto the scene in his second NFL season last year with 8.0 sacks in just 12 starts. He followed that up with 2.0 sacks in Arizona's season opener against the Saints. Okafor is one of the best young pass-rushing talents in the game and will give Bushrod, who is still nursing a back injury, all he can handle. The last thing Cutler needs is pressure from his blindside, so Bushrod and the rest of the blockers must limit Okafor's ability to collapse the pocket.

WR Eddie Royal vs. CB Tyrann Mathieu
The Cardinals use Mathieu as a safety in base sets and as a nickelback in sub defense. They'll move him around to other spots on the field as well but in three- or four-receiver sets, expect Mathieu to line up across from Royal. That's a tough matchup for Royal, as Mathieu is a versatile, athletic and scrappy defender with a knack for making big plays. Royal had just one catch for five yards in the opener and needs to have a much better game, particularly with Jeffery's status in question, for Chicago's passing offense to flourish on Sunday.

Keys on Offense

-DE Calais Campbell is one of the most physical interior defenders in the NFL. At 6-8, 300 pounds, he can easily two-gap against the run and provides consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, averaging more than 6.0 sacks per season since 2009.

“He’s a big man. Physical," Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase said this week. "He always seems to be at the right place at the right time. I was on the unfortunate end last year—we ran a screen; he picked it off. He just shows up around the ball. He’s very disruptive. He’s probably one of the top interior guys there are in the league. That’s going to be a tough matchup for us this week.”

Campbell lines up mainly on the offense's left side, meaning RG Matt Slauson will have his hands full trying to occupy one of the best all-around defensive linemen in the game.

-RB Matt Forte rushed for 141 yards last week but will likely find running room much tougher to come by on Sunday. The Cardinals have the NFL's No. 1 ranked rushing defense, after holding the Saints to just 54 yards on the ground last week. In all likelihood, the Bears are going to have to win this game through the air.

-If Jeffery can't play, Marquess Wilson will step into the No. 1 flanker role. That means he'll get the attention of CB Patrick Peterson for most of the afternoon. That's not a great matchup for Wilson, who will struggle against Peterson's freakish blend of size, speed and strength. If Cutler is smart, he'll avoid throwing to Wilson when the Cardinals use man coverage.

-TE Martellus Bennett had just 4 catches for 31 yards before the garbage-time TD last week. He was underutilized for most of the game, particularly in the red zone. That must change against Arizona, as Bennett is by far the healthiest and most dependable receiver on this roster.

Bennett is the type of player who feeds off good plays. When you get him going early, he'll find his rhythm, which is a nightmare for opposing defenses.

If that scenario plays out and Bennett catches fire early, don't be surprised if the Cardinals put bracket coverage on him, or even place Peterson across from the Black Unicorn.

Bears on Defense

Matchups to Watch

CB Alan Ball vs. WR Larry Fitzgerald
Ball was torched last week by James Jones, who caught three touchdown passes, one of which was called back due to penalty. Fitzgerald presents a much tougher challenge. In Week 1 he caught 6 passes for 87 yards and was targeted more than any other receiver on the team (8). That means Ball is going to get plenty of work out wide. If he has a repeat performance from last week, expect Fitzgerald to top 100 receiving yards.

RT Earl Watford vs. OLB Willie Young
Pernell McPhee is questionable and may not play. That would thrust Young, and to a lesser extent Lamarr Houston, into the primary pass-rushing role off the right side. Watford is making just his second NFL start and allowed three quarterback hurries last week. He can be exploited on passing downs. If Young and Houston can take advantage of a lumbering, inexperienced right tackle, the Bears should have plenty of success putting pressure on QB Carson Palmer.

Keys on Defense

-Carson Palmer missed 10 games last season after tearing his ACL for the second time in his career. Yet he looked fully healthy in the season opener against New Orleans, throwing for 307 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. Not coincidentally, Palmer was not sacked in that game, which allowed him the time he needed to pick apart the Saints secondary.

The Bears failed to sack Aaron Rodgers last week and we know how that turned out. If Chicago once again gets nothing from its pass rush, the results won't be any different. Much of that will fall on Jared Allen, who gets a tough matchup against LT Jared Veldheer. If Allen could finally step up and play to his contract, the Bears can keep Palmer and Arizona's offense in check.

-The Cardinals will be without starting running back Andre Ellington and will turn to veteran Chris Johnson as the team's primary ball carrier. Johnson still has top-tier speed and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.

"I’ve seen him for many years there in Tennessee," John Fox said. "He’s a kid out of East Carolina when I was in the Carolinas, so I knew a lot about him, both in college and as a professional. He’s done it at a high level before. He’s definitely very capable."

The Bears did a poor job of setting the edge against Packers last week. Lacy is a good back but he doesn't have the speed of Johnson, who can blow up a defense if allowed to turn the corner. Chicago's edge defenders must be stout in order to keep Johnson under wraps.

-Out of the slot, the Bears must be very aware of WR John Brown. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine two years ago and can absolutely tear the roof off of opposing defenses. Chicago's starting safety duo of Adrian Amos and Antrel Rolle weren't tested with too many deep balls last week but you can guarantee Palmer will take multiple shots down the field to Brown.

The Bears safeties, as well as slot corner Sherrick McManis, must keep Brown in front of them, otherwise he'll deliver the big knockout blow over the top.

-Cardinals TE Darren Fells cannot be ignored. If the Bears focus too much of their attention on the receiver's out wide, Fells will make them pay in the middle of the field. The emerging tight end caught four passes for 82 yards and a TD in the opener and has the size (6-7, 281) to make life very difficult for inside linebackers Shea McClellin and Christian Jones.


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