BEARS - S Mike Brown (foot), WR Airese Currie (foot), DT Dusty Dvoracek (foot), DT Tommie Harris (hamstring), FB Bryan Johnson (leg), S Brandon McGowan (Achilles), Jamar Williams (shoulder)
COLTS - TE Jerome Collins (Achilles), S Mike Doss (knee), DE Johnathan Goddard (foot), RB James Mungro (knee), WR Brandon Stokley (Achilles), DT Montae Reagor (NFI), DT Corey Simon (NFI)
BEARS - none
COLTS - none
BEARS - none
COLTS - none
BEARS - WR Mark Bradley (ankle)
COLTS - CB Nick Harper (ankle), LB Keith O'Neil (rib), S Bob Sanders (knee)
BEARS - none
COLTS - none
Bears Offense vs. Colts Defense
The Bears bring a vastly underrated offensive attack to Miami. Their scoring leadership in the NFC went largely unnoticed. In fact, they scored the same number of points as the Colts (427). The Bears are scoring 33 points per game in the playoffs. The offensive attack is led by a line that has paved the way for runners Thomas Jones (1,210 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns) and Cedric Benson (647, 6) while keeping quarterback Rex Grossman's jersey relatively clean (21 sacks). The Bears are hopeful wide receiver Mark Bradley (ankle) will be ready to contribute. Bradley's speed-and-size combination could result in huge mismatches against an undersized and banged-up Colts secondary.
The Colts defense surrendered 173 rushing yards per game during the regular season. In their four losses, it was a porous 225 yards rushing at a 5.8 yards-per-carry clip. Their playoff run defense has been a stark contrast (73 yards per game). Many people are pointing to the return of safety Bob Sanders (knee) to the lineup as the reason for the improvement. However, a healthy Sanders started on the same defense that allowed 186 rushing yards to the Giants to open the season. Sanders's health will be important to keep an eye on between now and Sunday night. Another important factor is the insertion of linebacker Rob Morris on the strong side. Morris and John Tait are friends from their college days at BYU. Linebacker Cato June suffered a concussion a few weeks ago. He's the Colts' leading tackler but is undersized and can be a liability against the run. Cornerback Nick Harper (3 interceptions) is nursing an ankle injury. Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson will take on additional responsibilities if Harper is limited. The Colts secondary is coached by former Super Bowl Bear Leslie Frazier.
After averaging 120 rushing yards per game during the regular season, the Bears upped their ground game to a playoff average of 158 yards per contest. It would be surprising to see the Bears alter their game plan much in spite of the Colts stepping up in the playoffs. Look for the Colts to try jumping some of the shorter routes to force an early turnover. The gamble could result in an early big play for either side.
Bears Defense vs. Colts Offense
The Bears have played without safety Mike Brown and tackle Tommie Harris for the majority of the second half of the season. Although the statistics haven't been as dominant, the Bears' won-loss record - including the playoffs - has been 7-3 since the season's midpoint. Some minor injuries and a Ricky Manning Jr. suspension thinned out the Bears secondary down the stretch. This led to keeping the safeties focused more on pass defense than run support. Adewale Ogunleye benefited from the additional rest in the postseason. The left defensive end played through some bumps and bruises and didn't have a productive pass-rushing season, but he has two sacks and a forced fumble in two playoff games. Ogunleye will face off with Northern Illinois alumnus Ryan Diem.
The Colts are led by Peyton Manning and wide receivers Marvin Harrison (95 catches, 1366 yards, 12 TDs) and Reggie Wayne (86, 1310, 9). After throwing only nine interceptions during the regular season, Manning has thrown six picks in three playoff games. He hit his thumb on a helmet in the AFC Championship against the Patriots. Tight end Dallas Clark has been the Colts' leading receiver in the postseason. He and Ben Utecht shared duties during the regular season. The injury to third wide receiver Brandon Stokley has given more opportunities for Clark as well as Aaron Moorehead. Moorehead is the son of former Bears tight end Emery Moorehead, who played for the 1985 Super Bowl team. Diem and left guard Ryan Lilja should also benefit from the extra week off to heal minor aches and pains.
After dismantling the high-powered Saints, the Bears earned two weeks of preparation time for Manning and the Colts. Look for the Bears to limit the big plays the Colts can hit while picking their spots to provide enough pressure on Manning to disrupt his timing and passing lanes. The coverage assigned to Clark could be a major factor in the game's outcome. Expect Manning to test the sure tackling of the Bears with short to intermediate routes and try exposing the inexperience of safeties Danieal Manning and Chris Harris, who have struggled at times down the stretch.