ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There is rest, and there playing at altitude.
The Bears weill be the well-rested team Sunday. They will have nine days between games 1 and 2 while the Broncos will only have five days.
But the first game at newly named Empower Field at Mile High will be played at 5,280 feet above sea level where the Broncos train and the Bears don’t.
Added rest versus altitude equals zero advantage. Which leaves the Chicago Bears as presumably the better team. They won 12 games last season. The Broncos have won 11 games in their previous two seasons combined.
That doesn’t mean the Broncos can’t be the better team on Sunday. Here is a Klis List of ways the Broncos can pull off a home upset against the Bears:
I thought quarterback Joe Flacco played well in his Broncos’ debut Monday at Oakland, and his 105.3 passer rating supports it. He played so well, the Broncos should open up the passing attack from the jump in Game 2.
Only problem is, the Bears can rush the passer like few others. They were tied for third in the league last year with 50 sacks – two off the leaders – and had 5.0 sacks last week against Green Bay and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Not only can the Bears bring Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd off the edge, but defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is a terrific inside penetrator as he had 16.0 sacks combined the previous two years.
Flacco was sacked three times Monday by a far less renowned Raiders’ front.
Shaky as a rookie after he was the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, Trubisky broke out last year in his second season, passing for 24 touchdowns against 12 interceptions and rushing for 421 yards and three more touchdowns.
He didn’t play well in the season opener against Green Bay last week. He was sacked five times, only rushed for 11 yards, and was wild high on several throws from the pocket.
The Denver D, meanwhile, is coming off a deflating effort against Derek Carr and the Raiders. The Broncos’ vaunted pass-rush duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were unable to get in on the quick-throwing Carr, who completed 21 of 25.
Miller and Chubb figure to be sack hungry for this game – although they must be careful not to get too far upfield so Trubisky can cut up.
Stop Montgomery, cover Cohen
Surprisingly, the Bears quickly gave up on their running game against the Packers. Their two ballcarriers, rookie David Montgomery and Mike Davis, combined for just 11 carries while Trubisky dropped back to pass 50 times.
A play-calling correction figures to be made this week, especially after the Bears saw the success Oakland rookie running back Josh Jacobs had against the Broncos’ front on Monday.
Jacobs also had a 28-yard catch-and-run out of the backfield and the Bears have one of the league’s most dangerous receiving threats out of the backfield in Tarik Cohen, who had eight catches against Green Bay last week.
Look for Emmanuel, Courtland early
The Broncos were intent on establishing the run to set up the play-action pass in their opener, but they may have stuck with it a tad too long. Their chunk plays came in the passing game through Flacco completions to Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders.
Loosening up the Bears’ defense with the passing game may be the Broncos’ best hope of scoring 24 points Sunday.
Pass to set up Lindsay, Freeman
Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello said he could feel the running game beginning to come on against the Raiders, but couldn’t stick with it because the Broncos were trailing by two scores most of the game.
So pass to get up early, and then use the running game. Phillip Lindsay found the yards difficult against the Raiders and they don’t figure to get easier against Bears’ inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Royce Freeman, the Broncos’ 1B back, had a nice second half.
Give Yiadom some help
The Bears have a legitimate, big, No. 1 ½-type receiver in Allen Robinson, who had 7 catches for 102 yards in the opener against the Pack. He will be a tough matchup for Broncos’ second-year cornerback Isaac Yiadom, who was picked on in the first half by Carr and the Raiders.
Yiadom was more effective in the second half as the Broncos adjusted by shading a safety, either Kareem Jackson or Justin Simmons, over his way.
If Bears’ tight end Trey Burton, who is questionable with a groin injury, doesn’t play, the Bears won’t have a great second threat in the passing game aside from Cohen.
Play with chip of home underdog
After the Vegas oddsmakers saw the Broncos’ desultory season-opening performance at Oakland, the line moved from pick-‘em to favoring the road Bears by 2.5 points.
That should give the Broncos some angry energy, at least in the first quarter.
Mix it up, Vic
The Bears know the defensive play-call tendencies of Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. He should sprinkle in an early surprise blitz or two to keep Chicago play-caller Matt Nagy and Trubisky off-balanced.
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