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As the 2013 NFL season kicks off the Chicago Bears welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to Soldier Field for what should be one of the best games of the opening weekend.
The Bengals enter the season with lofty expectations in the AFC as the Bears come in with questions surrounding their team.
The Bears fired Lovie Smith after finishing 10-6, but missing the playoffs. New head coach Marc Trestman was a surprise hire to many, but has had NFL success working with quarterbacks.
Chicago signal caller Jay Cutler is entering the final year of his contract and needs to have a great season to warrant a big extension.
His counterpart, Andy Dalton, is expected to lead a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Both quarterbacks are surrounded by a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball as well as great defenses.
Here are three bold predictions for Sunday’s tilt:
1. Matt Forte will have over 200 total yards of offense
Trestman loves to use the running back in the offense and Forte has been one of the best all-purpose backs since entering the league in 2008. With a heavy emphasis on getting the ball out of Cutler’s hand quickly look for Trestman to call a lot of plays designed to get Forte the ball in space where he is very dangerous. With good blocking wide receivers look for Forte to have a couple of big gains on the perimeter that will help lead to his great offensive day.
2. Both teams will score at least 28 points
With two of the league's better defenses this may come as a bit of a surprise, but both teams have a lot of great skill players. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green are two of the games best and provide big play options for Cutler and Dalton, respectively.
Tight end Martellus Bennett of the Bears and the combination of Jermaine Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert of the Bengals will provide mismatches in the middle of the field. Second-year receiver Alshon Jeffery has had a solid preseason and will have plenty of opportunities lining up opposite of Marshall.
3. Geno Atkins will have three sacks
The Bears are starting rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills at right guard and tackle, respectively, against one of the league’s best defensive fronts. Atkins is the best interior lineman in the NFL and look for him to have a dominant day. Long and Mills have both looked very good in preseason, but with the outstanding defensive line of the Bengals there will no doubt be some growing pains on Sunday for these two rookies.
Win or lose, neither team should put too much emphasis on the outcome of this game or use it as an indicator for how the rest of their season will go. Either way this should be one of the highlight games of the weekend.