Tale Of The Tape: Cincinnati Bengals At Chicago Bears
- QuarterbackThe Bengals are more than just a fashionable pick to make a good run at representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. They are very talented and quarterback Andy Dalton has made a steady climb up the ladder. He must continue to do so in 2013 if the Bengals are going to get there. He has the arm strength, quick release, accuracy and intelligence to get there.The Bears are at a crucial point with Jay Cutler. He is in the last year of his contract and they want to see legitimate growth this year before they offer him a megabucks deal for the future. Cutler has all the physical tools and intelligence needed to succeed, but that hasn’t stopped him from making a slew of repeated mistakes over his career. If all goes well, the combination of Cutler and new head coach Marc Trestman should be formidable.
- OffenseThe Bengals have a chance to be consistent and explosive this year. If that’s going to happen, they need to feature supremely talented wideout A.J. Green on an every-week basis. Hard working BenJarvus Green-Ellis is steady at the running back position, but rookie Gio Bernard has a chance to be a home run hitter. Tight end Jermaine Gresham is a difference maker.The Bears have been hurt by offensive line inconsistencies for years and they are hoping that former Saint Jermon Bushrod will solidify the left tackle position. Brandon Marshall (hip) must show that he is healthy. Second-year wideout Alshon Jeffery looks to be one of the most improved receivers in the league. Matt Forte gives the Bears superb versatility out of the running back position.
- DefenseThe Bengals may have the best defensive tackle in the league in Geno Atkins. He can destroy the run and also rush the passer. Domata Peko is a solid complementary defensive lineman. Outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a hard hitter with a nasty streak. Leon Hall is a solid cornerback who has a tendency to gamble more than he should.The Bears have been one of the best defensive teams for years, but the changes in the coaching staff and the retirement of Brian Urlacher means that times are changing. New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker knows he can depend on DE Julius Peppers, LB Lance Briggs and CB Charles Tillman to anchor the defense once again.
- Special TeamsMike Nugent is an adequate kicker who made 19-of-23 FG attempts last year. However, he’s not one of the best in the league. Kevin Huber has a big leg and he averaged 46.6 yards per punt. Explosive Adam Jones has a chance to give the Bengals a decent return game.The Bears have been getting consistent kicking from Robbie Gould for years. He appears to be fully recovered after an injury cut his 2012 season short. Devin Hester has not been a gamebreaking return man for several seasons, but the Bears are expecting (hoping) he can return to form.
This could be the best game of the opening weekend of the season. The Bengals should be a postseason team once again and could go a long way. The Bears are trying to build a cohesive offense under Trestman, and they will be put to the test, starting in this game. Strong safety Eric Berry is a big hitter who had 86 tackles last year, but he needs to make more plays on the ball. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor