Jason: One thing is for sure: Gio will have to show a lot of toughness this week going against hard-hitters like Bostic, Williams and Lance Briggs. I’m not sure the rookie is ready for that kind of punishment, but he has shown a lot of improvement in his toughness through the preseason, and his teammates have said just as much.
And as for Dalton, he’ll need to make quick, precise throws against a Bears defense that thrives off of turnovers, because one mistake and it’s six points the other way. But this is a scenario where Dalton has struggled mightily in his career. In road starts against teams that finished with a winning record, Dalton is 2-6 all-time (including playoffs). The Bears should win at least 9 games this year after winning 10 last year season and upgrading their offensive personnel.
Alex: The pressure will certainly be on Dalton to live up to the hype this offseason has brought. There’s also been a lot of doubt after last season’s playoff loss to the Texans that he wants to address. The only way to address that doubt is through his play. It’s time for him to take the football for Cincinnati and guide the team through the expectations that have been set. It starts in Chicago.
I think between the offensive line being out-manned against a stout Bears D-line, coupled with Dalton’s struggles on the road vs quality opponents, not to mention the mad-scientist Marc Trestman having a game plan that keeps the Bengals defense guessing throughout the contest, I see Chicago squeezing out a 20-17 win.
It’ll be a hard-fought, game. There’s certainly no way around that. Going into Soldier Field is never easy, especially when the starters are playing their first full 60 minutes of continuous action following the preseason. Still, that fact doesn’t apply to just the Bengals. And in this physical matchup, I see the Bengals coming out on top by a touchdown. Final score: Cincinnati 23, Chicago 16.