The Chicago Bears (0-1, 0-1 home) went through a defensive overhaul this offseason, but unsurprisingly it did little to stop the game’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, in Week 1. This weekend should provide a better metric for what kind of strides this team has made on defense when they host the Arizona Cardinals (1-0, 0-0 road) at Soldier Field (1:00 PM Eastern).
This year, Vic Fangio brings his aggressive style to Chicago, switching the Bears to a 3-4 D in hopes of getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks; but Jared Allen and high-priced free agent Pernell McPhee couldn’t get close enough to Rodgers to sniff his cologne, let alone bring him down. This week, the pass rush should be able to do some damage against an Arizona o-line that held up well against the Saints, but is still a long ways from the league’s best with guard Mike Iupati sitting on the sidelines.
Chicago’s defense catches a break this week, with Cards running back Andre Ellington ruled out with a knee injury. They’ll have their hands full trying to slow down all of Arizona’s receivers, including new favorite target John Brown and a rejuvenated-looking Larry Fitzgerald. Still, they have to feel more optimistic about their chances this week; while Carson Palmer looked great under center last week, he doesn’t boast anywhere near the accuracy Rodgers does.
Offensively, the Bears will be in tough to run the ball; Arizona only allowed 54 yards on the ground against New Orleans. However, Saints running back Mark Ingram caught eight balls for 98 yards, so Matt Forte should play a big role in the short passing game.
Chicago may be without top receiver Alshon Jeffery this week, which would put their already conservative offense in a very tough spot. Even if he is available, Patrick Peterson has shut down great receivers at full health, and should be able to neutralize the Bears top option.
Arizona was 5-3 ATS on the road last year, and this small spread should favor them this week. Even if the game is close in the second half, Jay Cutler’s penchant for back-breaking turnovers makes it very hard to like the Bears to cover.
Don’t overthink this one. Go with the favorites.
Pick: Arizona -2.5.
(Photo Credit: Mike Shadle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)