Bears LB James Anderson is PFF's top-graded 4-3 OLB as we enter week 4.


Standings


(Via ESPN.Com)

The Chicago Bears hold sole possession of first place in the NFC North, but Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions will greatly change things, for better or worse.

If the Bears beat the Lions, they'll hold first place by two full games over the Lions, but keep in mind that would essentially be three games for the time being as the Bears would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

If the Lions beat the Bears, the Lions will move into first place at 3-1 via the tiebreaker I talked about. And keep in mind, these two teams play each other again later in the year so that head-to-head tiebreaker could end up being negated later.

But what would especially be huge for the Bears is that a win on Sunday would give them a 2.5 game lead over the Packers, as the Packers are on their bye week.

While the Packers are 1-2, I think most of us are still very, very worried about them (I know I am), especially since the Bears play them twice and have had a very difficult time getting wins over Green Bay in recent years. Having three wins more than the Packers as we head into week five would be a situation I think we'd all be pretty thrilled about, even though the teams won't face off until week nine in Green Bay (and then not again until week 17 in Chicago).

Looking at the NFC as a whole, there are only six teams that are .500 or better, and the Bears are one of only three undefeated teams in the conference (the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints are the other two teams). After the St. Louis Rams were blown out on Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers, there are already five NFC teams that are two games below .500 or worse, with four of those teams being 0-3 headed into Sunday.

I wrote last week how the NFC is loaded, and that was the assumption we all had coming into the season. But maybe not? The Packers are 1-2 as I said (although those losses were against the 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals on the road), the Atlanta Falcons are 1-2, the 49ers are 2-2, and then the bottom of the conference is filled with teams many thought would be contenders (the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, etc).

We certainly aren't going to get cocky about the Bears' playoff chances or anything after we witnessed them being left out of the fun despite starting 7-1 last season, and I think at least a couple of these that are .500 or worse will emerge as serious NFC contenders (the Packers, Falcons, and 49ers are the obvious candidates). But going into week four, you couldn't realistically ask for a much better scenario for the Bears.

Remaining Schedule

Week 4- at Detroit Lions (2-1)

Week 5- vs New Orleans Saints (3-0)

Week 6- vs New York Giants (0-3); Thursday Night Football

Week 7- at Washington Redskins (0-3)

Week 8- BYE

Week 9- at Green Bay Packers (1-2); Monday Night Football

Week 10- vs Detroit Lions (2-1)

Week 11- vs Baltimore Ravens (2-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 12- at St. Louis Rams (1-3); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 13- at Minnesota Vikings (0-3); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (2-1); Monday Night Football

Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (1-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night, but... lol

Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (1-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (1-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

All of a sudden, this schedule doesn't look too rough, right?

The combined record for the Bears' road opponents the rest of the way is 6-16. It's 6-19 if you consider their road opponents overall on the season, as they beat the Steelers, now 0-3, in Pittsburgh in week three. The Lions are actually the only team with a current record of .500 or better that the Bears face on the road this season.

If the Bears were to beat the Lions, it's likely that the only game on the remaining schedule in which the Bears would be underdogs at the moment, would be the week nine game at Green Bay.

Bears' Injury Report

On Friday, we wrote about the Bears-Lions injury report. The most notable player with an injury status worth monitoring on the Bears' report was without question cornerback Charles Tillman, but reports are that he is expected to play in the game. Cornerback Sherrick McManis, whose primary duties are on special teams, is listed as 'doubtful' to suit up for the divisional contest.

Looking long-term, we also wrote about the Bears' defensive tackle situation after they lost 2012 Pro Bowl selection Henry Melton for the season due to a torn ACL that he suffered in the team's victory over the Steelers.

Bears' Statistical Leaders

Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Pro Football 'Signature Stats' in bold; statistical ranks among NFL players based on prior to Sunday's games.

Passing Stats

Jay Cutler: 68-101, 67.3 Completion % (5th), 693 Yards, 6.86 Yards/Attempt, 231 Yards/Game, 6 TD (Tied for 5th), 3 INT (Tied for 10th-most), 3 Sacks Taken, 94.2 QB Rating (10th), 94.5 PFF QB Rating (5th).

Rushing Stats (Running Backs Only)

Matt Forte: 55 Carries (9th), 225 Yards (Tied for 9th), 4.1 Yards/Carry, 2 TD (Tied for 3rd), 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost, 13 1st Downs (4th), 46.3 PFF Elusive Rating (4th).

Michael Bush: 16 Carries, 24 Yards, 1.5 Yards/Carry, 1 TD, 0 Fumbles, 2 1st Downs.

Receiving Stats (Top 5)

Brandon Marshall: 20 Receptions (Tied for 8th), 28 Targets, 269 Yards, 13.5 Yards/Reception, 2 TD, 89.7 Yards/Game, 39 Yards After Catch, 10 1st Downs, 1 Drop, 114.6 PFF WR Rating.

Matt Forte: 18 Receptions, 20 Targets, 138 Yards, 7.7 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 46 Yards/Game, 83 Yards After Catch, 6 1st Downs, 2 Drops.

Alshon Jeffery: 13 Receptions, 21 Targets, 104 Yards, 8 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 34.7 Yards/Game, 17 Yards After Catch, 6 1st Downs, 1 Drop.

Martellus Bennett: 12 Receptions, 21 Targets, 135 Yards, 11.3 Yards/Reception, 3 TD (Tied for 6th), 45 Yards/Game, 75 Yards After Catch, 9 1st Downs, 1 Drop.

Earl Bennett: 5 Receptions, 6 Targets, 47 Yards, 9.4 Yards/Reception, 1 TD, 15.7 Yards/Game, -1 Yards After Catch, 3 1st Downs, 0 Drops.

Tackling Stats (Top 5)

Lance Briggs: 24 Tackles (17 Solo, 7 Ast), 3 Tackles For Loss, 1 Forced Fumble, 10.3 PFF Run Stop Percentage (3rd Among 4-3 Outside Linebackers).

Major Wright: 24 Tackles (17 Solo, 7 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles (Tied for 2nd).

James Anderson: 19 Tackles (15 Solo, 4 Ast), 2 Tackles For Loss, 8.8 PFF Run Stop Percentage (7th Among 4-3 Outside Linebackers).

Tim Jennings: 14 Tackles (11 Solo, 3 Ast), 0 Tackles For Loss, 2 Forced Fumbles (Tied for 2nd).

Charles Tillman: 14 Tackles (11 Solo, 3 Ast), 1 Tackle For Loss, 0 Forced Fumbles, 5.0 PFF Run Stop Percentage (3rd Among Cornerbacks).

Pass-Rushing Stats

D.J. Williams: 2 Sacks, 0 QB Hits, 0 QB Hurries.

Lance Briggs: 1 Sack, 2 QB Hits, 0 QB Hurries.

Corey Wootton: 1 Sack, 1 QB Hit, 5 QB Hurries.

Shea McClellin: 0.5 Sack, 2 QB Hits, 2 QB Hurries.

Stephen Paea: 0.5 Sack, 1 QB Hit, 7 QB Hurries, 7.1 PFF Pass Rush Productivity (9th Among Defensive Tackles).

Coverage Stats

Charles Tillman: 2 Interceptions (Tied for 2nd), 2 Pass Deflections.

Tim Jennings: 2 Interceptions (Tied for 2nd), 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 3 Pass Deflections.

Chris Conte: 1 Interception, 2 Pass Deflections.

Major Wright: 1 Interception, 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 2 Pass Deflections.

Special Teams Stats

Devin Hester: 8 Kick Returns, 306 Yards (1st), 38.3 AVG (1st);  2 Punt Returns, 1 Yard, 0.5 AVG.

Robbie Gould: 4-4 On Field Goals, Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st), 12 Touchbacks (Tied for 6th).

Adam Podlesh: 14 Punts, 625 Yards, 44.6 AVG, 42 NET, Long Punt Of 59 Yards, 6 Punts Inside The 20.


Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus

Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week three.

Note: Grade ranks based on games before Sunday:

Bears Cumulative PFF Grades

Offense Overall: +8.9 (11th)

Passing Offense: +14.2 (6th)

Rushing Offense: -2.1 (23rd)

Pass Blocking: -6.7 (22nd)

Run Blocking: -1.6 (11th)

Offensive Penalties: +6.7 (7th)


Defense Overall: -13.9 (24th)

Run Defense: -10.6 (25th)

Pass Rush: -10.5 (28th)

Pass Coverage: +1.5 (7th)

Defensive Penalties: +5.7 (4th)


Special Teams: -1.9 (23rd)


And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...

Bears Individual Player PFF Grades

Top 5 Overall Grades On Offense: 

1. QB Jay Cutler, +6.7 (4th)
T-2. WR Brandon Marshall, +4.7
T-2. G Matt Slauson, + 4.7 (10th)
4. C Roberto Garza, +3.4 (6th)
5. G Kyle Long, +2.7

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Offense:

1. TE Martellus Bennett, -5.5
2. OT Jordan Mills, -2.6
3. TE Steve Maneri, -2.4
4. RB Michael Bush, -2.0
5. OT Jermon Bushrod, -1.6

Top 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. LB James Anderson, +4.5 (1st Among 4-3 Outside Linebackers)
2. DT Stephen Paea, +4.1
3. CB Tim Jennings, +2.5
4. CB Isaiah Frey, +0.9
5. DT Nate Collins, +0.6

Bottom 5 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. DT Henry Melton, -6.4
2. CB Charles Tillman, -5.3
3. DE Shea McClellin, -4.4
4. S Major Wright, -3.7
5. DE Corey Wootton, -2.3

Top 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. K Robbie Gould, +6.7 (10th Among Kickers)
2. KR Devin Hester, +2.6 (2nd Among Kick Returners)
3. LB Blake Costanzo, +2.5

Bottom 3 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. S Anthony Walters, -4.0
2. CB Zack Bowman, -3.0
3. P Adam Podlesh, -2.8

Jay Cutler ranks only behind Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Matt Ryan in quarterbacks graded by PFF so far in 2013.

The Bears' offensive line continues to greatly impress (given what we've seen the last few years, anyway), and as you can see from the grades above, the interior part of the offensive line is doing a tremendous job with left guard Matt Slauson, center Roberto Garza, and rookie right guard Kyle Long being a part of PFF's top five Bears grades on offense through three weeks.

Looking at Martellus Bennett's overall grade would surely generate some groans, but perhaps not as much if everyone knew that he has a +3.7 grade from PFF as a receiver on the season, behind only Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron, and Julius Thomas at the tight end position. It's a -7.2 run-blocking grade that has done Bennett in, and a shoulder injury the Black Unicorn has played through has surely made a negative impact on his blocking so far. In 2012, Bennett received a +3.1 run-block grade from PFF, ranking him No. 13 among tight ends. Whatever the case, Bennett's presence as a playmaker at tight end has made a massive impact on the Bears' 3-0 record.

James Anderson continues to look like a fantastic signing by Phil Emery, currently holding PFF's top grade among 4-3 outside linebackers. The main reason for Anderson's overall grade has been his excellence in pass coverage, where he holds a +5.3 grade this season, three full 'points' above the second-best 4-3 outside linebacker in pass coverage.


Our Overall Take

The areas of concern (pass rush, allowing big plays, etc) remain for the Bears, but so does their undefeated record as we enter their week four game.

Given the recent history of the Bears' players on defense, I think it's realistic to say that we should expect to see improvement from that unit as the year goes on. That may not show against high-powered Lions and Saints offenses, though, and keep in mind it may take some time for the defensive tackle situation to settle itself in with Henry Melton going down. Additionally, Peanut Tillman's health is crucial to the defense, and unless his groin miraculously healed completely in the last couple of days, we're looking at the fourth straight game he'll be playing at less than 100% health after being an absolute force in 2012 at cornerback.

Offensively, I think we're going to see Marc Trestman open up the playbook a bit, perhaps as soon as Sunday against the Lions. He's wanted to get players used to the principles of his offense and see who can do what in it, and it's likely he's saving some wrinkles for divisional games against the Lions and Packers, so keep an eye on the playcalling Sunday.

But overall, again, the complaints have to be minimal right now. This is an undefeated Bears team we're talking about, and they have a chance to really put some separation between themselves and the rest of the NFC North with a victory Sunday.


Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (groin) is listed as "questionable" on the injury report for the second straight week, but returned to practice in limited fashion on Friday at Halas Hall.

Here's what Bears head coach Marc Trestman had to say on Friday about Tillman's injury, according to ChicagoBears.Com:

"He worked today," said coach Marc Trestman. "Looked good. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. I would still have to say he's questionable, but we're reasonably optimistic that he'll be playing." 

"He'll work out the next couple of days and continue to get treatment," Trestman said. "But like I said, I'm optimistic. I was last week and I am again that he'll be ready to go."

"It's all up to trainers and to the doctors. If the doctors and the trainers say he's ready to go, then he's ready to go. I won't be making this decision. It will be made by the doctors and trainers with Charles' best interests at heart."
Between heat exhaustion in week one, a bothersome knee every week, and now this groin issue, the 32-year-old Tillman has yet to be near 100% healthy for a game this year, after arguably having his best season as a pro (which is saying a lot given his tremendous career) in 2012.

And the Bears could badly use a healthy (or at least fairly close to it) Tillman for this matchup against Calvin Johnson and the Lions.

In 2012, the Bears squeaked out two wins against the Lions, and that was with Tillman making Johnson a non-factor in each game. Peanut is one of the few cornerbacks in the NFL that can match up with Johnson physically, and if he were to miss this game, the Bears would be forced to have erratic cornerback Zack Bowman be responsible for the primary cover duties on Johnson. The 5'8" Tim Jennings does not have the size to cover the 6'5" Megatron.

Bowman (knee) is also listed on the injury report, but as 'probable' to play after practicing fully on Friday.

Cornerback Sherrick McManis, however, is listed as 'doubtful' with a quad injury. McManis' primary duties are on special teams, but with Tillman and Bowman banged up, the Bears' cornerback depth could be an issue on Sunday. Given the injuries, it's possible that we see undrafted rookie CJ Wilson active for the first time in his career.

For the Lions, you've probably heard by now that starting slot wide receiver Nate Burleson broke his arm this week after his effort to rescue a pizza sliding off his car seat resulted in a car accident. Burleson had 19 receptions on the season, including six for 119 yards in week three against the Redskins. Talented second-year wide receiver Ryan Broyles will now man the slot for the Lions, and Patrick Edwards was expected to be the starter on the outside opposite Megatron, but Edwards is listed as 'doubtful' for Sunday after being limited in practice all week. Kris Durham, who is primarily a special teamer and has just 13 catches over his three-year career, is now expected to start at wide receiver if Edwards can't go.

The Lions list another 12 players on their injury report, with four of those players being 'questionable' in defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (abdomen), safety Don Carey (hamstring), offensive tackle Jason Fox (groin), and offensive tackle Corey Hilliard (groin).

Running back Reggie Bush (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (hand), Calvin Johnson (knee), safety Louis Delmas (knee), linebacker DeAndre Levy (abdomen), linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle), guard Rob Sims (shoulder), and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are all listed as 'probable'.

All 12 of those Lions players were able to practice on Friday.

UPDATE: NFL Network's Stacey Dales is hearing that Peanut will play vs the Lions:
So, great (although hardly surprising) news, but who knows how healthy he'll actually be.

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After learning that Henry Melton tore his ACL in the team's 40-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Chicago Bears on Friday placed their franchise-tagged defensive tackle on Injured Reserve.

In a corresponding move, the Bears signed 27-year-old defensive tackle Landon Cohen (pictured above) to the 53-man roster. Cohen was among free-agent defensive tackles brought in for a Bears tryout at Halas Hall earlier in the week.

The 6'1", 300-pound Cohen has played in 27 career NFL games, with 20 of those fittingly coming against the Bears' week four opponent, the Detroit Lions. The Lions drafted Cohen in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, and he went on to start four of the 20 games he was active for on the team in 2008 and 2009. Overall, Cohen has 32 career tackles and no career sacks.

What's also notable about Cohen's Lions stint, is that Rod Marinelli was the head coach in Detroit at the time. Additionally, Cohen was active for two games this season with the Dallas Cowboys, and Marinelli is of course the defensive line coach for the Cowboys, after holding the same position for the Bears the previous four seasons. Cohen has also played for the New England Patriots (2010-2011), and the Jacksonville Jaguars, where current Bears defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, served as the defensive coordinator.

Add all of that up, and you have to think that Cohen is very familiar with the principles of the Bears' defense.

25-year-old Nate Collins will move into the starting lineup with Melton out. Collins has shown some very good things in his playing time and in training camp, since signing with the Bears in 2012.

Collins played in nine games and 247 snaps for the Bears in 2012, and received a +4.9 grade from Pro Football Focus, the 30th-best grade for defensive tackles (and in the lowest amount of snaps for their 85 graded defensive tackles listed, so it's possible his grade could've been a bit higher with more playing time).

So far in 2013, Collins has a +0.6 from PFF, the fifth-best grade on the Bears' defense. It's worth mentioning that Henry Melton has the lowest grade for an NFL defensive tackle through three games, at -6.4. But Melton received a +15.8 grade in 2012, and it was assumed his play would get much better as the year went along, as he missed 99.9% of the preseason with a concussion.

Collins is expected to move into the starting nose tackle spot, where Stephen Paea (who has a very nice +4.1 grade from PFF this season) has been the starter, and Paea is expected to move into Melton's spot as the three-technique defensive tackle.

Melton's contributions (when on his game, of course) may not be able to be replaced as a pass-rusher, and that's of course the main area the Bears have struggled so far in 2013. So it's a big loss. However, I think Collins is a very capable starter and may even bring the Bears a more consistent, better overall game than Melton. Melton disappears some games and has always struggled against the run, whereas Collins has graded positively against the run over the last two years (+1.1 in 2012, +0.4 so far in 2013).

It's the depth at defensive tackle that is now definitely a concern for the Bears, and it's why they brought in Cohen, of course. Undrafted rookie free agent Zach Minter was arguably the biggest surprise to make the Bears' 53-man roster entering the season, and now he finds himself as likely the No. 3 traditional defensive tackle on the team. How many snaps he gets remain to be seen. Julius Peppers and Corey
Wootton will likely move inside to help try to generate a pass rush on passing downs, with Shea McClellin at defensive end.

Even though Cohen shouldn't take too long to figure out the Bears' defense, he hasn't practiced yet with the team, so he certainly won't be active on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if he's active against the New Orleans Saints in week four, but I would lean towards that not being the case.

Minter, however, should be expected to be active for the first time in his NFL career on Sunday.

UPDATE: So much for my Landon Cohen 'certainly won't be active on Sunday' stuff. In fact, he is active for the Bears' game against the Lions, and Zach Minter is not:
Contributing Source: ESPN Chicago

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Editor's Note: This post was written before Sunday's NFL games, so keep that in mind with standings, statistics, etc.

After coming from behind to win in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row (this most recent time in especially dramatic fashion), the Chicago Bears now are 2-0 as they head into their week three matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Heinz Field.

In what may turn into a weekly feature for us here at Da Bear Necessities (especially if you guys like it... feel free to leave some feedback), we're going to take an overall look at where the Bears stand through week two of the NFL season.

We're going to look at the NFL standings in regards to the Bears, examine how the remaining schedule is looking, examine the Bears' injury situation, look at the Bears' statistical leaders, check out Bears grades and statistics from Pro Football Focus (I highly recommend a premium subscription), etc.

So, let's get to it.


Standings



(Via ESPN.Com)

After two weeks, the Bears couldn't be in a better position in the standings... although that should hardly be a surprise when the team is undefeated, right?

However, not only do the Bears have sole possession of first place in the NFC North, but they would also be the No. 1 seed in the NFC if the playoffs began today. That's based on some extremely limited tiebreaker scenarios, of course.

And let's be honest here- The Green Bay Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North until another team (*cough* *the Bears* *cough*) can prove otherwise. And so far the Packers' only loss came at San Francisco, a situation where I'd personally pick the visitor to lose every time this season. Additionally, the North featured three 10+ win teams (Packers, Bears, and Minnesota Vikings) last year, and the Detroit Lions look very improved this year. So, we know the North is going to be a big-time battle, but the Bears are off to a great start there, at least.

As for the NFC in general, well, it's loaded (outside of the NFC East, apparently). There are going to be some very good NFC teams left out of the playoffs this year (remember the Bears were left out with a 10-6 record last year). But, again, the Bears couldn't be in a better position through two weeks there.


Remaining Schedule

Week 3- at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2); Sunday Night Football

Week 4- at Detroit Lions (1-1)

Week 5- vs New Orleans Saints (2-0)

Week 6- vs New York Giants (0-2); Thursday Night Football

Week 7- at Washington Redskins (0-2); Thursday Night Football

Week 8- BYE

Week 9- at Green Bay Packers (1-1); Monday Night Football

Week 10- vs Detroit Lions (1-1)

Week 11- vs Baltimore Ravens (1-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 12- at St. Louis Rams (1-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 13- at Minnesota Vikings (0-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 14- vs Dallas Cowboys (1-1); Monday Night Football

Week 15- at Cleveland Browns (0-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night, but... lol

Week 16- at Philadelphia Eagles (1-2); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

Week 17- vs Green Bay Packers (1-1); Game could be flexed to Sunday Night

The schedule difficulty doesn't appear too much different right now than it did coming into the season, although the games against the Steelers, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins look a bit easier on the surface, as those teams are all off to 0-2 starts after being considered playoff contenders entering the season.

Additionally, the Browns have already punted their 2013 season after trading their best offensive player in second-year running back Trent Richardson, but I think we all considered that the easiest road game on paper for the Bears before the trade anyway.

When looking at Bears games that could possibly be flexed to Sunday Night Football, the finale against the Packers is certainly the leader. That game between the league's greatest rivalry could be a NFC North championship decider. Really, the only game in that group we can count out already for a potential flexing would be the Browns one.


Bears' Injury Report

UPDATE: Charles Tillman is active for Sunday night's game.

The Bears have been extremely fortunate to have their entire 53-man roster available for their first two games of the season, and it appears likely that it will remain that way heading into their week three game against the Steelers (a team that has been hit hard by injuries).

Charles Tillman (knee) is listed as questionable for the game, but was able to practice (albeit in limited fashion) on Friday, and we've already seen Peanut play through health issues this season. In week one against the Bengals, Peanut dealt with heat exhaustion and even vomited twice during the game, before returning to play. His knee was also bothering him entering week two against the Vikings, but he played through it. In fact, Peanut has played in 115 snaps on defense through the first two games, good for sixth on the team (and only nine snaps behind anyone else).

So, you'd have to think there's better than the "50%" tag the 'questionable' status brings, for Peanut to suit up vs the Steelers.

The only other player listed on the Bears' injury report are all 'probable' to play Sunday night: Brandon Marshall (back), Martellus Bennett (shoulder), and Kyle Long (back). They all had full participation in Friday's practice.

And looking further than just week, there are no players the Bears are waiting for to potentially return down the road. You couldn't realistically ask for a more fortunate health situation going into the third game of the season. Fingers crossed it stays that way...


Bears' Statistical Leaders

Note: Overall NFL ranking in parentheses; Pro Football 'Signature Stats' in bold; statistical ranks among NFL players based on prior to Sunday's games.

Passing Stats

Jay Cutler: 48-71, 67.6 Completion % (9th), 534 Yards, 7.3 Yards/Attempt, 267 Yards/Game, 5 TD (Tied for 5th), 3 INT (4th-most), 95.6 QB Rating (10th), 96.2 PFF QB Rating (5th).

Rushing Stats (Running Backs Only)

Matt Forte: 39 Carries (Tied for 7th), 138 Yards, 3.5 Yards/Carry, 1 TD (Tied for 8th), 1 Fumble, 1 Fumble Lost (Tied for 2nd-most), 9 1st Downs, 41.0 PFF Elusive Rating (7th).

Michael Bush: 8 Carries, 15 Yards, 1.8 Yards/Carry, 0 Fumbles, 1 1st Down.

Receiving Stats (Top 4)

Brandon Marshall: 15 Receptions (Tied for 7th), 20 Targets, 217 Yards (8th), 14.5 Yards/Reception, 2 TD (Tied for 8th), 108.3 Yards/Game (8th), 21 Yards After Catch, 9 1st Downs, 0 Drops, 122.3 PFF WR Rating (10th).

Matt Forte: 14 Receptions, 16 Targets, 114 Yards, 8.1 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 57 Yards/Game, 21 Yards After Catch, 4 1st Downs, 2 Drops.

Martellus Bennett: 10 Receptions, 16 Targets, 125 Yards, 12.5 Yards/Reception, 3 TD, 62.5 Yards/Game, 21 Yards After Catch, 9 1st Downs, 1 Drop.

Alshon Jeffery: 6 Receptions, 13 Targets, 53 Yards, 8.8 Yards/Reception, 0 TD, 26.5 Yards/Game, 17 Yards After Catch, 3 1st Downs, 1 Drop.

Tackle Stats (Top 4)

Lance Briggs: 17 Tackles (12 Solo, 5 Ast); 12.5 PFF Run Stop Percentage (1st Among 4-3 Outside Linebackers).

Major Wright: 17 Tackles (11 Solo, 6 Ast).

James Anderson: 14 Tackles (11 Solo, 3 Ast).

Tim Jennings: 12 Tackles (10 Solo, 2 Ast).

Sack Stats

Corey Wootton: 1 Sack.

Shea McClellin: 0.5 Sack.

Stephen Paea: 0.5 Sack.

Coverage Stats

Charles Tillman: 2 Interceptions (Tied for 1st), 2 Pass Deflections.

Tim Jennings: 2 Interceptions (Tied for 1st), 1 INT Returned For TD (Tied for 1st), 2 Pass Deflections.

Special Teams Stats

Devin Hester: 6 Kick Returns, 280 Yards (2nd; was 1st before Eagles-Chiefs week 3 opener Thursday night), 46.7 AVG (1st);  2 Punt Returns, 1 Yard, 0.5 AVG;

Robbie Gould: 2-2 On Field Goals, Long Field Goal Of 58 Yards (1st).

Adam Podlesh: 8 Punts, 343 Yards, 42.9 AVG, Long Punt Of 54 Yards, 4 Punts Inside The 20.


Bears Grades From Pro Football Focus

Before looking at some grades of individual players on the Bears, let's look at Pro Football Focus' cumulative Bears grades (combining the grades of each player that apply) in specific departments through week two.

Note: Grade ranks based on games before Sunday:

Bears Cumulative Grades

Offense Overall: +14.0 (7th)

Passing Offense: +12.7 (5th)

Rushing Offense: -1.0 (17th)

Pass Blocking: -0.1 (18th)

Run Blocking: -1.6 (12th)

Offensive Penalties: +4.0 (87th)


Defense Overall: -12.8 (27th)

Run Defense: -7.5 (26th)

Pass Rush: -13.7 (31st)

Pass Coverage: +5.0 (6th)

Defensive Penalties: +3.4 (Tied for 7th)


Special Teams: +9.8 (11th)


And here's some PFF grades of individual players on the Bears...

Bears Individual Players Grades

Top 4 Overall Grades On Offense: 

1. QB Jay Cutler, +6.6 (4th)
2. G Matt Slauson, + 5.4 (4th)
3. C Roberto Garza, +4.3 (5th)
4. WR Brandon Marshall, +3.7 (9th)

Bottom 4 Overall Grades On Offense:

1. LT Jermon Bushrod, -3.0.
2. TE Martellus Bennett, -1.5
3. RB Michael Bush, -1.1
4. FB Tony Fiammetta, -0.8

Top 4 Overall Grades On Defense:

T-1. LB James Anderson, +2.9 (Tied for 4th among 4-3 Outside Linebackers)
T-1. LB Lance Briggs, +2.9 (Tied for 4th among 4-3 Outside Linebackers)
T-3. DT Stephen Paea, +2.2
T-3. CB Tim Jennings, +2.2

Bottom 4 Overall Grades On Defense:

1. DT Henry Melton, -6.4
2. S Major Wright, -4.0
3. DE Shea McClellin, -3.1
4. DE Julius Peppers, -2.6

Top 2 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. K Robbie Gould, +4.1
2. LB Blake Costanzo, +4.0

Bottom 2 Overall Grades On Special Teams:

1. S Anthony Walters, -2.5
2. CB Isaiah Frey, -1.0


As you can see, the offense has graded very well, particularly in the passing game. But the defense, outside of the pass coverage, has graded quite poorly. That's especially the case with the pass-rush, where it ranks only below the Green Bay Packers in PFF's cumulatie grading (hey, at least there's that).

Jay Cutler has graded exceptionally well, ranking only behind Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers (again, coming into Sunday). The interior offensive line grades are also encouraging, with Matt Slauson looking like a very nice value signing by Bears general manager Phil Emery in the offseason, and Roberto Garza is performing much better than anticipated thus far at the age of 34.

Big free-agent signing Jermon Bushrod, however, has graded poorly, although he's been responsible for one sack allowed, and even that one you can greatly argue was Cutler's fault anyway.

I've mentioned a bit on Twitter over the first two weeks how great James Anderson has looked in pass coverage, and PFF's grades reflect that. The veteran outside linebacker has a +4.5 grade in pass coverage, tops among 4-3 outside linebackers (Lance Briggs comes in second at +2.5).

Henry Melton doesn't just have the worst overall grade from PFF on the Bears, but the worst grade from PFF of any defensive tackle- and by a lot. PFF's next-worst grade after Melton for defensive tackles is a -3.7, for Broncos defensive tackle Mitch Unrein. However, keep in mind that Melton missed basically the entire presason after suffering a concussion in the preseason opener, so it's understandable that he's started slow. Hopefully he'll get it going Sunday night, and if he doesn't get it going soon, he may not get anywhere close to the mega-deal he was hoping for this upcoming offseason.

Keep in mind with all the above grades- We're just 1/8 through the 2013 season, and most every player has some really good weeks, as well as some really bad ones. We don't get a very good read on how each player is performing for a few more weeks.

Our Overall Take

Realistically, you couldn't ask for things to be going much better for the Bears through two weeks. When you're undefeated and alone in first place in the division, there's little room to complain.

Yes, the pass-rush and overall play from the defensive line has been very disappointing. Yes, the defense has allowed some big plays. But you know what? Every team out there has a notable issue or two right now. A champion is not made in September. You don't want to peak at this point. The good teams will learn from their mistakes and work to get better (as best as their talent allows, anyway) in areas they're struggling.

And if you told me coming into the year that the Bears' main area of struggles had to do with defensive line after week two, I would've been thrilled, because, on paper, the defensive line is arguably the strength of the team. I have a hard time believing that Julius Peppers and Henry Melton, for example, went from studs to duds in a few months. I'm not saying it isn't possible, but in all likelihood, those players will be impact performers from the Bears in 2013.

The passing game and creativity in the play-calling from Marc Trestman has been very encouraging, and that's with just a small dose of the playbook unveiled. We haven't even seen much out of the run game either, and that will open up the offense even more.

Oh, and that guy Devin Hester is looking like his old self as a returner. We know how much of a game-changer he can be when he's right. We saw it against the Vikings. Without his franchise-record-setting game as a returner, there's no way the Bears are 2-0 right now.

So, again, all things considered, you have to be quite happy with where the Bears stand heading into Sunday night's game in Pittsburgh. Hopefully we can say the same thing come Monday.

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Another Chicago Bears game coming up vs the Minnesota Vikings, another focus on preventing Adrian Peterson from going off. And even when you do focus on that, even when you do have eight defenders in the box and bring a variety of run blitzes, Peterson still usually finds a way to have a big game.

The Detroit Lions had all offseason to prepare for their week one matchup against Peterson and the Vikings, and what did the 2012 NFL MVP do on his first carry (and the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, even)? He ran for a 78-yard touchdown:



After that, though, the Lions actually did a fantastic job containing Peterson. The 6'1", 217-pound back only ran for 15 yards and one touchdown over his 17 remaining carries. You don't have to be a math genius to realize that calculates out to less than one yard per carry.

How did the Lions keep Peterson to under one yard per carry over those final 17 carries, after allowing him to run right by them for a 78-yard touchdown on the first play? Former Super Bowl-winning NFL head coach Brian Billick served as the color commentator for this Lions-Vikings game, and broke down how the Lions were able to slow Peterson down after the touchdown run:



As Billick displayed in the video, it was an effort from the entire Lions defense to contain Peterson; from the defensive line to the secondary.

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker James Anderson, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker echoed those thoughts on what it takes to take down Peterson.

Tillman:
"Our defense will have its hands full because he's a guy who makes you play team football," Tillman said. "You can't have one guy tackle him, you have to population tackle."
Anderson:
"Man, you've got to get guys to the ball," Anderson said. "You've got to get helmets to the ball. You can't try to take that guy one-on-one. If he makes the first guy miss, he'll break tackles. Leverage and tackling. You've got to make sure tackles."
Tucker:
"Everyone is at the point of attack every time he gets the ball -- the front side, the back side, the D-line, the linebackers, the secondary." Tucker said. "Every time he gets the ball he can go the distance."

The Lions' defense had eight men in the box for 15 of Peterson's 16 carries. But as we said earlier, just because you have eight men in the box does not at all mean you're necessarily going to prevent Peterson from having a big game. The Bears have to do a much, much better job of tackling than they did against the Bengals.

Here's what Anderson had to say about the Bears' tackling:

"You've got to lean back into your fundamentals and technique," Anderson said. "You get tired, you start getting high [pad level]. The more we get used to playing games, to lowering our pads a little bit, we'll be fine.
And even though the Bears have arguably the best group of tackling defensive backs in the league (with particularly terrific tacklers at cornerback in Tillman and Tim Jennings), you don't want to leave it up to them to have to bring down a charging Peterson in the open field.

The Bears' front seven -- Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, Corey Wootton, Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams, and Anderson-- are the key to this game. They need to fill their gaps and make tackles. And if they can't make tackles by themselves, they at least need to slow Peterson down to put the other defenders in position for the 'population' tackles Tillman described.

Also important in slowing down Peterson, will be for the Bears' front four to put pressure on Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. There was little to no pass rush from the Bears against the Bengals, as they had no quarterback hits through three quarters and finished the game with only one sack, courtesy of second-year defensive end Shea McClellin. If the Bears' can get consistent pressure on Ponder from the defensive line in this game, it allows the team to feel more comfortable in bringing up a safety in the box to help slow down Peterson. Otherwise, Ponder will have a receiver or two open (such as tight end Kyle Rudolph down the seam), and even with Ponder's throwing struggles, an NFL quarterback is usually going to take advantage of such situations.

Peterson is a special talent and he's going to make plays; he's almost always going to break a big run or two. In 2012, he only had one game where he didn't have a run of least 18 yards, and he broke a run of 25 yards or more in 10 games.

But if the Bears can limit the damage and the front seven can shut down many of Peterson's carries at or near the line of scrimmage as the Lions did, they're going to put themselves in a terrific position to have a 2-0 record after Sunday's game at Soldier Field.

Source for quotes: ESPN Chicago

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Just like week one, it appears the Chicago Bears will have their entire 53-man roster healthy heading into their week two game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers missed practice on Thursday with the flu, but returned to practice in limited fashion on Friday, and is listed as 'probable' on the Friday official injury report.

We told you on Wednesday how Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was limited in practice with a sore knee that day, and he went on to miss practice on Thursday. However, like Peppers, Peanut is listed as 'probable' on the injury report, and it would be a surprise if either player were unable to go on Sunday. The Bears will need these two stars to help slow down the 2012 NFL MVP, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

No other Bears players are listed on the injury report.

The Vikings have seven players listed on the injury report, but all players are listed as 'probable'. Those players are linebacker Larry Dean (shoulder), linebacker Erin Henderson (heel), Phil Loadholt (knee), safety Mistral Raymond (shoulder), cornerback Josh Robinson (quad), center John Sullivan (knee), and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee).

We had this to say about Williams on Wednesday:

Williams, a starter at defensive tackle for the Vikings since 2003, missed the Vikings' week one loss to the Lions with a knee injury, but is expected to be able to play on Sunday vs the Bears. The 33-year-old has long been one of the best run-stuffers in the NFL and was graded as one of Pro Football Focus' top-10 defensive tackles in 2012, so his return would be a big boost for Minnesota's defensive line.

In news that is not injury-related but is still worth noting as it impacts what players will dress on Sunday, Bears head coach Marc Trestman said on Thursday that recently acquired tight end Dante Rosario will be active on Sunday, and said "He'll (Rosario) be part of the game plan."

In week one, Rosario was inactive, as he was still learning the Bears' offense. The team chose to go with Kyle Adams as a gameday active over Rosario, and Adams was waived (again) on Monday to make room (again) for offensive tackle Jonathan Scott.

Rosario, a veteran tight end that had three touchdown receptions in 2012 for the San Diego Chargers, will give the Bears a nice pass-catching option behind Martellus Bennett at the tight end position, and give Jay Cutler another nice red-zone target.

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Bears CB Charles Tillman (knee) should be able to play Sunday vs the Vikings, and in the awesome 1940s throwback uniforms like he's wearing in this photo.

The Chicago Bears will try to improve their 2013 record to 2-0, while the Minnesota Vikings will look to avoid an 0-2 start, when the teams meet for an NFC North clash on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Last week, the Bears were the only team in the NFL to not have a player listed on the injury report. And barring a change to the team's health on Thursday and Friday, it doesn't appear that there will be any players listed worse than "Probable" on the Bears' official injury report that will be released Friday afternoon.

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was limited in practice with a sore knee on Wednesday, but the team's head coach, Marc Trestman, says that he expects the star cornerback to be able to go on Sunday:
Peanut had a wild afternoon in the Bears' 24-21 victory over the Bengals in week one. He had two diving interceptions, but also gave up some big plays (as well as getting flagged for pass interference in the end zone) to Bengals star receiver AJ Green, who finished with nine receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Oh, and Peanut also left the first half of that game with dehydration (after making those two interceptions), and was seen vomiting on the sidelines twice, before returning to action in the second half. Hopefully his knee heals up and he'll be able to get through the Vikings game without any health issues.

No other Bears player was listed with an injury on the team's Wednesday report.

For the Vikings, offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), cornerback Josh Robinson (quad), center John Sullivan (knee), and defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) were all limited participants in Minnesota's Wednesday practice.

Williams, a starter at defensive tackle for the Vikings since 2003, missed the Vikings' week one loss to the Lions with a knee injury, but is expected to be able to play on Sunday vs the Bears. The 33-year-old has long been one of the best run-stuffers in the NFL and was graded as one of Pro Football Focus' top-10 defensive tackles in 2012, so his return would be a big boost for Minnesota's defensive line.

Here's what Williams had to say on Wednesday about how his status for week two is looking:
"Uh, talk to me tomorrow, hopefully won't be too sore tomorrow because I hadn't done anything in a couple of weeks and we'll go from there," Williams said when asked if he has any question about being ready for Sunday. "That's pretty much the key. We did a little bit of work today, got the chance to move around. If no residual going on tomorrow, that's always positive and we work on Friday then."
Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier added this on Williams:
"Kevin is so important to us that his absence, it makes a difference," coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday. "He's one of the best to ever play the game at his position. So, anytime you don't have him, not only from a performance standpoint but a leadership standpoint as well, it's going to affect your team. They did run the ball effectively against us. Having Kevin, I think it would have helped us, for sure. Glad to have him back. Hopefully everything will go fine this week and we'll have him on Sunday as well."
The Vikings also listed linebacker Larry Dean (shoulder), linebacker Erin Henderson (heel), safety Mistral Raymond (shoulder), and safety Jamarca Sanford (shoulder) as full participants in practice.

Vikings injury quotes via Fox Sports North

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On Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals signed defensive tackle Geno Atkins (pictured above) to a five-year, $55 million extension. The contract ranks only below the five-year, $61 million extension signed in 2011 by the Baltimore Ravens' Haloti Ngata, as the most lucrative extension signed by a defensive tackle in NFL history.

And those that are very familiar with what Atkins brings to the table may even consider the deal a bargain. The 6'1", 300-pound three-technique defensive tackle is just 25, and has gotten significantly better every season.

In 2010, he had three sacks and 16 tackles in 16 games, although he only started one of those games (he was a rookie fourth-round pick).

In 2011, he had eight sacks, 47 tackles, and two forced fumbles in 16 games (15 started).

And in 2012, he really broke onto the scene, recording 12.5 sacks (tops among NFL interior defensive linemen), 54 tackles, and four forced fumbles in 16 games (started all of them). He recorded at least 0.5 sacks in 10 of the 16 games. He was also named a first-team All-Pro, and Pro Football Focus gave him an overall rating of 79.9 on the season. If you have no idea if that's good, just consider that the second-best defensive tackle graded in 2012 by Pro Football Focus, Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, had a rating 48.2 points worse than that. It's very, very good.

So what could the league's best 4-3 defensive tackle be in for in 2013? Our Chicago Bears will be the ones getting the first taste of that, Sunday at Soldier Field. And more accurately, it will be the Bears' interior offensive line -- left guard Matt Slauson, center Roberto Garza, and right guard Kyle Long -- getting that first taste.

Nice little matchup for Long in his first NFL game, eh? Really, it's quite possible he doesn't go up against a better interior defensive lineman the rest of his (hopefully long... no pun intended) NFL career.

So this will be quite the test for the Bears' 2013 first-round pick, though he certainly passed all the tests he faced in the preseason. Long received a 7.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in the preseason, the highest grade they gave to any guard in the preseason. The performance landed Long on the "PFF Team of Preseason".

Long's preseason performance even impressed Atkins. The Bengals' defensive tackle had the following to say about Long to the Chicago media during a conference call on Wednesday:

“He’s big and he’s physical, very aggressive and a strong player,” Atkins said. “And by watching him, you can tell he likes to get after defensive linemen. He likes to get off, be aggressive and show his strength.”
Source: ESPN Chicago

While Atkins may have some tricks up his sleeve for the rookie in the trenches, I'm actually more concerned for the Bears about the veteran center Garza having to deal with Atkins. Garza's a smart player and great leader manning the middle of the Bears' line, but at 34, his skills are on the decline (and have been for a few years), and he's going to have his hands full vs the beast that Atkins is.

The Bengals' entire front seven is very impressive, so getting "help" in blocking Atkins could open up opportunities for their other six players to make plays, and could cause a very difficult time for another Bears rookie starter on the right side of the line, right tackle Jordan Mills. While Mills looked good himself in the Bears' preseason games, we have to remember this is a fifth-round pick starting at right tackle in his NFL debut, and he has a very tough task going up against defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals' best edge rusher.

Therefore, the Bears can't overly focus on Atkins; they're going to need to have the interior offensive linemen hold their own (or at least come close to doing so) in one-on-one battles. But look for Bears head coach and playcaller, Marc Trestman, to design some plays for moving pockets with Jay Cutler and try to get Matt Forte in space on the outside. Then again, nobody knows exactly what to expect with Trestman and this Bears offense (especially in the debut), and perhaps that could work to their advantage against Atkins and this ferocious Bengals front seven.

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Bengals starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth will not play Sunday vs the Bears.

We're just two days away from the Chicago Bears' 2013 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field, and it appears the Bears will have their full squad available for the game.

On Friday, NFL teams released their first official injury reports (where they use the "Probable", "Questionable", "Doubtful", "Out" tags), and the Bears were the only team in the entire league to not list a single player on their report. That's quite a fortunate situation -- to say the least -- to open the season.

The Bengals, on the other hand, have eight players listed on their injury report.

Cincinnati's most notable player on the report is without question left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee), who is listed as doubtful after missing practice for the third consecutive day. The 6'7", 335-pound Whitworth is the Bengals' top offensive lineman, and even graded out as Pro Football Focus' top pass protector in 2012. So, assuming Whitworth can't go, that's a major loss for the Bengals' offense, and very bad news for quarterback Andy Dalton. Now, 6'5", 317-pound swing tackle Anthony Collins will likely be forced into the crucial duties of protecting Dalton's blindside, which happens to also be the side Bears star Julius Peppers lines up at defensive end. Quite the task.

Two Bengals players that are officially listed as "out" for the game are backup cornerback Brandon Ghee (concussion), and backup guard Mike Pollak (knee). Starting right tackle Andre Smith (knee), starting defensive end Carlos Dunlap (concussion), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), tight end Tyler Eifert (forearm), and defensive tackle Devon Still are all listed as "probable" after they all had full participation in Friday's practice.

Coming into the week, it was up in the air whether or not Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), and linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) would be able to play in the game, but they'll indeed be good to go apparently.

Melton will start at defensive tackle, and Williams will start at middle linebacker, which is a tad surprising given that he didn't play in any preseason games, while Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic was very impressive in the role during preseason games (and figures to be the long-term option at the position). It's very possible that Bostic will still see some playing time at linebacker in the game, though.

Here's what Bears head coach Marc Trestman said in regards to Williams, via ESPN Chicago:

“I think he’s in good condition,” Trestman said. “I don’t know if he’s in great condition. I don’t know if we’ll know until we see whether he can take a significant amount of action. We’ll see how things go on Sunday. I believe he’ll play. How much will be relative to game-like conditions, where it’s physical out there, and we’re running sideline to sideline.”

Bennett's situation has been an interesting one. There were whispers in the last couple weeks that the Bears were shopping Bennett, and while Bears general manager Phil Emery vehemently denied those reports (but of course he would regardless), Bennett agreed on Friday to take a $1 million pay cut to reduce his base salary in 2013 from $2.25 million to $1.25 million. I still think Bennett can be a great fit in this offense as the Bears' starting slot receiver, but we'll have to wait and see. Additionally, he may get lost in the passing target shuffle with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Marquess Wilson, Joe Anderson, etc in the offense.

But looking specifically at Sunday's game,  it's unknown how much Bennett will play. Here's what Marc Trestman had to say (again, thanks to ESPN Chicago) about Bennett:

“I think Earl will play this game,” Trestman said. “I don’t know how much, but he’ll play and certainly continue to play more as he works himself into things. How much he plays will just be relative to how he feels out there and what his conditioning level is. He’s very confident he can go the distance. We’ll watch him closely and see.”
So, keep an eye on the playing time and effectiveness of those Bears players, but overall, the Bears certainly can't have any complaints on the health front heading into week one. Let's hope it stays that way after the game.

UPDATE (Saturday): Andrew Whitworth has now officially been ruled out for Sunday's game:

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