The Three Matchups Bears Can Exploit Against Colts

Gene Chamberlain

In a normal season the Chicago Bears would return to Soldier Field at 3-0 and enjoying the fact they are facing a team struggling to get road victories.

It's not a normal year in the NFL, especially for home teams with no crowd noise to support their defense.

The Bears face a Colts team with the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL, a far cry from the teams they've gone up against so far. The Falcons and Lions have obvious defensive weaknesses and the Giants haven't established much of anything.

Yet the Colts haven't exactly taken advantage of the obvious road advantage teams enjoy now in the COVID-19 pandemic. They were road favorites by more than a touchdown for the first time in six years when they opened the season and Jacksonville beat them 27-20 to extend the Colts' road losing streak to six.

One thing the Colts needed badly when they hired Frank Reich as coach was someone who could win games away from Indianapolis and last year they seemed headed that way with huge wins over the Titans and Chiefs. Then they finished the year with a five-game road losing streak carrying over until this season, even with new quarterback Philip Rivers lighting it up in the loss to the Jaguars.

The Colts have very few holes in their lineup and appear poised to contend but there are a few spots where the Bears can exert their experience advantage or simply can bring enough talent to overwhelm. Here are the mismatches the Bears can exploit in Sunday's first game with Mitchell Trubisky healthy but sitting on the bench since 2017.

Bears Wide Receiver Allen Robinson II vs Colts Cornerback Xavier Rhodes

It's an old familiar face for Robinson to battle from Minnesota. He made 16 catches in two games last year against the Vikings when Rhodes was still there. Rhodes had basically been run out of town with the Vikings and has had a rebirth of sorts with the Colts in the first two games with a 56.0 passer rating against. Whether he's actually better individually or riding on the coat tails of others in a formidable defense remains to be seen. Robinson bounced back big from a game he'd rather forget against the Giants, and still had a touchdown stolen by a controverisal replay reversal. He's at his best usually when he has some sort of vendetta or objective, and that TD still weighed heavily on his mind early this week.

Bears Tight End Jimmy Graham vs. Colts Linebacker Bobby Okereke

At 6-foot-1, Okereke will struggle against the 6-foot-6 Graham, who is coming off a six-catch, two-touchdown game against the Atlanta Falcons. Okereke was good enough to make Pro Football Focus all-rookie last year but is not off to a good start with a PFF grade of 45.0. With Nick Foles at quarterback, expect both Graham and rookie Cole Kmet to work the short inside against the Colts' zone defense. Foles has always used his tight ends well in the passing game.

Bears Defensive End Akiem Hicks vs. Colts Right Guard Mark Glowinski

Hicks has picked up his play the last two games to a dominant level and is tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 3 1/2 after a game when he had five hits on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and 1 1/2 sacks. He and Khalil Mack on the left side of the Bears' defensive line have begun to work the way they did in 2018. Hicks has to be even better against the run to make up for the Bears not having nose tackle Eddie Goldman, and that shows in how poor they've been against the run. They rank 17th, and it's usually been an area where they've hovered near the top of the league. Hicks has about 35 pounds on Glowinski, who is a respected technician as a blocker but was waived by the Seattle Seahawks after three seasons and 19 starts and has found a home in Indianapolis.

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