By Doug Halberstadt
For professional football fans in this area, the 2012-13 season begins tomorrow (Thursday, Aug. 9). Both the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers open up their preseason schedules with games against AFC opponents.
The Packers will play the San Diego Chargers in a nationally-televised game (ESPN) from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. local time. A half hour later, the Bears will host the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field.
For Green Bay, this will be the first step in their effort to build on their regular-season success from last season and rebound from their disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs. They finished perfect in the NFC North (6-0) and 15-1 overall. Their only regular-season loss came in week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs. They suffered a 17-point (37-20) loss in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
The Bears finished 3-3 in the division and 8-8 overall. This preseason will give Head Coach Lovie Smith and his staff an opportunity to take a long look at their newly-acquired offensive weapon, Brandon Marshall. The talented wide receiver is expected to add a huge spark this season to the Bears’ less-than-potent offense.
Marshall was a teammate of Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler when they both were in Denver. There seems to be an undeniable chemistry between the duo. Chicago fans are hoping that chemistry can manifest itself on the field. Last year, the Bears’ passing game was ranked 13th out of the 16 teams in the NFC. With a healthy receiving stable and better line protection for Cutler, there should be no reason they can’t climb back into the top 10 in the league.
It’s customary for coaches to play their starters for only a couple of quarters in the early preseason games. For the Packers, I can’t imagine Head Coach Mike McCarthy would stray from that strategy. His team is a proven commodity, and hasn’t endured any significant changes from last season.
The Bears might want to leave their starters out there a little longer than usual. I believe the players and the coaching staff need the live game conditions to make accurate evaluations of their strengths and weaknesses. I think the Bears have made some improvements, but I’m still not convinced they are enough to rescue this team from another season of mediocrity. Let the (preseason) games begin!
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Aug. 8-14, 2012, issue