Friday, November 19, 2010

Big Bears Win!

I feel great this morning. The Bears are 7-3 and looked great last night against Miami.

Miami was never going to score against the Bears D. The Special Teams were fantastic as usual. The O played an efficient and solid - but not special - game.

First the Bears D - six sacks, an interception and just dominating control over the Dolphins. Miami was forced to start Tyler Thigpen at QB, so it was going to be tough for them anyway, but they could not run the ball at all last night. That forced them to pass and as a result they couldn't do much against a clearly over-powering D. Guys were flying all over making plays all night.

Special Teams - another big return by Hester set up the first field goal. There was another big return that was called back due to penalty. Robbie Gould when 3-3 on field goal attempts including a 50 yarder down the middle to make it 9-0 and essentially put the game away in the third quarter. The punt team was solid - Maynard had a couple of short kicks that were nearly blocked but he got the rol on both occasions.

Bears O - very good line play overall. RT J'marcus Webb had his struggles with penalties - but he wasn't a disaster. The run blocking was very good. Forte had some gashing runs through a few good sized holes all night. Jay Cutler had time to throw most of the night and he chose quite a few shorter checkdown type routes. He was deadly on 3rd downs last night. It seemed like every third down was converted and it must have been demoralizing for the Dolphins. Cutler had a couple of bad throws - one of which was intercepted right before halftime with the Bears on the move. His first pass very easily could have been called intentional grounding in the end zone (which would have resulted in a safety).

Coaching - just great. The defensive calls all worked including an Urlacher blitz later in the game for a sack - Urlacher does not blitz often but it usually works. The offensive play calling was great. I liked the conservative calls with the Bears up 9-0 and first and goal from the 9 they ran it three straight times and got the TD in the third quarter that put the game out of reach. I liked it because it showed confidence in the O-line and the running game. And it took away any chance of a freak turnover. At worst you kick the field goal in that situation and extend the lead to 12-0.

Not a particularly intense or exciting game if you are not a Bears fan, but it was a very good win. It was only the second home shutout for Miami in 40 years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

AccuScore Still Working Against the Bears

Clearly the odds on favorite based on schedules and performance to date in the North is the Pack. The Bears still are only showing a 29% chance of making the playoffs and 19% chance of winning the North. Compare that to the Pack who are at 84% for the playoffs and 76% of winning the North.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bears - Eagles Moved to National TV

The Bears play on national TV on Thursday against the Dolphins this week. Fox has moved the Eagles visit to Soldier Field next weekend to their national spotlight game at 4:15 pm. That's great.

It gives me another chance to watch my beloved Bears without have to go out to my local sports bar.

In addition, if the Bears and Eagles (vs. Giants) win this week, it will be a matchup of division leaders that could have serious playoff implications. The stakes will be high and I will love seeing how the Bears D matches up with the dynamic and super fast Eagles O. My guess is they will get physical and use the good team speed that they have to neutralize Vick and those fast but smallish receivers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicago Bears Fans

Now look, fans can do whatever they want, so I am not asking for anything in this post - I am just making an observation. The Bears are 6-3 and there are still fans complaining about Lovie and Cutler, and you can probably throw in Martz and to a lesser degree Forte and Knox. You can always throw in complaints about the McKaskey's and Jerry Angelo. It is ridiculous how much negativity surrounds the team.

We'll see what happens the rest of the year, but their record this year is not altogether that surprising. The Bears have been a .500 team the last three years. They made some big acquisitions in Peppers and Taylor, and you can throw in Chris Harris and Major Wright (rookie out of Florida). The problem the last couple of years has been D and O-line. The D is vastly improved - as expected. They still need to produce more sacks and hurries, but they are much better up front than they have been and their safety play has been great this year. With the return of Briggs and all the other linebackers who were hurt last year, the result has been a top 5 D. That can carry you a long way.

Hester seems to have his mojo back and the Bears Special Teams have been their typical strong units.

Cutler is in his second year in Chicago and he has weapons - contrary to what a lot of people thought. Knox is a very good receiver who is still learning, but he is a very good number 1 option. Hester is great at the crossing routes and Earl Bennett is a solid possession type receiver. Forte and Taylor are good runners but their strength is catching the ball and you have Greg Olsen. That is a good group of receivers. But, as I expected things are really improving up front. The real improvement that we are seeing on the O-line is a result of young guys learning to play together. After some horrific play early in the year when guys were moving around and Garza and Chris Williams (the two starting guards) were out, we are seeing that this unit is not too shabby. Cutler looked very comfortable in the pocket the last two weeks and he has been able to put together some great throws from the pocket and on the run to keep drives moving.

So now the Bears find themselves at 6-3 and still you have some fans complaining that Lovie isn't fiery enough, or that Jay needs to get traded, or that Angelo should get fired, or that Peppers is overpaid, or whatever . . . I'll just enjoy the ride - it's much more fun than complaining all the time which is what too many Bears fans do year after year.

Bears Win Again

Very solid win. The game went about as I expected. The O-line was solid, the D was great, and Special Teams really produced. Cutler made one horrible throw, but otherwise played a great game.

The D held AP to just 51 yards, they forced 4 turnovers, and frankly crushed the Queens. There was just one breakdown in the secondary that led to a 50 yard bomb, but otherwise the Queens could do nothing on offense.

Hester returning kickoffs was huge and he had a big punt return. Gould missed another a 43 yard field goal in the swirling wind of Soldier Field but he hit on two other kicks. Maynard nailed another punt inside the 3 yard line.

Cutler played a great game, but he threw away a chip shot field goal with his bone-headed throw in the end. The Bears were up 7 and facing a third and long (perhaps goal) and should have just chosen to go conservative and kicked the field goal. Had they played that drive correctly, they would have been up 10 at the start of the fourth quarter - insurmountable given the way the D was playing. Cutler still needs to clean up those errors.

I really like the way this team is playing. If the O-line continues to play solidly the Bears will win most of their remaining games.

At 6-3, we are in first in the North - we have the tie breaker against the Pack. We go to Miami on Thursday night and a win would be huge.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bears vs. Queens

Big division game. A win and the Bears will be 6-3 and could make the playoffs going 4-3 down the stretch. It would likely end the playoff hopes of the Queens who would fall to 3-6.

The game will likely be decided by O-line play. If Cutler gets protection and the Bears remain committed to the run they will win. The Bears D will force 2-3 turnovers, we just can't give up 3-4 turnovers.

In the end, I expect a tight game that ends 24-20 Bears.

Miami Heat Really Suck

I watched most of the Celtics-Heat game last night and it is clear the Heat are totally over-matched.

The final score showed up as a 5 point loss for the Heat, but don't be fooled , they were destroyed at home by a far superior team. The Celtics led wire-to-wire. Within 5 minutes they were up 10 and never looked back.

The Heat cannot rebound or play interior defense, so they shoot their jump shots and give up layups. Can't win that way.

I think they are going to trade Bosh for some inside presence. Or, more dramatically, they will trade LeBron because he is already complaining about his coach and probably doesn't like the tighter control the organization is exerting than he faced in Cleveland.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miami Heat Stink

At least right now.

The don't have any D. They lost to the Jazz at home. At 5-3 they don't look that tough.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Repealing Health Care Reform

I have not written anything about the election for some time (certainly not since it happened). I have a few thoughts about how/why it was silly to elect Republicans back into power in the House, but I'll save that for another day.

I do want to comment on the inanity of trying to repeal health care reform. Before making any case pro or con, let me point out a couple of basic facts:

1. Millions of Americans were without coverage and/or underinsured. The number is between 35 and 50 million depending on the stat that you are looking at.

2. Most of those folks wanted health care but it was either too expensive and/or they had pre-existing conditions that prevented them from getting them or had been cut off from their coverage because they had exceeded their lifetime benefits.

3. The costs of health care have exploded over the last 15 years.. The average cost of private health insurance has gone up an average of 9-10 percent per year since 1990. It is up 150 percent since 1998 for the average family - and in most cases services have been cut so that we are paying more for less.

4. By comparison, Medicare/Medicaid costs have risen about 7 percent per year over that same time period. So it looks like government care is actually more cost effective than the private sector - at least by the rising costs measure.

5. Doing nothing was not an option given the above.

So now Republicans are threatening to work hard to repeal health care reform - in fact it appears that it will be their top priority. My first question is, HOW WILL THAT HELP WITH THE JOBS SITUATION. Republicans have been bashing Obama and Democrats for not focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs (although they have and the stimulus bill has clearly worked to improve the dismal state of the economy). But now that they are in power they are going to fight to take away health care reform. Idiotic.

Second, what do they want to repeal? Broadening the pool to require folks to have health insurance spreads the risk to a broader part of the population. Just as you are required to have car insurance, now you will have to carry health insurance. About a third of all health care costs in this country are for hospital bills. Anyone who does not have health care just shows up at the hospital and gets treated. Then they cannot pay the bill so the hospital has to charge everyone with health care that much more. That is the major driver of health care costs in this country - not technology or frivolous lawsuits - the costs of the uninsured that we all have to bear.

There is no public option - private insurers will provide services and there is a high risk pool for those individuals who have diseases that are very expensive to treat. You cannot be denied coverage in the health care exchange and kids up to 26 can stay on their parents coverage. There are serious ways that this will help slow the growth of health care.

For me, I'd like to see a true public option (i.e., Medicare for all) because it is a non-profit way to put more of the dollars into health care rather than dividends, bonuses, and exhorbitant pay for insurance executives. I'd also like to see caps on private insurance profits, dividends, bonuses and pay because the nature of health care is different than most "products" that one buys.

If Republicans get caught up in a months-long battle to repeal health care they will be blamed for wasting time - and in the end, I don't even think they want to actually repeal it. They just used it as a political wedge and demonized it by lying about stuff like death panels and killing off private insurance and putting everyone on the public health care system. None of that is true, but people think it is true. Ridiculous.

Couple of Thoughts about the NFC

Things are starting to shake out. It looks like the Giants are the big dogs in the NFC. I like the Pack as a playoff contender but they have so many injuries that their room for injuries is razor thin. Still they find ways to win, and that is a testament to their team/organization. After that, I'd bunch a whole lot of teams together: Bears, Eagles, Atlanta, and Saints. I think the Bucs could go either way.

Notice that there is no one in the NFC West that is worth mentioning. That is one terrible division, and I think the 49ers may still have a chance - which is just crazy.

If any of the midling/lower teams like the Deadskins or Queens can put something together for 2-3 weeks they can jump right back into the hunt, so it is an exciting time. I expect the Giants to run away with the East. If Vick stays healthy, I think we will see the Eagles in the playoffs. In the North, I think the Bears and Pack will fight it out until the end for the division and I think we will see the same with Atlanta and the Saints in the South. Then it will be between the second place finishers in the North and South for the other Wild Card slot. As for the West who cares?

Bears Win

The Bears got a must win game against the winless Buffalo Bills. It was a back and forth game and for the third week in a row the Bills lost by a field goal. Tough break for them given they are playing winning teams so tough (Baltimore, KC, and Chicago).

I think it was a solid performance and I liked the way the Bears played it overall. The O-line gave up one sack and Cutler fumbled. He actually wasn't hit hard, the sack was really a strip because Cutler was under some pressure but he was holding the ball out loosely and it got swatted out of his hand. It happens. But, the line play in pass protection was much, much better than it has been. I don't think the run blocking is where it needs to be and there was a 3rd and 1 very late in the game that would have iced the game that the Bears could not convert - that is troubling - but I think overall Bears fans should be encouraged by the improved play of the line.

The play calling was great. Martz did not abandon the run and although we weren't getting much out of the run game it kept the Bills D off-balance and it made the passing game effective. The Bears need to keep at it to become a better run blocking/running team.

The D played very well for most of the game. The Bills scored three TDs, but had an extra point blocked and could not convert a 2 point conversion so they were held to just 19 points. The D stuffed the Bills running game and got critical turnovers. One that set up the game winning TD and one to ice the game at the end.

Special teams were solid. Gould missed a 45 yard field goal right before halftime that would have made it 10-0. After the miss, the Bills took it in for a very late TD. That sucked. Gould also had one kickoff go out of bounds. That sucked. But he had three touchbacks, so it was mixed. Maynard had a good day punting. At the end of the game he punted one to the Bills 1 yard line that forced the Bills to have to go the length of the field win about a minute and no timeouts. Nearly impossible to do against this D, so I felt like that pretty much ended the Bills chances.

Coaching - good all around. I have no complaints. This was a solid win, but nothing spectacular. The Bears host the Queens this week in what should be a pretty good game with potential playoff implications. If the Bears win they are 3-0 in their division games and will be at the top of their division at 6-3 (tied w/the Pack but they would hold the tiebreaker). It would also be the first nail in the Queen's coffin as they would be 3-6 with 2 divisional losses. If the Queens win they will be just 2 games out of first and have some life, and the Bears will have some work to do. Cannot wait to see what happens.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

AccuScore Playoff Picture

The Bears were idle last week but the loss by Minnesota and the win by Green Bay really changed the playoff picture based on AccuScore. Green Bay is now the odds on favorite to win the North and Minnesota's chances dropped off significantly. As for the Bears, their chances of making the playoffs are at 19% and 11% for winning the division.

What is interesting is that the 49ers - with just two wins - have a 21 percent chance of making the playoffs and about the same chance of winning their division. It's crazy.

A win this week for the Bears against Buffalo combined with an unlikely loss by Green Bay to Dallas would obviously change everything.

The Bears need to get a win this week. Buffalo is playing better and just picked up Shawne Merriman, but this is a must win for the Bears. They win this, they are at 5-3 and in pretty good shape. They lose and they are in trouble. What I expect to see in coming weeks is some improved play by the O-line. If we get that, everything will fall into place. The Bears have the D, have the special teams, and have the talent to win consistently, but they have struggled with their line play. I also need to see better coaching. Frankly, Lovie blew the last game with his failure to challenge a clear TD and Martz/Tice have not gotten it done with their play calling and schemes/coaching/accountability for their O-line. I think they have enough talent to play more effectively on the O-line, but only time will tell.