Colts vs. Bears: How Should Chicago Attack Indianapolis?
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On the scale of monster building, the Colts are somewhere between "Acquire the Brain" and screaming "IT'S ALIIIIIVE." Unfortunately for Indianapolis, they are still carving up the cadaver, and the season is already upon them.
The Colts have the blessing of low expectations this season, and it's good, because the opener with Chicago won't be pretty. Chicago is superior to Indianapolis in every possible phase of the game, and will be able to pick their method of attack both offensively and defensively.
Colts on Offense
The Indianapolis offensive line allows more pressure than a limo on prom night, and the Bears will seek to rattle Andrew Luck in his first professional start. Obviously, the pressure begins with Julius Peppers, but the Bears offered little by the way of a pass rush in 2011 apart from him. Chicago blitzes around a quarter of all snaps, according to Football Outsiders (h/t Chicago Tribune), so they'll be looking to win individual matchups with the Colts.
The Bears are still running a Cover-2 shell, at least as their base, and they have a big advantage over the Indianapolis wideouts. The Colts don't have anyone that stretch the field vertically and their wideouts will struggle to get open.
With Austin Collie's health always a quarter-by-quarter proposition, and T.Y. Hilton slowed by injury, the Colts will have to rely on Donnie Avery more than any team should. Without the threat of the deep ball to keep them honest, watch for the Bears to play Cover-3, leaving the safety to help against Coby Fleener as the corners match up against the wideouts.
That extra man in the box threatens doom for a Colts run game that will likely be in the bottom five in football. The Bears were savage against the run in 2011, and Indianapolis will be lucky to get 3.5 yards a carry against them.
The Bears can beat the Colts' offense either way they choose to play. They may decide to take away the run with the front seven, and double the Colts' receivers, or they can ignore them and load up against the run. Either way, it's advantage Chicago.
Indianapolis' best hope will be that Luck is pinpoint with his passes and keep plays alive long enough to hit some big plays downfield. Dink and dunk will play right into the Bears' hands. If the Colts want to win, they'll need Luck to be beyond spectacular.
Indianapolis on Defense
The Colts are vulnerable to the run and the pass, leaving Chicago plenty of angles to attack. The Colts showed no ability to stop the run in the preseason, and the Bears could pound the ball all day.
Offensive line isn't the Bears' strength, but Matt Forte is a talented back who could find plenty of lanes against a Colts front line still operating without adequate depth and talent.
Perhaps the quickest way to beat Indy is to go three wide and force them into the nickel. This has two benefits. First, it forces Justin King onto the field. While Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis are a good combination at corner, the talent level plummets once teams bring on extra wideouts.
Second, forcing the Colts into the nickel creates a personnel nightmare. They either have to abandon their 3-4 look and move Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis into a down position, or risk having one them wind up in coverage, which is sure to be a nightmare.
The Colts' defense is predicated on generating blitz pressure with Freeney and Mathis, so anything that forces them to declare their intent pre-snap will only help the Bears. Indianapolis will spend most of the game putting a heavy rush on Cutler, but if the Bears can pick it up, they'll have huge chunks of yards for the taking against King.
Indianapolis on Special Teams
The Bears has one of the best special teams units in football for the past several years. The Colts have one of the worst. If there is going to be a big special teams play made to help turn the game, it will likely be made by Chicago.
The Colts are trying to improve their special teams, but special teams play is often a factor of overall roster strength, and that is something the Colts lack.
On paper, this game is a complete mismatch. Indianapolis is outclassed at every position on the field, with the possible exception of quarterback, and even then you have to like Jay Cutler at home more than Andrew Luck in his first game.
The Bears will have their way with the Colts and dominate from start to finish. If Indy can keep the game within 20 points, they'll be doing very well.
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