Matchups to Watch: Bears Offense vs. Colts Defense
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
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 ...
The Colts will lose this game if ...
The Bears will win this game if ...
The Bears will lose this game if ...
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
Behind Enemy Lines: Part III
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