The 2012 NFL season is underway, and the Chicago Bears will look to start off on the right foot in their home opener against the lowly Indianapolis Colts. All eyes will be on the NFL debut of No. 1 overall pick and presumptive Colts savior Andrew Luck at quarterback, but that's not the only storyline worth watching at Soldier Field.
The last thing the Bears want is to take an upset loss at home to start the season, but if they take care of business in these three areas, they should come out just fine:
1. Keep Andrew Luck guessing
Luck is the closest thing to a can't-miss quarterback prospect since the last Colt to go No. 1 overall, Peyton Manning. He's also a rookie playing his first NFL game, on the road, behind a suspect offensive line.
The looming presence of Julius Peppers in the pass rush will keep Luck from getting too comfortable in the pocket, but the Bears also need to use (and disguise) blitzes effectively. Indy's receiving corps has enough talent to hurt the Bear secondary, especially with the deep ball, so it's imperative that Chicago not allow Luck to find his rhythm.
2. Exploit the run defense
Last year's Colts ranked 29th of 32 NFL teams in rushing yards allowed. The 2012 edition is adjusting to a new scheme under first-year head coach Chuck Pagano, and the best offseason addition to the run defense (ex-Raven Cory Redding) will be playing through a knee injury.
That's not a recipe for a team that can control Matt Forte and Michael Bush. For all that Chicago didn't always look sharp on the ground in the preseason, they have no excuse for not racking up serious rushing yardage in this matchup.
3. Protect Jay Cutler
When it comes to the performance of the Bears' offensive line since Jay Cutler's arrival in Chicago, the word "dismal" is probably too charitable. J'Marcus Webb held off Chris Williams in the preseason to retain the left tackle job, but now the former seventh-round pick has to improve on last season's penalty- and sack-riddled showing.
That won't be a trivial job against a Colts defense that boasts three daunting edge rush options in Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Jerry Hughes. Holding that trio without a sack is probably too much to ask, but the Bears must keep Cutler relatively clean to set the tone for the season to come.99887