The Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears meet for the first time since 2008, when the Bears gained a measure of revenge against the Colts for the Super Bowl XLI loss. Chicago beat Indy 29-13 in the first regular season NFL game played at Lucas Oil Stadium.
And if you needed a reminder, this is also the first season in 14 years that Colts fans won’t see #18 under center, now that he’s moved on to Denver. Number one overall draft pick Andrew Luck now leads the horseshoe onto Soldier Field in his first ever regular season game. Luck performed as billed for the most part in the pre-season, completing 62.1% of his passes going 41 for 66 and 3 TDs. He averaged 130.5 yards per game in limited action, only once playing after the second half. He is credited with two interceptions, only one of which was really his fault. But now things will be different.
There’s no more vanilla game planning, base defenses, and resting after the 1st half. It’s now a balls-to-the-wall, get after the rookie, blitz every down kind of game, especially against Chicago. The speed of the game will get upped a notch even more so than the pre-season, and the veterans on the other side will do everything they can to get #12 out of his comfort zone. The onus will really be on the Colts’ patchwork offensive line, which features only one regular starter from last year (LT Anthony Castonzo) and already has another starter out for this game (LG Joe Reitz).
This game could be a “baptism by fire” deal for Luck, whose Colts team is vastly different from the teams Indy fans have known in the past. While Luck was fairly impressive in the pre-season, his talents alone won’t be enough if they want to upset a hungry Bears team at home.
3 Things to Watch
1. Luck vs. the Bears Defense – And maybe more specifically Julius Peppers. Make no mistake, Lovie Smith is going to bring it Sunday. He knows that Peyton Manning – probably the best quarterback in the history of the game against the blitz – is no longer there. He knows the problems the Colts offensive line has had in the pre-season. And he knows that Julius Peppers, one of the best defensive ends in the game, is going to want to be unleashed. Luck may have more success with his legs on Sunday than his arm.
2. Brian Urlacher’s injury – Urlacher is going to play. He’s listed as “probable” on the Bear’s injury report, but he might as well be taken off completely. The question is not whether or not he’ll play, it’s how effective he’s going to be. Urlacher is 34 and beginning his 13th NFL season. He’s had injury issues in the past, and missed a significant number of snaps in practice and training camp this year. He may be the same Urlacher Bears fans have seen in the past, but if there is one potential weakness in the Bears defense, it might be a rusty, some-what slower Urlacher. Luck may throw a lot down the middle if Urlacher seems slow.
3. Colts run game – If Luck is going to have success and if the Colts are going to win this game, getting a decent run game going will be key. And that may be an impossible mission. The Colts run game look putrid in the pre-season, and they are going against a defense that ranked #5 overall last year against the run. If Luck has to throw the ball 50 times on Sunday, it could spell a lot of trouble for Indianapolis.
My 5 Predictions
Luck has a rough NFL introduction – With no run game, an offensive line that is still under construction, and the Bears get-after-it defense, I don’t see a dazzling performance by the Colts rookie QB. Luck completes 17 of 38 passes for 220 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
Luck will run for 50 yards – I won’t sugar coat it. Luck is probably going to have to run for at least 50 yards. He’s going to be rolling out of the pocket to avoid pressure on a regular basis and, with his athleticism, will try to keep drives alive with his legs. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Luck as the leading rusher on the team this week.
Colts offensive line will surrender 3+ sacks – I’ve already detailed the problems Indy’s fat boys have had so far, so this really shouldn’t be a shocking revelation.
Coby Fleener will have more catchers than Reggie Wayne – Kind of a bold prediction, because Reggie has been Luck’s favorite target in the pre-season. But Luck is going to need to get rid of the ball quickly against Chicago, and small, dink-and-dunk passes to the tight ends could be a key to the game.
Final Score – Colts 10, Chicago 28
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