Winning the opener is crucial for the Chicago Bears with the schedule they have ahead. What are some matchups they have to exploit?
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery against Leodis McKelvin
Pretty much anybody could list Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery against anybody and it would look like an advantage but Marc Trestman and the coaches should be very keen to get their Pro Bowl tandem matched up with Bills corner Leodis McKelvin as much as possible. Not only has he been nursing hip and groin injuries of late, but the veteran also gives up considerable height advantage at 5’10″. Throwing the 6’4″ Marshall and 6’3″ Jeffery at him, both of which are healthy and the Bears should see success all day throwing the ball.
Martellus Bennett against Brandon Spikes
The loss of Kiko Alonso was a huge one for the Buffalo Bills defense. He wasn’t just one of their best players period, he was also the lynch pin among their linebackers in coverage. With him out, the middle will be manned by veteran Brandon Spikes. For all his ability to tackle and defend the run, Spikes is notoriously vulnerable in coverage. That is why the Patriots let him go in free agency. For the Bears, that means finding ways to get tight end Martellus Bennett more involved in the passing game, specifically down the seam where Spikes would be forced to cover him.
Willie Young against Seantrel Henderson
On defense everything is going to run through the front for Chicago until the linebackers and secondary start playing better. Good thing the Bills offer a bevy of matchup advantages. The big one will be Lamarr Houston and Willie Young on the left side going against Bills right tackle Seantrel Henderson. Physically the tackle looks imposing but one of the biggest knocks that made him a late round draft pick was inconsistent effort. Bills coaches insist that isn’t the case. Who better to test the rookie than Young and Houston who will make the big man work for 60 minutes.
Jeremiah Ratliff against Chris Williams and Erik Pears
The bigger problem for Buffalo isn’t the tackles but the guards. Erik Pears is a journeyman who has played for five teams since 2005 and couldn’t hack it at right tackle. Chris Williams is a former Bears who struggles in pass protection, as evidenced by his career -37 grade by Pro Football Focus. These two will have to contend with Jeremiah Ratliff. The veteran defensive tackle has looked a lot like his old Pro Bowl self after an unfortunate hamstring injury got him cut from Dallas. His ability to press the pocket will be something the Bills may not be able to handle.
Buffalo actually plays into a lot of the strengths the Chicago Bears have. Jay Cutler should have no trouble finding targets open down the field and the defensive line should be able to get after E.J. Manuel.
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