It’s that time again where we go Inside the Villain’s Venue to see what kind of opponent the Broncos are facing this week. In preseason game No. 1, the Broncos take on the Chicago Bears in Chicago. Game time is set for 6:30 PM MST Thursday.
I asked Fansided’s resident Bears expert, Mike Burzawa, to talk about the Jay Cutler - Brandon Marshall reunion, how he thinks the team will do this season, and what we should watch for on Thursday evening. Mike is the senior editor for Bear Goggles On, and he knows the team better than anyone, so without further ado, let’s go Inside the Villain’s Venue.
Q: The Bears look to have a more complete team this year with some big-time acquisitions. Who are you most excited about
A: Definitely Brandon Marshall. One of the Bears beat writers said that Marshall was the best skill position player the Bears have had on offense since Walter Payton. That’s saying something about the last 25+ years of Bears offense.
Marshall certainly looks that part of a #1 wide receiver, with his combination of size and speed. He has been toying with most Bears DB’s although Pro Bowl CB Charles Tillman has been giving him some legendary matchups. The fact that Marshall and Cutler have had success in the past has only fueled Bears fans’ fire that we’re about to have an offensive explosion this season.
With the addition of Marshall and the drafting of Alshon Jeffery, another big bodied wide receiver, the Bears will have receivers like Devin Hester and Earl Bennett in the slot, where they can try to exploit holes in opposing defense while Marshall and Jeffery are commanding double teams on the outside.
Q: Talk about the Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall reunion. Have they reestablished their connection in camp?
A: It sure looks like it, but then again, Bears fans haven’t seen this type of quarterback/wide receiver duo EVER. The reunion gives Jay the latitude to not have to make the perfect pass every time because Marshall is such a beast and can just go up and get it, fighting and adjusting to the ball in the air. Quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates also completes the Denver reunion as he helps coordinate the passing game. Knowing what’s been successful for these two in the past will help Bates put them in a position to succeed.
Q: How do you foresee the NFC North playing out this year?
A: The NFC North is going to be a TOUGH division, maybe the toughest in the NFL. The Packers are still the class of the division until proven otherwise. Aaron Rodgers is other-worldly and the Packer offense shows no signs of slowing down. The big question for the Pack is on defense. Can they slow people down enough to win some 42-41 ballgames?
The Lions’ undisciplined approach that they had on the field last season spilled into their offseason as they led the league in offseason arrests. The question marks for the Lions are whether or not they can grow up. If Matt Stafford can stay healthy, he and Calvin Johnson make up pretty formidable duo. The Lions have a few questions at running back and in their secondary which they’ll need to shore up to take their team to the next level. I see the Lions coming back down to Earth a bit in 2012.
The Vikings are a team in transition. Adrian Peterson claims he’s ready to go, but we’ll just see about that. I don’t like what they have in their quarterback and wider receivers and they also face the task of rebuilding an aging defense. Sack leader Jared Allen makes the defense look better than they really are, so if teams can bottle him up, they’ll expose the Vikings defense.
The leaves us with the Bears. The offense is the best it’s been, quite possibly in team history. They’re loaded at the skill positions with Cutler, Marshall and Matt Forte forming one of the best trios in the league. The defense boasts some Pro Bowlers, but they’re all on the wrong side of 30. Can some of the youngsters like rookie DE Shea McClellin, DT Henry Melton and nickelback DJ Moore take the next step to aide the aging veterans? Is Brian Urlacher healthy enough to play this season at a high level? The Bears might have to outscore a few teams if he’s not.
I think the Packers finish up in first, with the Bears right behind them. The Lions take a step back and fail to reach the playoffs while the Vikings vie for the #1 pick in next season’s draft.
Q: Give us a prediction for Thursday night’s game.
A: My lead pipe lock is that Broncos backup QB Caleb Hanie will be booed. Bears fans still blame him for the Bears’ collapse last season. Besides that, preseason games are tough to predict. I’ll say Bears 24, Broncos 21 just for fun.
Thanks again to Mike for taking time out with us. To see the answers to the questions he asked me, visit Bear Goggles On.