Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Eric Hartz of, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday's Week 1 matchup between the Bears and Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Let's finish this three-part series with a few matchups to watch and final predictions.

Matchups to Watch: Bears Offense vs. Colts Defense
C Olin Kreutz vs. DT Ed Johnson:
Big Ed went from an undrafted free agent to a 16-game starter for the Colts last year, and the team is hoping he can take even bigger steps this year as a leader of the defense. He'll have his hands full trying to clog the middle against Kreutz, the savvy veteran in the pivot for the Bears.

The Colts defense hasn't been stellar against the run in the preseason, although they have gotten better as they've gotten healthier. But a key for Indianapolis will be limiting the Bears rushing attack and making Kyle Orton beat them. If safeties Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea are tackling the Bears backs seven yards downfield, it could be a long night for the Colts.

OT John St. Clair vs. DE Dwight Freeney: St. Clair supposedly wasn't good enough to start last season ahead of the departed Fred Miller at right tackle, but now he's protecting Orton's blind side at left tackle after Miller was released and John Tait moved from left to right. We'll find out right away if St. Clair is up to the challenge, as Freeney is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL and ready to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2007. The offensive line is perhaps the biggest question mark for the Bears this year, even more so because their skill-position players leave a lot to be desired.

We all know that Orton isn't very fleet of foot in the pocket, so look for rookie running back Matt Forte to assist St. Clair with a chip block on Freeney whenever possible.

Matchups to Watch: Colts Offense vs. Bears Defense
WR Reggie Wayne vs. CB Nathan Vasher:
With fellow receiver Marvin Harrison sidelined for much of the 2007 season, Wayne emerged as the Colts' go-to receiver and was moved all over the field. But with Harrison back and healthy Wayne should log most of his time on the left side, which is Vasher's preferred side as well.

WR Reggie Wayne
Al Messerschmidt/Getty

Charles Tillman is the larger and more physical of the Bears' two cornerbacks, so he may draw this matchup against Wayne and leave Vasher to contend with Harrison. Whoever lines up across from him will have a big job to do to limit Wayne, who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2007. With Peyton Manning trying to get back into the flow of the offense, limiting Wayne's touches could go a long way in disrupting the rhythm of the Colts' potent offense.

TE Dallas Clark vs. LB Hunter Hillenmeyer: Tillman and Vasher will have their hands full keeping Wayne and Harrison in check, but most signal-callers – Manning is no exception – are at their best when the tight end is having success between the hashmarks. Hillenmeyer has gotten better every year he's been in the league and was on the field in passing situations more than ever this past season, while Clark is coming off a career-high 58 catches with 11 touchdowns. Hillenmeyer will be a spectator in the nickel package when the Colts bring Anthony Gonzalez into the lineup as a third wideout, meaning Clark is his responsibility more often than not when it's just Wayne and Harrison.

Remember, it was Clark and the tailbacks, Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, who did the most damage against the Bears in Super Bowl XLI catching the ball on short and intermediate routes, not Wayne and Harrison down the field – as a matter of fact, Harrison didn't register one reception in that game.

The Colts will win this game if ...
... they can limit the Bears running game and force Orton to beat them. The Colts secondary is one of the best units in the league, and the Bears receivers are an average group. If Chicago can't get the running game going, it will have a tough time putting points on the board through the air.

WR Devin Hester
Warren Wimmer Photography

The Colts will lose this game if ...
... they squander the early momentum and emotion that will come with a revved-up crowd at the opening of a new stadium and let Devin Hester break off a big return. The Colts were able to survive that during Super Bowl XLI, but with an offense that may be slow to find stride, a big special-teams play by the Bears could level the playing field for Chicago.

The Bears will win this game if ...
... they can put consistent pressure on Manning and force a handful of turnovers. Orton should take better care of the football than Rex Grossman ever did, so now it's up to the defense to get that turnover ratio heavily in Chicago's favor just like it was in 2006. It will be very interesting to see if the Colts can afford to make all those changes at the line of scrimmage with veteran center Jeff Saturday on the sideline in street clothes.

The Bears will lose this game if ...
... they can't establish the run early on with Forte and Kevin Jones. Tony Dungy's defenses in Indianapolis had always had problems stopping the run until this past season, but those struggles seemed to come back during the exhibition schedule. Orton isn't going to light it up through the air, especially with a less-than-stellar cast of receivers surrounding him, so the Midway Monsters need to move the chains on the ground and open up play-action pass opportunities.

Eric Hartz: Things have changed for both teams since Super Bowl XLI, but the result won't. A late touchdown pass from Manning will put the game out of reach ... Colts 24 Bears 10

John Crist: The Bears still have the best special teams in the business, but that's their only known quantity right now. The offense is a work in progress at best, and the defense gave no indication during the preseason that it's ready to get back to elite status. Throw in the grand opening of Lucas Oil Stadium, and I think Chicago is overmatched ... Colts 27 Bears 10

To go back and read Part I, where Eric answered five questions from John, Click Here. For Part II, where John answered five questions from Eric, Click Here.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Eric Hartz is the Editor in Chief of

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