This afternoon’s Bears/Bolts bash is unquestionably the glamor matchup of the NFL’s Opening Day (After Opening Night), and leave it to the Chicago Sun-Times’ mascara fiend Jay Mariotti to elevate some rather pedestrian trash talk to one of the game’s major storylines.

Eight months after losing a Super Bowl that still doesn’t feel like it started, they begin their encore season with way too much going on. Will Rex Grossman miss the snap count in the hostile environment of Qualcomm Stadium and start playing basketball with the football again? Why did Lance Briggs miss the final day of practice, and does it have anything to do with a certain Roger Goodell? Is Cedric Benson a force or a fraud? Will the knee sprain of Greg Olsen screw up the offensive game plan? Is Bob Babich really a better idea than Ron Rivera? Will the Devin Hester experiment end on a stretcher? Is Tommie Harris prepared to dominate again, or are his feelings still hurt from the LaDainian Tomlinson commercial?

And what exactly is Brian Urlacher thinking, just days after griping about the Nike ad in which L.T. romps though the Bears, when he insults the ”Lights Out” dance of Shawne Merriman? To be specific, he called it ”stupid,” which might be true but isn’t advisable in regard to timing. Doesn’t he know Merriman (above), the NFL’s reigning sack leader, is capable of smashing Grossman into a tequila bottle and rolling him to Tijuana? If Urlacher is trying to get in his head by saying he should dance after good plays and bad plays, can’t those mind games backfire? Doesn’t he realize the Chargers, robbed of their manhood in a jolting playoff loss to New England, have a new coach in Norv Turner and every reason to abuse the Bears for national statement purposes? Why provide more anger for a man who isn’t very merry?

Why are the Bears, after being embarrassed in the Super Bowl, participating in any yapping as they enter enemy territory against football’s most talented team? It does seem like a chip on the shoulder, an inferiority complex, and it’s quite unbecoming for a conference champion. Can’t everybody just shut up, drive carefully, execute the center snap and go to work?

It’s a fascinating question. Until now, I’d previously assumed when reading a mildly inflammatory quote from Urlacher or a teammate, said remarks were in response to a journalist’s questions. After reading Jay’s column, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that outspoken players are stomping around Da Bears’ practice facility, shouting into megaphones in the hopes of unnerving the opposition.

Jason Elam just went wide right (in Buffalo!) on a FG attempt that would’ve given the Broncos a 15-14 lead over the Bills. Don’t celebrate too much, Scott (Nor)wood, Gallo might be right behind you.

(UPDATE : Denver 15, Buffalo 14, final.  Elam hit a 42 yarder with a second remaining as the Broncos frantically tried to get the ball snapped with time expiring and no time outs remaining.  Javon Walker caught 4 passes from Jake Cutler during the final drive, 3 of ’em after being absolutely creamed by Terrence McGee and Donte Whitner.)