The last time the Colts took the field Jim Caldwell was fighting for his job, the team was attempting to avoid the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and Dan Orlovsky was under center. With new hope and a revamped roster the Colts will face the Bears this Sunday in a rematch of Super Bowl XLI.
The challenges facing this new era Colts team are evident: protect Andrew Luck and play defense at a level that inspires hope. Can the Chuck Pagano turn this team around? Will Ryan Grigson’s revamped roster prove strong enough to compete? Will this team live up to Merril Hoge’s bold prediction or fall flat?
That brings us to this week’s seven questions.
- Can the offensive line keep Andrew Luck upright against Julius Peppers?
That’s clearly the biggest challenge this week. The Chicago defense isn’t at full strength and frankly Julius Peppers is the biggest threat on their roster. Mike McGlynn returns this week and will hopefully bolster the offensive line play.
All of that is relatively unimportant however as Luck has displayed a strong ability to feel pressure. He’ll throw the ball away when necessary and run when he can’t. Colts fans shouldn’t love the idea of Luck running but should love his willingness to avoid the sack.
- Can the offensive line provide any running room?
That’s doubtful even though this isn’t the kind of Bears defense they once were. They’re an aging group with pass rush issues but still have enough talent to be proficient. Once again the answer has more to do with the Colts offensive line than the Bears.
The Colts have been inconsistent running the ball this preseason. The offensive line has struggled to keep defenders out of the backfield. They’ve struggled to open running lanes for the backs. They’ve struggled doing anything productive on a consistent basis.
If the Colts manage to get the run game going then this becomes a much different game.
- Will the revamped secondary hold up against Mike Tice’s new offense and Jay Cutler’s gunslinging?
It would be easy to dismiss Jay Cutler as a quarterback who has not fulfilled his potential. It also would be a mistake because Cutler has shown the ability to be explosive.
The problem the Bears face in 2012 is poor offensive line play. They are going to give up sacks, perhaps many sacks. If the Colts can provide a solid pass rush against the shaky Bears offensive line they’ll alleviate the pressure on the secondary. Cutler will abuse the Colts secondary if they can’t rush the passer however.
- Will Brian Urlacher be a factor?
No. Next question.
That’s not good enough?
I’ll admit he may indeed be a factor but chances are that he’s not the Brian Urlacher some expect. Lovie Smith even admitted Urlacher is out of shape. He may be a real terror for the Colts but that’s expecting something miraculous for a guy coming off the kind of injury he had.
- Will Austin Collie play and is that a good idea?
He’ll play and it is his decision. One of my Twitter followers suggested we quit attempting to make the decision for Austin Collie. It’s good advice which I’ll heed. You may debate it but it’s clear he wants to play and team doctors have given him the clearance to do so.
- Will Dwight Freeney shake off his preseason woes?
Dwight Freeney has been invisible at best this preseason. If I noticed anything it was that he did a horrible job setting the edge against the run. He’s not looked like a man playing for his next contract but rather one playing through his last.
At this point I’d much prefer the team trade him than to watch his slow decline into irrelevance. Actually I’d much prefer he proves all of his doubters wrong and posts a double-digit sack total this year but I just don’t see that happening.
- Who wins?
Colts 21-17. Yes I’m optimistic but I’m also a homer. I simply think the Bears are going to struggle as much as the Colts in this one. I also think that Chuck Pagano has this team geared up to fight. I doubt they win more than six or seven games but I see this one as very winnable.