Unpopular Opinions

Unpopular Opinions: Colts to surprise in Week 1; respect Bears!

Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.

In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Here is my take on a Week 1 game that is going to surprise many of you (but not me).

The Colts are going to beat the Chargersin Week 1 in Los Angeles. It's going to happen.

I know this will come as a shock, much like Andrew Luck's surprise retirement. And let me just say that I'm bummed Luck is not going to play football anymore, but I can respect his decision. Kind of like how Robert Loggia didn't want President Whitmore up in the air fighting those invading aliens in "Independence Day" but damn it, he respected the decision because he belonged in the air. And ultimately, Luck's interest was in pursuits away from the football field. The only people who really questioned the move were fantasy managers who already drafted him (get over it) and the Colts fans at Lucas Oil Stadium who booed him after news of his decision leaked. Which, come on, folks. You've had a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback nearly every year since 1998. The Bears had to play a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at QB (and that's a big reason why the Indianapolis Colts even have a Super Bowl win).

But I digress.

The Colts are going to win on Sunday. I know a lot of you will look back at Jacoby Brissett's first and only season as the Colts' starting quarterback (a 4-12 2017 campaign) and quickly dismiss him now that the job is his again. That would be a huge mistake. It's like watching Ryan Reynolds in "The Green Lantern" and coming to the conclusion that he could never carry a superhero picture on his own. You'd be wrong! "Deadpool" is proof!

For starters, Brissett should be plenty comfortable in his third season with the team and has had a chance to get extended work with the starters leading up to Week 1 this time around. Remember, the Colts flipped wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots for Brissett just before the start of the regular season in 2017, giving him a grand total of 15 days between being traded and being thrust into the starting lineup in Week 2. Brissett has had ample time this summer to direct the Colts' first-team offense with Luck sidelined by an injury prior to his retirement.

And let's also note that this team is drastically different from the one Brissett led during his last season as the starter. GM Chris Ballard has done a great job of rebuilding this squad since he was hired in '17. The Colts' offensive line is vastly improved. In fact, it's become one of the best in football, thanks in no small part to the draft selections of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith last year. The team also has more offensive firepower. T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack -- both holdovers from '17 -- are playing at a high level, and tight end Eric Ebron, running back Nyheim Hines and second-round wide receiver Parris Campbell have been added in the last two offseasons. Perhaps most importantly, he's working with a different coaching staff, led by Frank Reich, who was the Eagles' offensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles. I'm not saying the Colts are winning the Super Bowl this season. I'm also not saying that won't happen. Oh, and the defense is much-improved this time around, in that it can actually stop some people, unlike in '17. Darius Leonard, last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year, is already leading the way on that side of the ball.

Now, the Colts aren't going to cruise on Sunday. They will indeed have a tough game against a Chargers team that I believe will make the playoffs as a wild card. But it hasn't been all sunshine and swells in Los Angeles, either. Melvin Gordon, who has yet to report to the team as he seeks a new contract, has been afforded the opportunity to seek a trade, and this conflict might not end soon. And while the Chargers are capable of winning without Gordon (they did last year in Kansas City when the RB was sidelined due to injury), keep in mind that the defense suffered a huge blow last month when All-Pro second-year safety Derwin James suffered a foot injury that will keep him out until at least November. Plus, starting left tackle Russell Okung will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after being placed on the non-football illness list. He's been out of the mix since June when he suffered a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots.

So, yeah. Did I mention all is not well for the Bolts?

And I really hate to be the jerk who points this out, but the Chargers have a notorious recent history of struggling right out of the gate. They have lost in Week 1 in five of the last six seasons. The Chargers dropped their opener to the Chiefs at home last year and started 1-2 before rallying to finish with 12 wins and reach the playoffs. They opened the 2017 season by losing four straight, including dropping three consecutive home games in their first year back in Los Angeles. They were 1-4 in their first five during their final season in San Diego. I could go on, but you get the idea.

What makes the NFL so great is the unpredictability of it. And while the Colts might seem like a mess, and the Chargers a legit Super Bowl contender, give me the visitors in the opener, with a Colts pass rush bolstered by the offseason addition of veteran Justin Houston making the difference.


In the NFL.com preseason Super Bowl predictions we published last week, one person picked the Bears to win the Super Bowl. That was me. By contrast, the Raiders got two votes. I'm sensing some disrespect for Chicago.

But it's not just NFL analysts who are doubting the Bears this season. It seems a lot of fans feel like they were a fluke last year and can't repeat as NFC North champions. Which is hilarious to me because I would go the other way and say the Bears are going to be better this season. I'm hearing people say things about the Bears that are eerily similar to what the doubters were saying about the Rams heading into last season, coming off their own surprising division title. You might remember the Rams responded by going all the way to the Super Bowl.

The Bears will improve offensively. Mitchell Trubisky is now in his second season in Matt Nagy's offense and is going to take another step in his development. Same for receiver Anthony Miller. Allen Robinson is healthy. And the team drafted David Montgomery, who suits this offense much better than Jordan Howard did (no disrespect, love you Jordan!). Montgomery is going to be your Offensive Rookie of the Year, though.

Vic Fangio moved on to become the head coach in Denver, and it's going to be tough to replace him at defensive coordinator. But again, it's possible that the Bears could be even better on defense with Chuck Pagano succeeding Fangio. Khalil Mack was acquired at the 11th hour last season. Roquan Smith didn't arrive to camp until mid-August last year. Those guys have now had a full offseason with the team and are ready to go. And Eddie Jackson is on the cusp of being this generation's Ed Reed. Yeah, this D is going to be even better.

Now if you want to bring up the kicking situation, fine. But the Bears are entrusting the role to my guy Eddy P., who went to Florida and told the equipment manager that he wanted to wear No. 15 -- yes, Tim Tebow's old number. I think he has the kind of gumption you need to succeed in the NFL.

I know I'm a bit biased as a Schaumburg, Illinois, native. But come Friday, all people will be talking about is the Bears' impressive performance against the Packers on Thursday night. Trust me.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

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