The Chicago Bears' 2014 season is almost here.
In preparation of the Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills, we've broken down the Bears' 53-man roster, looked at how the offense has evolved under coach Marc Trestman, analyzed how his offense matches up against the Bills' defense and how Mel Tucker's defense can stop the Bills' offense.
|QB||EJ Manuel||Jay Cutler||Bears|
|RB||CJ Spiller/Fred Jackson||Matt Forte||Bears|
|FB||Frank Summers||Tony Fiammetta||Even|
|WR||Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams||Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Santonio Holmes||Bears|
|TE||Scott Chandler||Martellus Bennett||Bears|
|OL||Cordy Glenn, Chris Williams, Eric Wood, Erik Pears, Seantrel Henderson||Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills||Bears|
You don't have to necessarily like Cutler to know that he's a better quarterback than Manuel. Arm strength, accuracy, reading the field -- Cutler holds the edge. Forte has shown to be a strong outside runner, and that just so happens to be where the Bills' rush defense is weakest. The Bears' passing game should have its way with Buffalo, given the size and physical advantages Marshall and Jeffery have over the Bills' secondary.
Let's quickly look at what some of the experts are saying.
|Elliot Harrison||NFL Media||Bears|
|Mike Freeman||Bleacher Report||Bears|
|Eric Adelson||Yahoo! Sports||Bears|
|Ryan Van Bibbler||SBNation||Bears|
NFL.com, ESPN.com, SBNation.com, YahooSports.com
Harrison: Buffalo's offense will have trouble getting within range of the uprights, and I'm not sure Chicago's special teams unit can do anything correctly. Thus, it comes down to the Bears' offense vs. that underrated Bills defense. Jay Cutler will throw a pick-six early on, but ultimately, the trio of Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will be too much for Buffalo. This will be especially true if EJ Manuel can't get things going, in which case the field-position advantage will reside squarely with the home team.
Thinking veteran running back Fred Jackson will have a nice afternoon for Buffalo. It's hard to take him off the field. #BUFvsCHI.
|Mike Freeman||Bleacher Report||Bears|
|Pete Prisco||CBS Sports||Bears|
|Gregg Rosenthal||NFL Media||Bears|
|Mike Florio||Pro Football Talk||Bears|
CBSSports.com, NFL.com, ProFootballTalk.com, ESPN.com
Prisco: "The Bears will be explosive on offense, but Buffalo has a good defense. Something has to give. The concern is Buffalo's passing game. Has EJ Manuel made enough strides, even against a bad secondary? Not sure he has."
Florio: "EJ Manuel won’t be wearing a “C” on his jersey. But he will be wearing a Jared Allen."
So there you have it. The consensus says the Bears will beat the Bills, but you already knew that.
For some reason, this Week 1 game feels different than those of seasons past. This Bears team has so much potential; it's just hard to buy into it given how poor the defense looked last season and into this preseason.
|DL||Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes||Larmarr Houston, Jay Ratliff, Stephen Paea, Jared Allen||Bills|
|LB||Keith Rivers, Brandon Spikes, Randell Johnson||Shea McClellin, D.J. Williams, Lance Briggs||Bills|
|CB||Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams||Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings||Bears|
|S||Da'Norris Searcy, Stephon Gilmore||Chris Conte, Ryan Mundy||Bills|
Buffalo's strength lies in its defense, the front four, in particular. The Bills' front line recorded an eye-popping 41 sacks last season. This could present big problems for Chicago's offensive line if Mills isn't yet 100 percent. The right tackle missed the majority of the preseason due to a foot injury, be Mills says he'll be in the lineup against Buffalo.
Establishing the run game always is important when it comes to featuring a balanced offense, but it's even more important against a team like the Bills. The best way to keep the Bills' pass rush away from Cutler is by keeping the line on its heels, by not being predictable, by operating out of the no-huddle offense.
If Cutler can keep the offense moving down the field without too many stops along the way, Buffalo's defense, in theory, should be gassed earlier than usual, which will slow down that pass rush.
Week 1 isn't going to tell the entire story, but it will give us an idea as to where the Bears stand in their quest for a Super Bowl. Trestman's squad needs to figure a few things out. Who's going to start at safety as the season progresses? Is the special teams really as bad as it looked during the preseason? How does McClellin look in his new position?
It'll be nice to finally have something fresh to discuss once Sunday's game is played.
My prediction: Bears 31, Bills 17