On paper, Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals looks like the perfect opportunity for the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals have started the season 0-2; they’ve scored only six points in two games; they can’t get much going on offense and they can’t stop much on defense. They are a far cry from the team that went to the playoffs just three seasons ago. Heading into this Week 3 matchup with Chicago (1-1), the Cardinals have already been outscored 58-6.
Sam Bradford has completed only 37 of his 61 pass attempts (60.7 percent) for a measly 243 yards, doesn't have a touchdown pass but has tossed two interceptions and been sacked twice. There’s already talk of benching Bradford in favor of rookie Josh Rosen after just two games. The Cardinals haven’t gone into rebuild mode yet, but they are getting closer to that point. Now, they face one of the hottest defenses in the league.
The Bears bounced back from Week 1’s loss at Green Bay with a statement win in Week 2 over the Seattle Seahawks at home. They sacked Russell Wilson five times and forced two turnovers (one of which was returned for a touchdown) in the 24-17 win. The Bears continue to grow as one of the league’s top defenses, and they possess a handful of playmakers on offense.
At the same time, this could be a trap game. The Bears have gone 1-2 in their last three encounters with the Cardinals and have been outscored 102-72 during that stretch. The Bears' last win over Arizona was back in 2012. So, despite the Cardinals' struggles, the Bears cannot underestimate their opponents on Sunday.
Chicago at Arizona
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 23 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Bears -6
Three Things to Watch
1. Potential changes to the Cardinals' offense
With Bradford struggling, their $39 million running back David Johnson averaging just 40 rushing yards per game, and star receiver Larry Fitzgerald calling out his fellow wide receivers for not stepping up, the team is under pressure to do what’s necessary to get back on track. And if that means making lineup changes, then so be it. The Bears are licking their chops at the opportunity to throw this Cardinals team further into free fall. Something on that side of the ball needs to change.
2. The continued dominance of the Bears' defense
With linebacker Khalil Mack as the new face of the Bears defense, this team is already the NFL’s eighth-best unit. It's posted six sacks, four turnovers (with two touchdowns) and seven pass deflections, while only allowing 71 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals have scored only two field goals so far this season; obviously, they’ll need to find the end zone a few times in order to give themselves a chance against the Bears.
3. The slight growth of the Bears' offense
The Bears are progressing on the offensive side of the ball, albeit slowly. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky had his first multi-touchdown game as a pro with the two TD passes he threw against Seattle. Tight end Trey Burton got his first touchdown catch of the season, rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller caught his first career TD pass, and Trubisky completed passes to seven different receivers.
The Bears, however, need to make more use of their ground game. They have only 225 rushing yards and one touchdown as a team. Arizona has already given up 272 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. This would be the perfect time for the Bears to let Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen run loose.
Despite the recent history between these two original NFL franchises, the Cardinals' recent struggles are just too great to expect them to overcome the challenge that the Bears defense presents. The Bears will lean on their defense once again, and they'll get just enough out of their offense to leave the desert with a 2-1 record.
Prediction: Bears 28, Cardinals 10
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.