By Carlos Nazario
The 2011-2012 NFL season is now upon us! After a summer of not knowing if there would be a season, to wondering what the craziness of free agency would bring, football fans’ heads are already spinning.
Now the real games start, and the circus that is NFL football commences, and will not stop until the night of Super Bowl XLVI on February 5th, 2012 in Indianapolis.
We will take a look at each week’s matchup for the Bears. Week 1 is against the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta had the best record in the NFC last season with a 13-3 record. They lost to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs to end their season.
The Falcons offense ranked 5th last season, compared to the Bears, who ranked 30th. In the offseason, they moved up in the draft and chose Julio Jones, one of the pearls of the draft. Quarterback Matt Ryan has the deep threat and big target to go along with Roddy White, and the running game of Michael Turner gets some relief. Ryan had the best season of his career last season, and now he has another weapon.
The Bears are going to test Atlanta’s high flying offense. Ryan will have to step up his game and get rid of the ball quickly against the number 2 ranked defense in interceptions. Also, Turner will have to get through the front 7 of the Bears defense that ranked second overall against the run.
The Bears shored up their offensive line during the offseason, drafting tackle Gabe Carimi. They also replaced longtime center Olin Kreutz with guard Roberto Garza. They bulked up the line and got younger, and after a rough first game in the preseason, they allowed only 2 sacks in the other 3 games. If they give quarterback Jay Cutler some time, he could get some really lofty numbers this season. Last season, he was sacked 52 times but still threw for almost 3,300 yards.
The Bears also picked up running back Marion Barber to help improve their red zone scoring, which has been struggling the past few years.
This matchup figures to be the game of the week. It is just the first game, but it may have big playoff implications already. These were two of the best teams in the conference last year, and both feel they have made the improvements to take the next step. It may come down to these two teams and Green Bay this season, and there are 4 matchups between the three. My prediction for week 1: Bears 23-Atlanta 19.
It should be another interesting season. Get on the roller coaster!