The Denver Broncos (7-5) finally return home to host a depleted Chicago Bears (7-5) team. This is the 14th meeting all-time between these two teams with the Bears holding a 7-6 advantage. The Bears end their AFC West swing against the Broncos, and they are 1-2 in the division with their only win coming against the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are tied for first in the division with the Raiders. The Raiders take on the Packers in Green Bay so a win here would likely propel the Broncos into first place.
Broncos: The Broncos showed that they have a passing attack after Tim Tebow went 10-for-15 for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Vikings. The passing game will have to step up to the plate again this week as this offense takes on an 8th ranked rush defense and a 28th ranked pass defense. The Broncos didn’t throw a lot against the Vikings, but they were efficient when they did throw, nailing receivers with big plays. That’s what happens when a team has the No. 1 ranked offense. Willis McGahee didn’t practice all week, but he is guaranteed to play on Sunday.
Bears: The Broncos have escaped one with Jay Cutler and Matt Forte out with injuries. Former CSU Ram Caleb Hanie is the team’s starting QB, and he’s been extremely susceptible to interceptions. He has just 2 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions on the season. With the team’s No. 1 rushing threat and No. 2 receiving threat also out, Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell have big shoes to fill. Barber and Bell have good hands like Forte, but the Bears won’t be using them the same way that they used Forte. The Bears gave up 7 sacks against the Chiefs last week so the Broncos will look to gain some ground there. Like last week against Percy Harvin, the Broncos will face some speedy receivers in Johnny Knox and Devin Hester. This offense only put up 3 points against the Chiefs last week.
Broncos: Because the Bears gave up so many sacks last week, it’s clear that the Broncos can pressure young Caleb Hanie. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller will look to rush the edges. Right tackle Lance Lewis gave up a lot of sacks last week, so look for the Broncos to try the edges first, and then go up the middle. If Hanie is pressured, he’s very capable of throwing picks. The Broncos defense can expect a tough, physical game, one much like the one that they deal. The Bears will likely try to control the clock with a steady run attack, while taking the occasional chance down the field to utilize their speedy receivers. The Broncos secondary will be tested if the Broncos front seven can’t pressure Hanie. During the Broncos five game winning streak they’re giving up just 18.4 points per game. If you take away the Vikings’ 32 point offensive explosion, they’re giving up just 15.0 points per game.
Bears: The Bears defense is 9th in the NFL, giving up 20.2 points per game. They have one of the best front sevens in the league and their secondary is very disciplined. Their defensive roster is a Who’s Who list with Julius Peppers gunning for Tebow, and Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman looking to stop the run. Brian Urlacher is a mainstay and he has 3 interceptions on the season. Urlacher will be shadowing Tebow for the duration of the game on Sunday. Someone is going home a bloody mess. The Bears are +7 in the turnover department because of this defense. They have 9 forced fumbles and 16 interceptions on the season.
Broncos: Special teams has been the Broncos cherry on top. Everything from the return game to kickoff coverage to punting and kicking, is going well for the Broncos. Making the Bears work the entire field will be especially important in their game plan to pressure Hanie. Making the Bears work an 80-yard field will allow the defense to be more aggressive.
Bears: Will they or will they not kick to Devin Hester. Between kick returns and punt returns, he has 3 touchdowns on the season. He’s averaging 22.6 yards per kick return and 18.5 yards per punt return (league leader). Keeping the ball out of his hands will be a key to victory. Robbie Gould is the 8th most accurate field goal kicker in the league at 88.9%. All three of his misses have come from 40-49 yards out.
Broncos: John Fox has won five straight games in his career four times. He’s got his team playing their best ball at the best time. It’s easy to see why he was able to take the 1-15 2001 Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003. He’s a guy that can adjust on the fly both during the season and in games.
Bears: Lovie Smith had to deal with offensive coordinator Mike Martz departure rumors this week, making for a nice little distraction for the coaching staff.
Prediction: Broncos – 23 Bears – 14.