The Chicago Bears are in the midst of their campaign against the AFC West. Following a solid yet sobering victory at home against the San Diego Chargers when they lost Jay Cutler, the Bears followed up with a 25-20 loss at Oakland in an ugly turnover plagued game by back up QB Caleb Hanie.
And now, they welcome the Kansas City Chiefs and a familiar face at the QB position back to Chicago on Sunday.
Kyle Orton may not be the listed starter yet, but with Shane Falco (OK, his name is Tyler Palko, but it is the same difference, really) throwing six interceptions and zero touchdowns in his first two games starting, Todd Haley will be quick to pull the plug if things go south early for his team.
And Orton has to have the motivation. He was traded with two first rounders and a second rounder for Jay Cutler and a fifth rounder (Johnny Knox) to Denver two seasons ago. He put up pretty good numbers over the past year, but with the team flailing and losses continuing to mount, he was replaced by Tim Tebow and subsequently cut.
Orton will want to prove to both Chicago and Denver that he still can play and that both teams were wrong to give up on him. Now only being in the system for two weeks or so means that if he plays, he will be probably on a smaller playbook, which is a good thing for him. He can study the defense, and Haley can put him in a position to make plays and deliver the ball.
The Chiefs season has been disappointing this year, but if anyone watched the Sunday Night Football game, the Chiefs defense clamped down on a good Pittsburgh Steelers offense, allowing only 13 points.
Their corners are very athletic. Brandon Flowers can be left on an island much of the time, as he is the best athlete on the defense.
On the other side, Brandon Carr has been improving all season and generally gets solid over the top help from free safety Kendrick Lewis. This trio has combined for nine interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns and 149 tackles.
This group is going to test Hanie, and I expect defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to dial up blitz packages with the 3-4 defense and challenge Hanie to beat his corners one-on-one. The Chiefs pass defense is currently ranked 12th in the NFL, giving up 225 yards per game.
For the Bears to win, it comes to down to blocking.
They will need their guards, Chris Williams and Chris Spencer, and their tight ends to attack the holes on running plays and get to the second level. The Chiefs have good linebackers, especially in Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, and the Bears need to put on a body on them if they want Matt Forte and Marion Barber to succeed.
They also need the line, as a unit, to be in max protect during passing plays. Give Hanie time to survey the field and go through his progressions.
That said, Hanie will still need to make smart throws. He showed flashes of it against Oakland, but as a whole, was very uninspiring.
The Bears are currently the pretty heavy favorite, but if they overlook this Chiefs team, they could give up an embarrassing loss at home and put themselves in a very bad spot when it comes to the playoff race