Tonight, the Chicago Bears will welcome Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to Soldier Field. When these two teams met in Denver last year, the Broncos scored 10 points in the final three minutes to tie the game and won it in overtime after a Marion Barber fumble.
This game will be much different, with most of the key players on the bench by the end of the first quarter. Chicago will be looking to build on their lofty expectations from the pre-season, and there will be several key things that the fans should be looking for in this game.
This will be Webb's first test against a tough Denver Defense, and he will be under pressure from the opening snap. Webb's performance could cement him into the starting lineup or could open the door for other players to step in and take over.
Gabe Carimi hasn't lined up against another team since September 18 of last season. His rehab is complete and he's playing well in limited action. It's time to see how far he has come.
Don't expect much in the way of playing time from Carimi this week though. Expect a series or two and that's about it. The Bears have been very cautious with him this pre-season, and you can expect them to be cautious here.
It will be good to see him in pads lined up against the Broncos though. Let's hope his knee is ready to go.
Chris Williams may be the #2 left tackle behind J'Marcus Webb, but he's been splitting time with Gabe Carimi at right tackle as well. There is speculation that he can even move to guard before the season starts. How he performs against Denver could be a clue as to where he fits in this season.
James Brown is a rookie tackle out of Troy that has been showing a nice spark during training camp. He's not ready to become a starter yet, but he'll see extended playing time in this game. It will be interesting to see if this young man has a future with the Bears.
Cory Brandon is a huge OT that also has a chance to make the roster this year. He's 6' 7" tall, 325 lbs and he's only 24. He is another guy that has been mentioned as someone that the Bears are looking to develop. Expect to see him with extended playing time as well.
Matt Forte ended last season on Injured Reserve. He made a brief appearance in the pro bowl and then proceeded to hold out until he received a new long-term contract.
He's missed all of the summer mini-camps, but signed his long term deal just in time for training camp. He is reportedly up to speed with the new offense and fully recovered from all of his injuries.
Today's game will be a true test of how far he has come, and how far he may still need to go.
Don't expect to see too much of "The Devin Package" tonight against Denver. The smart thing for Chicago to do will be to use Devin Hester in a very generic offense.
You might see him line up for a series or two on offense, but that's about it. He may not even return kicks.
The key thing to look for from Hester is how well he executes his routes on offense. Can he gain separation? Does he round out his cuts or are they sharp? Does he look like he's where he is expected to be?
These are the things to look for from Hester tonight.
Dane Sanzenbacher has had a good camp. He showed solid improvement from last season and is hungry to prove himself. Can he hang on to the ball and show that he's worth making the final 53 man roster?
The Bears just re-signed Rashied Davis this week after Devin Thomas suddenly quit the team. Davis couldn't be happier to be back with the Bears and will play with a renewed fire to show he's not done.
Chris Summers has had a quiet training camp, but he made some noise in the summer mini-camps. He'll see extended time in this game as well, and he could be the dark horse in this race.
Seeing how all three of these guys perform against a real opponent should give a good clue as to who will be Chicago's #6 WR this year.
Few Chicago Bears have more expectations placed on them than first-round pick Shea McClellin. The Bears surprised just about everyone by selecting McClellin this year, and his training camp hasn't exactly been a lights-out performance.
McClellin is still lining up with the second team, but that's good because we'll get to see a lot of him against Denver. His ability to rush the passer was a big key to why the Bears selected him. Can he get to the quarterback and prove he was worthy of being Chicago's first pick this season?
Brian Urlacher has missed six consecutive practices. Part of that was due to his knee injury and part of it was being excused for personal matters. Chicago had a closed practice yesterday but the rumor was that Urlacher wasn't there either.
Speculation is running wild about Urlacher's knee and if he is really ready to go. The fact that the Bears are not providing any details about it is just adding gasoline to the raging fire.
Urlacher has already been ruled out of tonight's game, and Chicago fans won't care if he never plays a down in pre-season. As long as he's healthy. Let's hope that he's at least on the sidelines with his team tonight, even if it's in street cloths.
We've heard good things about both of them all summer. It's time to see who steps up. The biggest battle left to be decided for Chicago is Tim Jennings vs. Kelvin Hayden. Who will be the starting CB opposite Charles Tillman?
Tonight's game will be the first round. Expect to see both of them playing for an extended period tonight.