By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Away from the lights of prime-time for the first time this season, the Chicago Bears are switching the heat from the national TV cameras for the dry heat in Arizona this week.
If there’s anything to resemble pressure for the Bears in this upcoming contest it won’t likely come from the opponent, who’s had one of the worst two-week starts in the league. More likely the pressure will be internal for the Bears, who should want to perform all around better than they did against the Seahawks and Packers.
You can say that the Bears maxed themselves out in most ways in marking off a 1-1 start in two games that most would have chosen them to lose heading into the season, but the Bears showed much better than their early projections and Chicago’s defense may be established as the most feared in the league (outside of Jacksonville, at least) so far. This is a team that feels it should be 2-0 and it’ll likely carry itself as an undefeated team coming into Sunday.
Scoring a combined six points while giving up a combined 58, Arizona is in search of answers. There may be an element of unexpectedness from the Cardinals due to their desperation to see something encouraging this week, but overall this is a team in the beginning stages of a rebuild.
Speaking of limping, the Cardinals have eleven guys on their injury report with the franchise’s most notable player, Larry Fitzgerald, having just got back to limited action on Thursday.
The Bears only have one injury on their injury report (DeAndre Houston-Carson – broken arm), the team’s health yet another reason to feel good about them and another reason to believe Chicago could be on the verge of its easiest win of the season.
Based off the first two weeks of play, the Bears are the better team in this match-up, but anything can happen in the NFL. Here are four goals for the Bears to leave the desert with a victory and not an upset.
Bring the Energy — This week is sort of uncharted waters for the Bears. It’s been forever that this team existed as a road favorite for most NFL betting sites after coming off a week where they were favored at home. This is an easy trap or let down game.
The Bears have been feeling the energy of the bright lights in primetime against two perennial contenders, they fall back to Earth this week against a team that has arguably looked the worst in the NFL so far. The Bears can not overlook this opponent and need to bring the same intensity to Arizona that they have brought in every game.
Coach Matt Nagy deserves credit for his job in getting his team prepared each week. The offense has scored opening drive touchdowns in every game and the defense hasn’t allowed a point in the first quarter. In total the defense hasn’t given up more than three points in the first half in the first two weeks and they’ve done their best to run both Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson off the field entirely.
If the Bears can get off to another great start and put the Cardinals in a hole then the Bears should be able to win this game with little effort in the second half.
Offensive Efficiency — The Bears have been great defensively for the most part this season, the offense hasn’t been as good but they have been able to put together enough of a performance to keep them in every game.
Last week against the Seahawks would have been the offense’s best game had it not been for Trubisky’s interceptions. The interceptions weren’t costly in terms of the Seahawks getting points (again thanks to the D), but it was certainly costly for the Bears in getting points and putting the game away.
Had the Bears gone down and gotten field goals on the two drives that ended in interceptions then the game would not have been close at the end. The Bears are growing offensively so we all have to go through the growing pains of development but the Bears have to be efficient offensively.
This game against the Cardinals shouldn’t be a difficult one to put up points in. The Cardinals are 26th in the league so far in defense and they are tied at seventh worst at giving up points with an average of 29 a game.
If the Bears execute and take care of the ball then the offense should have their best game of the young season.
Continue the Formula — All too often in recent Bears history, fans and media alike have been constantly asking the Bears to change their formula for winning.
Whether cursed with unprepared players, illogical game plans or flat out head scratching in-game decisions, Chicago has more years than not been left wanting more from their team. This year’s Bears team isn’t perfect but it has sure found a true winning formula for itself. Simply. on defense you dominate with your front seven then the punts and turnovers will follow.
That is an over-simplification for sure, but when you win the line of scrimmage and get after passers that goes a long way towards winning. The Cardinals are tied ninth for fewest sacks allowed in the league (3) while the Bears lead the league in sacks with 10.
Something will have to give in this match-up but the Bears have to continue to do what they do best on defense, which is rush the passer, which will likely continue to be the ever-fragile Sam Bradford and not rookie Josh Rosen as some would already prefer.
Offensively, the Bears have dominated time of possession and are second in the league in average time per drive at 3:14. The offense is still finding its footing when it comes to scoring touchdowns, but they have held onto the ball.
Eventually the scoring will go up if the Bears continue to dominate time of possession and continue their efficiency on third down as their conversation rate is 10th in the league at 41.4 percent.
Make The Game Easier — The Bears have played two straight games where they should have won easily but did not.
Part of that is because of the high caliber quarterbacks they have faced but another reason is simply the Bears have not learned how to take advantage of your opponents inability to play well. This Cardinals team has question marks up and down the roster.
If the Bears are well prepared for this game and play well then it should be a laugher. It is hard writing the term “laugher” because the Bears should have had two laughers already. If Chicago is going to try and contend for a playoff spot or even the NFC North then this is a game where you come out strong, never let up and show how good you are.
Would the Packers or Vikings struggle with this Cardinals team? Most likely they would not, most likely both would win in lopsided victories. A big goal for the Bears in this game should be TCOB — Taking Care of Business.
If the team executes for four quarters then they will cruise to a victory and make this game easy on themselves.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR