Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looks Like the Bears are Playing to Win

I like it - the Bears say they are going to play full out against the Packers. This could be one of those no-win situations. The Bears don't have much of a chance of becoming the #1 seed - they need the Falcons to lose at home to the Panthers, so the outcome of the Packers game doesn't have much meaning for the Bears. If they play it out and Forte, Peppers, or Cutler or any one of their main starters gets hurt it could be a disaster.

That said, I think teams should always play to win. It is hard to turn it "on" and "off". Just play hard and let the chips fall where they may. It can send a strong message and be a huge confidence builder if they win. In addition, if they can knock the Pack out this week they may save themselves the trouble of facing one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL in the playoffs.

Resurrection of Michael Vick

I think it is remarkable what Vick has done after being away from football for 2 years. Love him or hate him, it is a remarkable on field story.

There are always going to be haters and critics and people who apologize for him. There aren't too many folks in the middle. This week, President Obama called Philly owner Jeffrey Lurie and it was reported that part of the discussion focused on Lurie's willingness to give Vick a second chance.

Not surprisingly, some folks on the Right jumped at it as an opportunity to try to bash Obama. Tucker Carlson - who is an idiot in my opinion - was guest hosting for Hannity on Tuesday night (Hannity is also an idiot) when he said that Vick "should have been executed" for killing the dogs the way he did.

That's unusually extreme. I'm a dog owner and I think Vick was a fool to get mixed up in dog fighting - but execution? Come on Carlson, loosen up your bow tie and allow some blood to flow to your brain.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Deadskins Should Cut McNabb Today

I don't believe the Deadskins should have ever traded for McNabb, but since they did, they should have treated him differently than they have. I think it has been shameful how much disregard and disrespect they have shown him.

That said, I think McNabb is speaking out of both sides of his mounth and he cannot be trusted in DC. Last week, McNabb's agent blasted the Shannahans - especially Kyle. McNabb said that he didn't know his agent was going to do that (complete B.S.). He and Kyle met and Kyle said that McNabb told him that he disagreed with his agent and that they were cool.

Now, McNabb is saying that he had no problem with what his agent said. He is pretending that he wants to stay in DC and that he wants to work things out - but he must know that there is no chance of that happening. He is trying to be a classy guy, but his two faced comments - implying he disagreed with his agent, before saying he agreed with the comments - is insulting. I like McNabb, but I think he is not as classy as he is trying to make out. He should be honest about his dealings and opinions - but I think he is just trying to stay above the fray even as he is stoking it.

Shannahan should just cut his losses right now. There is little trade value for a 34-year old QB who is coming off a bad year, and who other teams know is not going to be on the opening day roster for DC at $16.75M next year. No need to wait to get a 5th round pick for him. Cut him now and avoid all the drama that would go with him remaining on the team.

Bears Clinch a First Round Bye

In a mini-stunner, the Eagles lost to the Queens. Vick got beaten up (again) and I think it really affected his accuracy. With the loss, the Bears are now assured of no less than a #2 seeding and the first round bye that goes along with it.

I'd like to see the Bears play at full speed and try to knock the Pack out of the playoffs this weekend. I'd rather play the Giants or Bucs in the playoffs than the Packers and I'd also like to see the team continue to build momentum going into the playoffs.

Monday, December 27, 2010

With Deficits Set To Rise . . .

As I have said earlier, the tax "deal" that Obama and the Republicans cut is horrible economic policy. But, I thought I would point out a couple of things that folks should look for in the next 18-24 months. It is quite likely that interest rates will rise as foreign investors will have to be enticed to keep funding the enormous deficit spending that we are dealing with. As other currencies and economies improve they will be far more attractive than U.S. Treasurys and U.S. debt. We will see erosion in the dollar which may assist with some foreign export sales, but in the longer term foreign investors are going to be fed up with diminishing returns as the dollar slips.

The Fed's willingness to monetize the debt is being recognized, and increasingly criticized, by foreign investors and governments. So at some point interest rates will have to start rising to keep the flow of debt financing going for the American government. We have already seen evidence of this happening in the bond markets but it will get far worse. As this happens, the cost of the debt will rise also, which will put us in a pretty bad cycle of needing even more debt to cover even bigger deficits (interest on the national debt is one of the most significant expenditures of the U.S. government).

If you have a variable rate mortgage or ARM - FIX IT NOW. We are going to see significantly higher rates in the next two years.

We are also going to see significant increases in oil prices. World oil prices are tied to the dollar. As the dollar falls, oil producing nations and firms will want to see higher prices to cover the lost value of the dollar. In two years, we will be looking at $130/barrel oil.

People are going to look for commodity defensive positions for their money. We are likely to see metals (platinum, gold, and silver) to continue to rise. Oil stocks will likely do better - but this will be offset by the declining value of the dollar and likely regulatory changes that will impact profit margins (appropriate in my opinion). If you are an investor, I'd look at the metals and avoid real estate and dollar based investments. If you play with oil, be prepared to get out within 6-12 months because as the 2012 election cycle rolls around and the economy is continuing to flame out, politicians will start talking about doing something about oil prices.

Chicago Bears Win Again

Big win against a solid NY Jets team. In the blustery cold of Chicago, it was good to get this type of win - especially with a first round bye on the line. On first glance, the 38-34 score gives pause that perhaps the D was not up-to-snuff, but that is only part of the story. Cutler threw a pick-6 and when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter the last three drives for the Jets ended up as: punt, punt, interception.

I loved seeing the Bears get their running game going again. The O-line has made huge strides throughout the year. That is a big part of why they have won 7 of 8 and are rolling. Cutler had the interception on a throw he should not have made, but he had a great game overall. He threw a couple of bullets through the wind for TDs and managed the game very well overall. This was the type of offense that we need to make some noise in the playoffs - especially against a D that is as solid as the Jets.

Hester had another long return and because the Jets were kicking away from him they got a couple of short kickoffs that were returned by up-men out to about the 40. Even when he doesn't get the ball his presence is felt. One disappointing note was that Robbie Gould missed a 35 yard field goal in the second half that would have put the Bears up 10. It was notable because it ended a streak of about 62 straight makes inside of 40 yards.

Assuming Philly beats the Queens on Tuesday night, the Bears play a meaningful game against the Packers next week. Win and they get a bye. Lose and they may end up playing the Packers the following week at Soldier Field in the first round of the playoffs. I'd like to see the Bears win and the Giants sneak back into the playoffs. It would be a great story to see a rematch win against the Giants and then somehow make it to the Super Bowl for a rematch of their disaster against the Pats (and a rematch of Super Bowl XX).

Couple of Thoughts on Economy

I was talking to one of my neighbors this morning. He runs the U.S. operations for a multi-billion dollar UK construction services firm. He is a lifelong Republican who supported President Obama because of the seriousness and apparent understanding of the economic issues facing the nation that the President showed as a candidate for President (plus he couldn't believe the choice of Sarah Palin as the VP candidate).

It is the first time we have really had a chance to talk about how things are going relative to the tax cut "deal" that Obama struck with Republicans. We were both of a very similar mind about how bad the decision was.

The thing that is irritating is that it was done for political expediency rather than sound economic policy for the nation. And what is even more irritating is that both parties are to blame. A few weeks ago the bi-partisan commission on deficit reduction reported out its findings and there was some discussion about what needed to be done. Instead of heeding their warnings and making some effort to address the deficit/national debt - the President capitulated to Republican demands that the wealthiest Americans get an extension of the very tax policies that are at the center of our economic troubles.

President Obama should have held his ground on the Bush tax rate extension and fought to allow them to expire. The Republicans would have caved - it was not going to be politically acceptable to allow taxes to rise on 98 percent of Americans because they wanted to fight to give the wealthiest Americans a continuation of the 4 percent tax cuts they have gotten over the last decade.

But he didn't fight. Then he and Republicans negotiated a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, a whole host of new tax credits (child, education, etc.), and cut 2 percent of the payroll tax that goes to pay for Social Security. All of these moves will do little to spur new economic activity, but it will explode the budget deficits for the next two years by nearly $1 trillion. This goes straight to the national debt.

If the Republicans put up anyone who isn't a tea party crazie like Sarah Palin, or some kind of radical right winger, they should have a cake walk to the presidency because the economy will now face another threat of major recession. Had President Obama just stayed the course and fought for what he said he believed in, the economy would continue to recover and the deficits would have had some chance of shrinking. Now that is not going to happen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NFC North Division Champs

The Bears clinched the North and are in control of their own destiny for a first round bye. They looked very good tonight against an undermanned Queens team.

If they beat the Pack on the final weekend of the season it will be the first time a team has swept the NFC North/Central since 1987.

Cutler threw the ball well in the ice and snow. The Bears ran the ball well. But clearly the Hester returns were huge and the D was stifling after the first Queens drive. This was a great win because it was a clinching and convincing victory after last week's debacle against the Pats. I also think it re-established the Bears as a team that can win in the cold - which will be critical if the Bears end up playing a home playoff game or games.

The Bears are a healthy team that seems to have great locker room chemistry. It is being coached well and it is executing on very good game plans. I expect this team to really make some noise and would love to see a Pats-Bears rematch in Dallas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bears Blasted

The Pats rolled into Chicago and destroyed the Bears. I'm not going to provide much analysis. The Pats were far better and the game just got out of hand on some weird plays. Knox fumbled and it went for a score to put the Pats up 21-0. Then on the next drive Cutler was sacked and fumbled inside the Bears 10. The D held up and kept it to a field goal - which I thought was a good stand. But then the Bears O couldn't move the ball and run out the half. With 5 seconds left the Pats threw a 60 yard bomb that was caused by the inexplicable absence of rookie safety Major Wright in deep coverage. 33-0 halftime. Game over.

Cutler threw two second half red zone INTs. I didn't see them, but to be honest it doesn't really bother me. He was probably trying to make plays to get back into the game - field goals wouldn't have helped.

The Green Bay loss to Detroit makes this loss less stinging. Now, if the Bears just beat the Queens they pretty much win the North - even if they lose to the Pack at the end of the year. I think their odds of winning the North and making the playoffs likely went up given what happened to the Pack.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bears Playoff Chances Continue to Improve

At 9-3, the Bears are in control of their playoff destiny, but they face the NFL's toughest schedule for the last 4 weeks.

This is why AccuScore continues to put the Packers ahead in the simulations for the NFC North crown.

I think the Bears will go 3-1 down the stretch - but the key game is obviously going to be the last game of the season against the Pack. The Bears have a tough game against the Patriots this week and this would be the game I would predict they would lose if I had to choose one. I expect the Bears to beat the Queens and Jets and then play the Pack for the North crown and perhaps a first round bye.

With the one game advantage, the Bears could go 1-2 and the Pack would still have to go 2-1 to ensure a shot at the North crown. It would depend on divisional and NFC records if the Pack were one game back going into the last week and they won. I think that if the Bears win the game against the Queens, they would have most of the tie breakers if they ended up tied with the Pack at the end of the season (assuming the Pack beat them on the last weekend).

We'll see what happens, but the only game that matters right now is the one against the Patriots this weekend.

Tax "Deal" Will Pass

Get ready for an extra trillion dollars of debt for the next 2 years, and no major improvement in the economy that results from the "deal" the President struck. Corporations are sitting on a trillion in cash right now, the economy is going to continue to improve, but now the government will have to deal with even more massive debts.

President Obama has turned his back on the American people and joined with Republicans in endorsing the failed Bush tax plans that are at the center of much of our economic problems.

I have been supportive of most of what the President has done, but this "deal" is so embarrassingly bad and so destructive to the country that I will more than likely support the inevitable challengers that will emerge to try to secure the Democratic nomination for president in 2012. If Hillary were to run, I suspect that she would win. If she resigns in the next few months, I think she will mount a challenge and I believe she would win the nomination.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Obama May Be Finished

I haven't written much about politics in recent months - been busy, been disappointed, and just decided not to focus on little things every day.

But, President Obama's tax "deal" that he struck with the Republicans is an utter disaster. If the American people actually want to address the budget deficits and long term debt situation, then the crazy deal that Obama and the Republicans struck should be criticized by Americans from both parties.

The two year extension of Bush tax cuts that Obama and the Republicans are proposing includes a bunch of other tax cuts/tax credits, including - most alarmingly - a 2 percent reduction in FICA for next year. It is bad enough to extend the tax cuts for those making over $200,000 because the budget deficit will only continue to rise. But the 2 percent cut in FICA is immoral. If you are going to do this, then you might as well just eliminate Social Security.

As it is now, Social Security (i.e., the 6.2 percent of FICA that we see taken out of our paychecks) is running a deficit. Taking away 2 percent without any explanation of where the money to pay for Social Security will come from makes no sense whatsoever. For a worker making $50,000, they will have less than $1000 extra per year after income taxes. This will come to about $38 more per paycheck for someone who gets paid every 2 weeks. But it will create a budget hole of tens of billions of dollars that will have to be paid back when we have to borrow even more money to pay for the deficit.

Over the next two years, these proposed tax cuts are going to add almost $1 trillion to the national debt. This is going to ensure that President Obama makes no dent in the annual budget deficit - in fact it will probably be worse than when he started.

Why does he say he had to make the deal? So he could ensure that taxes wouldn't be raised on the middle class and so that he could secure 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits for people whose benefits are running out.

That is utterly pathetic. President Obama and the Dems could very easily have done the following:

1. The House could have passed middle class tax cuts and allowed taxes to increase on those making over $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples). They could have also included the 13 week unemployment extension in the bill.

2. Send it to the Senate and if Republicans actually wanted to filibuster it - let them. Don't hold a cloture vote to end debate - make them actually do the filibuster. Let the American people watch as Republican Senators held up all Senate work doing the filibuster. They would have caved - there is no way that Republican Senators were going to spend their Christmas in DC filibustering tax cuts for middle class Americans and an extension of unemployment benefits, just so wealthy Americans can continue to have a 4 percent tax cut that they don't really need.

3. As soon as Dems in the Senate secured the 60 vote majority to end the filibuster and pass the bill, the President could have signed it and shown the power he had.

Instead, he has negotiated away his strength, made it easier for Republicans to walk over him next time, and worst of all, ensured that the deficts will rise significantly in the short run, and the national debt will rise significantly in the longer run.

It is bad policy, and it is bad politics. Given how utterly devastating this "deal" is, I am going to hope that Dems refuse to go along with it - but they will cave. Now, I am seriously going to have to consider the challenger for the Democratic nomination that is almost surely going to emerge to challenge the President in the primaries.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Bears Survive

Typical division game in December - tough. The Bears played a horrible first half on D. They allowed an undermanned Lions team to lead at halftime when they gave up a 46 yard TD to CJ after a 45 yard run by Best. The Lions went up 17-14 because of horrible tackling.

The opening drive of the second half almost ended in complete disaster for the Bears. Cutler fumbled and the the Lions had it at 1st and goal at the 9 yard line. If they go in and get the TD they are up 10 and the Bears are really reeling. Instead the D came up big and held the Lions to a field goal. That seemed to turn everything around.

Cutler went 10-10 in the second half with a TD pass. Robbie Gould hit a career-best 54-yard field goal. The Bears D shut down the Lions and the Bears escaped with a 24-20 win.

This was a classic trap game. Coming off the huge win against Philly and with the Patriots looming next week, it was easy to overlook the Lions. But the Bears are clearly the better team and they put it together in the second half to win.

Here are a couple of thoughts. The O-line played fairly well. Cutler was sacked 4 times, but I think the Lions have a very good front 4, so 4 sacks was not terrible. The run blocking was pretty good, so overall I was satisfied with the O-line. The running game is really starting to go and as a result, Cutler is not having to make every play for the Bears to win.

The MVP yesterday was Earl Bennett. The guy had over 100 yards, but he had 5 third down catches that went for first downs. Those were huge plays in the game.

Bring on the Patriots - it is going to be a tough stretch run against the Pack - but it should be interesting.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Playoff Picture in the NFC

The Bears don't get much respect - not surprising given that most "experts" had them finishing third or fourth in the North this year, and when you consider their record over the last three years (.500 over that period - no playoffs). The AccuScore stats still have them losing out the division to the Pack and MJD's playoff projections at Yahoo! Sports do the same.