Two teams seemingly moving in complete opposite directions will collide in Week 2 of the preseason on Thursday night.
The Chicago Bears narrowly missed the postseason last year, marking the fifth time in six years they have had to watch the playoffs from their respective couches.
But improvement of the Bears' ever-shaky offensive line in having added Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, rookie Kyle Long and three projected starters, along with the implementation of new head coach Marc Trestman's West Coast offense, are moves that have the team excited about its future.
Optimism for the San Diego Chargers, however, isn't nearly as high.
The Bolts finished 7-9 last year—their worst campaign since 2003—after Phillip Rivers' fourth-straight season of regression from a QB rating standpoint. And injuries are piling up quick.
Although their offensive outlook is depressing, the Chargers have made lots of compelling additions on defense, most notably with veteran Dwight Freeney and rookie Manti Te'o.
Despite these two teams being en route to very different levels on success in 2013, this is the preseason and there will be a slew of things to watch on both sides of the ball when they meet.
When: Thursday, August 15, 2013, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Solidier Field, Chicago
TV Info: ESPN
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: Chicago Bears (-6), according to Bovada
LB Manti Te'o, Foot, Doubtful
WR Vincent Brown, Hamstring, Questionable
LB Devan Walker, Knee, Out
CB Kenny Okoro, Undisclosed, Out
LB Melvin Ingram, Knee, Out
LB Jonas Mouton, Knee, Out
WR Danario Alexander, Knee, Out
WR Malcom Floyd, Knee, Out (Questionable for start of season)
WR Brandon Marshall, Hip, Probable
DL Henry Melton, Concussion, Questionable
WR Earl Bennett, Concussion, Questionable
LS Patrick Mannelly, Ribs, Questionable
CB Kelvin Hayden, Hamstring, Out
LB Gabe Miller, Suspension, Out
Chargers Player to Watch: Keenan Allen, WR
Really, I'd pay attention to the entire wide receiving corps.
Danario Alexander is lost for the season, Malcom Floyd is, best-case scenario, questionable for the start of the season, Robert Meachem is "broken down" and Vincent Brown missed the preseason opener with a hamstring injury.
Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego reports that Brown will play against the Bears, but the opportunity to earn a major role in this offense will still be wide open.
Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen combined for just three catches on five passes targeted to them against the Seattle Seahawks last week, but as the main suspects to step into the starting lineup, expect them to get more opportunities as we draw closer to the start of the regular season.
Allen, a third-round selection in this year's draft, is versatile, displaying impressive size, quickness and route-running. He represents far more upside than Royal, who is more of a slot option.
Bears Player to Watch: Marquess Wilson, WR
It seems like it was decades ago that Marquess Wilson, following a sophomore campaign in which he racked up 82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns with Washington State, was talked about as a potential first-round pick.
After that promising season, he had a major falling out with the Cougars and head coach Mike Leach, eventually leaving the team and falling to the seventh round where the Bears took a gamble on him.
Well, four catches and 82 yards later, it's starting to look like a smart gamble.
Still, Wilson's work isn't done.
The depth chart in Chicago isn't nearly as open as it is in San Diego, and in addition to showing that talent as a pass-catcher, Wilson may also have to prove his worth on special teams, per the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Johns and ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson:
The 20-year-old has the skill set to eventually turn himself into a seventh-round steal, but he has to make the team first. Keep your eye closely on him, in whatever capacity he is used.
Predicting a preseason game is sort of likely predicting lottery numbers.
Still, the Bears looked better in their Week 1 loss than the Chargers did in their's. The Bears also have more depth, fewer injuries (although both teams are quite banged up) and are at home.
Just remember, the process is far more important than the result.
San Diego 14, Chicago 24
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