After a tough loss in the season opener, the Bears (0-1) return to the field to face the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field. Here's a breakdown of Chicago's Week 2 opponent:
What's new: A former No. 1 overall draft pick, two-time Pro Bowler and 13-year pro is far from "new." But after Carson Palmer missed the final 10 games of Arizona's 2014 season because of a torn ACL, his return to the Cardinals offense feels like a comeback of sorts. Palmer was fantastic in the team's season-opening victory against New Orleans, throwing for 307 and three TDs. Mobility is not the quarterback's strength, but the Arizona offensive line did a strong job versus the Saints, as Palmer was only hit once and never sacked.
|Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had six catches for 84 yards in the Cardinals' season opener.|
What's old: At age 32, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn't the premier playmaker he was a half-decade ago. But the veteran makes up for his declining speed and athleticism with smarts and savvy. Fitzgerald had six receptions in the opener, for 84 yards, including a gain of 29. Second-year pro John Brown is the Arizona deep threat and tight end Daniel Fells is a solid option. But when Palmer needs to move the chains, his first choice will be to Fitzgerald. Against the Saints, four of his six catches went for first downs.
Last time out: In the season opener, the Cardinals offense showcased its firepower and the team's defense made enough plays in a 31-19 victory against the Saints. Palmer threw for 307 yards, and the team gained another 120 on the ground. Arizona's defense employed a "bend but don't break" philosophy. The Saints gained 408 yards but were just 1-of-4 in the red zone, as the Cardinals kept forcing New Orleans to kick field goals after keeping them out of the end zone.
Series history: Former city neighbors, the Bears and Cardinals are the two oldest teams in NFL history, as both date back to 1920. The Cardinals won the first matchup, 7-6, played at Normal Park – located at Racine Ave. and 61st St. Since then, the Bears have dominated, leading the all-time series 58-27-6, though the teams play less frequently now that the Cardinals have moved out west. Sunday's game will be just the ninth meeting between the teams in the last 31 years.
Injury report: Arizona running back Andre Ellington sprained his PCL in the win over New Orleans and is expected to miss the game in Chicago. A speedster who has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry for his career, Ellington's absence will mean veteran Chris Johnson will move into the starting role. Rookie David Johnson, who had a 55-yard touchdown reception in the opener, may also see more playing time with the starter hurt.
Schemes and tendencies: The measure of a good defensive back is being a player opposing teams don't even want to test. Patrick Peterson is regarded as one of the NFL's premier cornerbacks, and with good reason. He's made the Pro Bowl in all four of his professional seasons and is at the level where quarterbacks are hesitant to throw his way. Peterson starts at left corner for Arizona; In 2014, Cardinals opponents threw only 29 passes of 10 yards or longer down the left side of the field. That ranked as the fifth-fewest in the league to that area of the field. Teams tested the right side more, going deep 51 times on that half of the field. Problem was, only 29.4 percent of the passes away from Peterson were completed, the sixth-lowest percentage in the NFL.
Did you know: The owner of the Cardinals, Bill Bidwell, has deep Chicago roots. He was born and raised in the Windy City, and his father, Charles Bidwell, went to St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University within the city. On the other hand, Bears chairman George McCaskey at one point called Arizona home, as he earned both his bachelor's and law degrees from Arizona State University in Tempe.