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Week 2 preview: Cardinals at Bears

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Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Soldier Field, Chicago – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa

*Keys to the game: The Cardinals are comfortable letting QB Carson Palmer make plays in crunch-time and play to win games in the fourth quarter. He’ll be getting acquainted with RB Chris Johnson, starting for injured Andre Ellington, on the fly against a defense lacking difference-makers. Palmer’s best playmakers are outside, and the Bears’ secondary can’t match up with all three receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and shake-and-bake slot man John Brown.

By contrast, Jay Cutler isn’t dependable in the clutch, and another fourth-quarter interception helped undo a rally for the Bears in last week’s loss to the Packers. Part of the issue is his receiving corps hasn’t come together with Brandon Marshall traded to the Jets and Alshon Jeffery hobbled by a strained calf. Veteran possession receiver Eddie Royal is dependable but not the fear-striking speedster Cutler covets. Riding RB Matt Forte kept Chicago in the game last week. Forte is also Cutler’s top receiver, and putting the ball in his hands should help the Bears keep the game close. The question then is whether Cutler can deliver when it counts.

*Matchup to watch – Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu vs. Cutler: A luxury for the defense because of his cover skills and instincts, Mathieu’s role is massive this week including assignments of Royal in the slot and containing TE Martellus Bennett. Mathieu isn’t big, but his athleticism is underrated and selling him short would cost Cutler.

*Player spotlight – Bears DT Eddie Goldman: The 332-pound rookie made his presence felt in the loss to the Packers, who opted to double-team him consistently. The Cardinals are shaky up front, and Goldman and DE Ego Ferguson should have several chances to make impact plays.

*Fast facts: Forte has 35 receptions in his past five games. … The Cardinals have 29 sacks in their last nine games.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Workhorse RB Matt Forte has almost all of the attention of the Arizona defense and the Cardinals have been a strong road team under coach Bruce Arians, who pushes the right buttons in the second half to start off another season 2-0.

*Our pick: Cardinals 25-17


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