Just another game, just another week, just another coach. Whatever.
No matter what they’ve said before or say after Sunday’s affair, Bears coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase have plenty of desire to put it on the Broncos in Soldier Field.
And there are many folks with the Broncos, in the locker room and upstairs in the executive/coaches’ offices, who want to show things are fine in Denver after Fox's departure. The Broncos do have a three-game lead toward their fifth consecutive AFC West title.
So, there is plenty of football drama along for the ride.
Here are five reasons the Broncos can win Sunday against the Bears:
Defense travels: Even with all of the problems the Broncos have had on offense, and it’s quite a list, the team’s defense has been the foundation of when, and why, the team wins. Cornerback Aqib Talib will be back in the lineup after a one-game suspension and that means the Bears will not have the option of keeping the ball away from the Broncos’ top cornerbacks (Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby) as the Chiefs did when they isolated the Broncos' safeties and backup cornerback Kayvon Webster in coverage at times. And while the Bears' offense showed plenty of pop in last week’s win over the St. Louis Rams, in its body of work this season Chicago is 1-3 against teams that are currently in the league’s top 10 in defense.
Demaryius Thomas: With Brock Osweiler set to make his first regular-season start, it’s likely the Broncos will try to pound the ball in the run game, especially initially, to get Osweiler settled in. But in the Bears’ previous nine games this season, they haven’t faced a lot of receivers who personnel executives would consider to be on the top shelf at the position. And the two most accomplished receivers they’ve faced -- Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald -- went for 166 and 112 yards, respectively, against Chicago’s defense. Thomas is a match-up the Broncos can win, so the Bears will likely try to get help on him. But if Osweiler can move the ball around effectively when he is asked to throw, Thomas will get free for big-play potential.
Run game has to work, doesn’t it? In Gary Kubiak’s previous 11-year stint in Denver as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, the team finished among the top five in rushing nine times and never below 12th. It was at its best with Terrell Davis lugging the rock, of course, but through the years the Broncos produced no matter what the turnover was in the backfield or on the offensive line. This year’s backs haven’t always been decisive enough with their cuts and reads, while the offensive line hasn’t cleared the way enough either, but when the Broncos are able to run the ball -- see wins over the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers -- they are difficult to handle. The Bears have surrendered at least 4.4 yards per carry on rushing attempts that have originated around left end, over the left tackle, over center, over the right tackle and around the right end. So, the potential for a big day is there.
Ability to limit big plays: Gase is going to really, really want to push the envelope at times with the Bears' offense and try to make the Broncos pay for their aggressiveness on defense. Gase has done what he believed he could for Jay Cutler, which is get Cutler to limit the turnovers if the team protected him better up front. But the Broncos have made quarterbacks pay a heavy physical price for standing in long enough to put the ball down the field -- they’ve already battered the likes of Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgwater, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. And even with DeMarcus Ware out of the lineup for this one, they can generate enough in the pass rush to get to Cutler if the Bears decide they want to try to go deep instead of being patient along the way.
Emotional bump. Every player in the Broncos' locker room knows Osweiler is making his first career start. They know the Bears will do whatever they can to disrupt the kid on his 25th birthday -- it’s Sunday -- and they know with the New England Patriots coming to Denver next week that if they really want to be in the conversation about home-field advantage in the playoffs, they have to get it done in Chicago first. With Peyton Manning sitting because of injuries, this game has a tipping-point feel to it for the Broncos' season. They have played well in other big moments this season and need to again.