Luck, Indianapolis Colts Open Season At Chicago Bears
By: Michael Robinson
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Andrew Luck era gets underway for real on Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts visit the Chicago Bears in the Windy City.
The Don Best NFL odds screen has the Colts as 9½-point ‘dogs with a total of 43½. The latter is up a couple of points after opening at 41. This game from Soldier Field is part of the CBS local coverage at 1:00 p.m. (ET).
This is also a rematch of Super Bowl XLI in February 2007, won by Indianapolis (29-17). That was with Peyton Manning at quarterback, but the Colts decided to part ways after he missed all of last season (neck) and they were able to tank enough (2-14 straight up) to get Luck.
The Stanford product has made the quarterback change almost seamless. He has all the physical tools, including incredible poise and pocket awareness that far exceeds a normal 22-year-old.
Luck will have some offensive weapons in rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. The former was his college teammate. Veteran receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie also returned, with Wayne a surprise as a free agent. Collie can’t really be counted on with his concussion history.
Donald Brown (645 yards last year) is the featured back, but he’s nothing to get too excited about. That means more early pressure on Luck.
New head coach Chuck Pagano is the former defensive coordinator with Baltimore. He’s switched the ‘D’ over to the 3-4 that was so successful with the Ravens. The problem is that a lot of Indy’s best personnel are suited to the 4-3, like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis who are now converted outside linebackers.
Both Freeney and Mathis could struggle early on in their new roles, with Mathis (shoulder) also questionable this week.
The Colts made an aggressive move by acquiring cornerback Vontae Davis from Miami for a second round pick. He’ll start next to Jerraud Powers in a good duo on paper, and the safeties aren’t bad either with Antoine Bethea and Tom Zbikowski.
However, going against this newly constructed Bears offense at home is a huge challenge.
Chicago started out last season at 7-3 SU, but limped down the stretch (1-5 SU) after quarterback Jay Cutler missed the final six games with a thumb injury. The backup combination of Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown simply couldn’t get it done, with Jason Campbell in that role this year.
Cutler is healthy now and looking forward to playing at home on Sunday. Chicago was 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in his home games last year, with the offense extremely potent at 31.3 PPG. The ‘over’ was 5-1 in those contests.
The 29-year-old Cutler is excited to be reunited with former Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall. He combines with rookie Alshon Jeffery to form a very solid 1-2 receiver punch. New offensive coordinator Mike Tice is known for running the ball and adding Michael Bush from Oakland to incumbent Matt Forte is another plus.
The Bears question marks come along the offensive line and having several key defensive players on the wrong side of 30.
Brian Urlacher (age 34) is one of those and he’s not on the injury report despite missing the whole preseason with a knee ailment.