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Opponent breakdown: Broncos


After consecutive road victories, the Bears (4-5) return to Soldier Field to take on the Denver Broncos (7-2). Here's a breakdown of Chicago's Week 11 opponent:

What's new: It doesn't get much newer than a player set to make his first career start, which is exactly the task Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler faces on Sunday against the Bears. Making that job even tougher is the tremendous shadow he must step into. Peyton Manning, who will be inactive Sunday because of a foot injury, just happens to be the NFL's all-time passing yardage leader. Osweiler, meanwhile, has 305 passing yards in his entire career, having never played in a game where the score differential was less than a touchdown. While it remains to be seen if the quarterback is a big-time player, one thing is sure: he's simply big. At 6-foot-8, Osweiler is the tallest player at his position in the NFL.

What's old: Denver's pass rush is the NFL's best, leading the league with 32 sacks. Anchoring the unit are a pair of ferocious outside linebackers, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, each of whom has more than five sacks on the year. With speed and power coming off both ends, the Broncos put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It is no surprise then that Denver's defense allows the fewest total yards per game (277.3) and third-fewest points per game (18.7) in the NFL.

Last time out: After losing by just a field goal in Week 9, the Broncos dropped their second straight game in Week 10. That one wasn't so close. Denver was crushed at home, falling to Kansas City 29-13. Manning threw four interceptions before being replaced by Osweiler, and Denver averaged just 4.1 yards per pass attempt. The Broncos were shut out for three-plus quarters before finally reaching the end zone on their final two drives of the game.

Series history: The Bears and Broncos don't square off too often. Going back to 1971, the two teams have met 14 times, with each team winning seven. There have been a lot of close battles, however. Six of the 14 games, including the two most recent, have been decided by five points or less.

Injury report: There's no bigger name on any team's injury report than Manning. Even though it hasn't been the future Hall of Famer's best season, his absence is sure to be felt by the Broncos. On defense, the Broncos may be without Ware, who missed the Week 10 game against the Chiefs because of a back injury.

Schemes and tendencies: Without Manning under center, it would make sense that the Broncos run the ball more. However, that hasn't exactly been a strength of the Denver offense this season. The Broncos rank 30th in rushing attempts with 205 on the year, and 29th in yards with 774. Running backs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson each have more than 300 rushing yards, but neither averages more than 4.1 yards per carry.

Did you know: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was drafted by Denver in 2006, and he is an interesting character in a bit of Broncos trivia. Sunday's game, with Osweiler as his opposition, will mark only the second game in Broncos history where two quarterbacks drafted by the Denver organization have started against one another. Before Sunday, the only other game took place on October 5, 2008, when Tampa Bay's Brian Griese - drafted by Denver in 1998 - started against Cutler and the Broncos. Cutler threw for 227 yards and a touchdown that afternoon as the Broncos won 16-13.

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