Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caleb Hanie Played His Way Out of Chicago

The dude stinks and realistically the Bears post-season hopes are now dead (I know they are not mathematically eliminated, but it is over). He had a chance to solidify himself as a solid backup behind Cutler with a relatively weak part of the Bears' schedule. If he wins just 1 of the 4 games he played in the Bears would be in the hunt. If he wins 2 they are in control of their destiny. Instead he loses to the Raiders, at home to KC, to Denver, and at home to Seattle. He was directly responsible for losses against all but Denver. The dude threw 3 interceptions against everyone but Denver.

Today 2 pick-6's in the second half that just killed the Bears. His other interception was with the Bears at the Seattle 30 yard line into double coverage. He gave a away a field goal attempt on a throw that he clearly had decided on before the play started. Earl Bennett was wide open on the play but he forced it to Kellen Davis with double coverage.

If the Bears had picked up McNabb and gotten him ready maybe we would have had a chance. I like that they gave Hanie the chance and I expected more from him. He just is not an NFL QB. That is sadly obvious.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bears Fans

There are two types of Bears fans - the one's who recognize the Lovie is a good coach and the Bears are a fairly well run organization and the ones who complain about everything.

I've read all about the Bear-Raider game and I am just amazed by how many ignorant fans criticize everything from Hanie to the play calling to the organization. The Bears just won five in a row and had to go to the West Coast to play a pretty tough Raider team without Jay Cutler. Sure Hanie had a few bad plays but people need to get a grip.

What I cannot stand is the Bears' "fan" who is constantly complaining about Lovie and Martz being horrible coaches, or the organization for being "cheap." I've talked about the way the hard cap works in the NFL. The Bears always spend appropriately. They are going to use up their extra cap space this year on contract extensions. They were hoping to get Forte's deal done first but are not starting to look at other players (Garza got his extension).

I did not like the play call that led to the Caleb Hanie interception right before halftime, but the call could have easily worked and I blame the error more on Hanie than on the coaches for calling it.

I expect to see more running against KC, and I expect to see a win this weekend. If we lose to what I perceive to be a weaker KC team then I will start to worry about the playoffs. In fact, I expect to win the next three (KC, at Denver, Seattle). If we do that we probably clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bears Lose

Caleb Hanie played a horrible first half, but settled in and played a solid second half and nearly pulled out a win. His inexperience showed with 3 first half interceptions. His first one was a bad throw that he should have thrown out of bounds. His second just soared on him but it wasn't a bad decision. His last one was just plain awful. The Bears D had kept them in the game and Hanie had gotten the Bears to the Oakland 6 yard line. There was 35 seconds left, the Bears were second and 1 yard, the clock was stopped, and the Bears were trailing 9-7. Mike Martz called a play action sprint out to the right with a throw back to the tight end on the left. Hanie got out the right and just turned and flipped the ball to the left without looking. The Raiders intercepted it and ended up kicking a field goal to end the half. Terrible play by Hanie.

I would have run the ball three straight times - the Bears were able to open up some holes and had some success. The Bears could have taken the lead 14-9 at the half - at the least it should have been 10-9 Bears, but a questionable play call and even worse execution blew that up.

All that said, the Bears had a chance to beat a solid Raider team on the road - they just didn't. I fell pretty comfortable with Hanie and as long as he beats KC this week in Chicago, things should be fine. I expect to see Orton at QB this week, but the Bears seem to be the better team.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let the Caleb Hanie Project Begin

I have full confidence in Caleb Hanie keeping the Bears roll going. He is a vet and can make all the key throws. The Bears defense and special teams just need to step up and the Bears offense should be able to work through Forte and Barber to get things done. The Bears passing game has a lot of short passes, slants, outs, and screen passes - all of these are easy throws for Hanie. We will need for him to take a few shots down the field, and he has the arm to do it.

Quite honestly, I expect the Bears to win at least 4 of the last 6. With Cutler I expected 5 of 6.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bears Roll . . . But . . .

As expected the Bears easily handled the Chargers to run their winning streak to 5 games. However, Jay Cutler fractured his right thumb. We'll know more later but it could be season ending.

The Bears were really getting things going so this is a major setback. Caleb Hanie gets his shot and the Bears can win games with him but we need Jay to beat the Packers in the playoffs.

Couple of thoughts about the game. The O-line didn't give up a sack and I thought Edwin played reasonably well for injured Chris Williams. There were a few QB pressures but no major breakdowns. Run blocking was not as good. That is where we really missed Chris.

The D was OK. Major Wright had a big interception - third week in a row. The D line played well but there were some missed tackles/assignments by the linebackers. I thought Tillman struggled with Vincent Jackson, but he forced a critical fumble. Overall it wasn't a dominating defensive performance but it was a good one.

Hester nearly broke two punts and the special teams were good. We missed the pass on the fake punt. It was an odd call but I had no problem with it.

With Jay's injury I still expect the Bears to win at least 3 of their last 6 and make the playoffs. We'll see.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bears - Chargers Thoughts

I've been avoiding predictions the last few weeks - more because of time constraints than anything else.

I like the matchup this weekend for the Bears. They play a reeling Charger team that is banged up on the O-line and struggling on D. Rivers is struggling with pass protection and it is resulting in tons of turnovers. With the Bears D getting turnovers each week since they changed their starting safeties, I expect that trend to continue. Add to that the Cutler-Rivers rivalry from when Cutler was in Denver and I think it is set up nicely for a big win at home for the Bears.

I'd like to see continued balance on offense with Forte/Barber running the ball and a solid passing attack. However, this is a week where I would like to see Cutler take some big shots down the field to try to build higher confidence in the passing game. The offensive line should be able to handle the Chargers rush and with some play action and deeper dropbacks the Bears should be able to take some shots down the field.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Accuscore Playoff Odds

The Bears have gone from having a 20 percent chance of making the playoffs to a 60 percent chance in the last two weeks because of their two huge wins against Philly and Detroit.

I like the way the D is playing and special teams are always a plus for the Bears. The offense is going to have to become a bit more consistent in the passing game and with pass blocking. To have any chance of beating the Packers, they will have to make some offensive plays to keep drives going, but they have the right type of team to beat them. You need to be able to play great D to slow down the Packers' offense, you need special teams to make some plays, and you need to be able to run the ball to keep Rodgers off the field.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bears D Moving Away from Tampa 2

For anyone who has watched the Bears the last couple of weeks it is obvious that the Bears are shifting away from the Tampa 2 and playing much more press, man coverage.

Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings have been great and they have a very solid nickel corner in D.J. Moore who also excels in man. Chris Conte and Major Wright have been huge at the safety positions, but even they have excelled in press man when necessary. All five guys have forced fumbles and/or gotten big interceptions.

This shift is critical to try to close the gap with the Packers. You just cannot expect to play straight zone against Aaron Rodgers - he will pick you apart. You have to mix it up and get some pressure from the front 4 if you expect to win.

I like what the coaches are doing and I think the players like the opportunity to be more aggessive. We'll see how it works out as the season wears on, but it is looking good so far.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bears Roll Over Lions

Four wins in a row. The Bears are who I thought they were.

This was as good a defensive performance as you will ever see in the NFL. The Bears dominated the Lions. They had constant pressure on Stafford, they stripped balls away and they got four interceptions including two pick-6 returns. The Lions had a lot of garbage time yards in the second half, but they were meaningless yards and as the Bears tightened up their D near the goal line the Lions just couldn't do much. If anything, I thought the Bears should have had 2 more interceptions. D.J. Moore dropped an easy one in the end zone and Chris Conte had a deflected pass go through his hands.

Devin Hester is ridiculous. No one should ever kick to him, but his 82 yard return made it 20-0 and pretty much ended the game in the first half. He had another 29 yard return that led to a short field drive for a field goal. Gould hit a couple of field goals (he did miss one from 45 yards that looked like the wind hit it) and pretty much all of his many kickoffs were touchbacks. Needless to say, special teams did their part.

Offensively the team was efficient, but nothing special. The first three drives were TD, FG, FG. Then, the fourth drive was a Cutler fumble inside the Bears 20 where he just lost the ball on his way to giving a Forte handoff. It could have allowed the Lions to claw back in but the D held them to a field goal. The Bears closed out the first half with a nice drive but they missed the field goal. I think part of the problem for the offense was that they had long stretches where they weren't on the field (Hester TD, 2 pick-6's).

There was a pretty serious injury for the Bears. Chris Williams hurt his wrist and had to have emergency surgery last night. He is probably done for the season, which sucks because he was playing well. Edwin Williams looks like he is going to start, but I expect that we will see Carimi back at RT soon and Lance Louis moving over to the guard position. It may have some impact, but you got to just roll with injuries.

The Bears now play four straight against the AFC West. San Diego comes to town next week. The Bears should take that one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paterno Fired


His legacy is tarnished by his own hand and he won't ever get the celebratory sendoff that he probably expected.

While he likely won't face criminal prosecution, it is likely that if he does not set up a restitution fund he will be facing significant litigation and civil penalties for his inaction in stopping a child predator.

Supporters of Paterno who think the Board was wrong to terminate him should think about the kids that are permanently scarred by Sandusky, and think about the fact that it appears that Paterno and Penn State officials could EASILY have prevented much of the abuse. Look in their faces and talk to them before crying that Paterno was wronged in some way.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Paterno to Retire

He is going to announce that he is going to retire at the end of this season. That is just not good enough. He should step down right now. What he allowed to happen is so horrifying that he should not be allowed to continue.

It is clear that Paterno knew something was up with Sandusky. He said in his statement, "If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families." I'm sorry but he was not fooled. We know that he was aware of at least 2 issues with Sandusky in 1998 (which led to Sandusky's forced retirement) and in 2002 when a graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky attacking a 10 year old boy in the Penn State shower and told Paterno about it. (I'm not at all clear why the GA didn't intervene and/or call police himself.)

When asked about why he didn't do more after the GA came to his home and told him what he saw in 2002, Paterno admitted that the GA was "distraught," but then claimed that the GA did not tell him about the "very specific actions" that are now in the grand jury report. This is truly unbelievable. What more did Paterno need? If one of my students came to me "distraught" and told me that they saw a colleague touching a 10 year old boy in a shower that is enough for me to call police. I don't need details, especially when I know there was at least one other allegation of child sexual abuse for this colleague.

Joe needs to go right now. I don't know how he lives with himself knowing that he allowed this to take place. But he should not be allowed to walk out on his own terms and have a celebratory sendoff. He should meet any of the victims who want to face him and answer any questions they have. Then he should take his millions in pension and retirement money and give it to them. They paid a far heavier price than he could ever pay for his mistakes.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Joe Paterno and Penn State

There is a full scale crisis that has hit Penn State and its legendary coach Joe Paterno. The news this weekend that long-time defensive coordinator allegedly raped young at-risk boys that were under his care is shocking.

The problem for Joe Paterno is that he was told by an upset graduate assistaint in 2002 that he saw Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in the Penn State locker room shower. Now, aside from the fact that this graduate assistant should have stopped the abuse immediately and called police, it seems clear that Paterno knew about it. Inexplicably, the GA called his Dad that night and then reported it to Paterno the next day at his house. What did Paterno do? He waited another full day and then told the athletic director. Then apparently it just died as there is no evidence that anything happened. Unacceptable.

There is also information that a custodian saw Sandusky on another occasion and reported it to the athletic director. Sandusky also took a young boy to the Alamo Bowl. This boy stayed with him in his room at the team hotel. If I was Paterno I would have thought this odd.

Obviously it is shocking that Penn State never called the police. They just swept it under the rug. Sandusky retired in 1999 after a 1998 allegation of child sexual abuse emerged. But Penn State still allowed him to have an office on campus and use Penn State facilities for his camps to help at-risk kids. He used the Nittany Lions name and reputation to lure kids into his nightmarish web, and he was fully enabled by Paterno and Penn State.

It is beyond comprehension how anyone could allow this to happen, but that is just what Paterno did. I don't care that Paterno is 84 and he has helped so many people out. There is no excuse and Paterno's legacy is forever tarnished - that is the least Paterno will have to live with.

Franchise Tag Fact

Under the new CBA the franchise tag values have dropped significantly. It used to be that if you were slapped with the franchise tag you got paid the average of the top five salaries at your position. Now it is the average of the top salary in each year over the last five years. Obviously this has a big impact on salaries.

For Matt Forte, under the old rules he would get about $8.6 million next year, but under the new rules he will get about $7.7 million. Given that, getting $14 million guaranteed is a very fair offer. He can risk injury or take the money and security.

The Bears have no need to go way over the franchise tag figure - it represents a very high salary. If Forte is franchised twice he will earn about $16 million for two years but it would only be guaranteed each year, meaning that if he is hurt this year he gets nothing. If he is hurt next year then he will "only" get $7.7 million. If he signs his extension now, he gets $14 million even if he is hurt in practice today.

Garza Extended

The Bears gave center Roberto Garza a 2 year extension. I'm guessing that there will be a new deal announced for Earl Bennett in the next couple of weeks.

Obviously, Matt Forte would be a nice extension, but he will be with the Bears as a franchised player if they need to do that. As I wrote earlier it is really more up to him than the Bears whether he signs or not.

A couple of other guys that are coming up for extension are starting corner Tim Jennings, special teams standout Corey Graham, Izzy Idonoje, and TE Kellen Davis. Of that group, I'd like to see all of them signed, but Jennings is probably the most critical.

The Bears have significant money under the cap this year to pay out signing bonuses. I fully expect them to use it on the right extensions. One thing most people don't understand is the Bears spend as much as everyone - they are not cheap - but they sign the right players at the right prices for the most part. They never have the big purges that many teams have to have because of cap problems.

3 in a Row!

The Bears won a huge game on the road in Philly last night. It was a game that went back and forth with some great plays and some miscues that could have derailed the Bears, but they overcame.

Just a couple of thoughts. First and foremost, the offensive line is really coming together. No sacks and huge holes for Forte and Barber to run through. People can say what they want, but the Bears line is a very good, young group of guys who are gelling just like I thought they would. The thing I like about them is that they are maulers who are all improving their footwork.

Defensively the Bears were terrific. Briggs and Urlacher looked 5 years younger the way they were flying around the field. The bye week really helped them. Peppers was a force, and I thought the defensive tackles were pretty good. The Bears played a lot more man than they usually do and beat up the Eagles receivers. The two young safeties played another solid game. There were a few missed tackles but that is going to happen against the Eagles - but overall a solid game.

Forte had a strong game although he had two rare fumbles. But he was productive. But credit goes to the coaches who called a very good game and Jay Cutler who executed well and improvised a couple of times when needed. It was great to see Earl Bennett back as he had some huge plays to keep drives alive.

The Bears get Detroit at home this weekend and if they win that they will almost certainly make it back to the playoffs. I like the way things are rolling - the Bears are exactly who I thought they were.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Whole Forte "Pay da Man" Nonsense

I am so sick and tired of people saying, "Pay da Man" when talking about Matt Forte. The Bears offered him a very fair deal. Their initial contract offer was for 4-5 years at $6 million/year average and $13 million guaranteed. There are other reports that put the number as high as about $15 million guaranteed. The contract offers were better than Frank Gore's new deal and Jamaal Charles deal. He chose not to sign the extension offers.

What is complicating things is that AP, CJ, and DeAngelo Williams got better contracts. But clearly bad contracts given to CJ and DeAngelo, and in my opinion a bad contract to AP should not impact the Bears negotiating tactics. The Bears were very fair to a guy going into the last year of his rookie deal. They gave him fair market value - above market in fact.

Forte and his agent are making a huge mistake by not signing the deal or being reasonable in their request. Forte will be franchised for 2 years if he is productive. He will play out for about $8.5 million next year and then around $9 million the following year if he remains franchised. Then, he will be 28 years old and on the wrong side of his prime. Taking the Bears guarantee of $14 million to $16 million plus the non-guaranteed salary for the next two years would be great and is more than fair.

People who say the Bears are being cheap or don't know what they are doing are just plain ignorant. No objective person who actually knows about the situation can possibly think that the Bears are being cheap or short-sighted.

I listen to Chicago Sports Talk radio and virtually every radio host says the Bears are fair. These are the same hosts who regularly question the Bears.

There is a great discussion of the details by a Chicago blogger that has made it onto the ChicagoNow website that picks out informative blog postings.

Even frequent Trib Bear critic Steve Rosenbloom has written about the Bears being fair and smart in dealing with Forte. Rosenbloom criticizes the Bears when they lose AND when they win.

If Forte wants to risk his payday that is up to him, but to blame the Bears makes no sense whatsoever.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Playoff Predictions

Accuscore does a weekly update of playoff odds based on significant statistical analyses.

The Bears had really dropped off a couple of weeks ago, but now find their chances rising having won 2 in a row and 3 of the last 4.

Their chances are just below 30 percent with their 4-3 record. Last year they were also 4-3 and ended up making a great run. The big difference this year is that they have divisional losses to Green Bay and Detroit - last year they had wins against those teams with their 4-3 record.

I never expected the Bears to win the North. It is Green Bay's to lose, but I do expect the Bears to make it as a Wild Card team and to be better than the Lions.

On Monday night the Bears head to Philly and then they play Detroit in Chicago. Win those two games and the Bears would be 6-3 with all the major head-to-head tiebreakers. Should be fun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

John Beck's career

This one is for you JKSD. Maybe he will re-capture some of the old BYU magic and the Deadskins will win this week in Toronto (I doubt it).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bears Win Again

Great win against a winning team. That makes it 3 of 4 going into the bye. The Bears D looks great and rookie Chris Conte has really solidified the secondary. Hopefully he can continue.

The D got 4 picks, a sack, and kept the Bucs under 300 yards (30 yards rushing). Just a fantastic defensive effort.

The O looked great for about 3 quarters. The O-line ripped huge holes for Forte who finished with 145 yards rushing. The pass blocking was OK. They gave up 2 sacks, but Cutler seemed to have time to make plays. The one thing that was a bit irritating is the play calling. Up 21-5 and with huge running lanes, Martz inexplicably started passing the ball more than the run. It was strange and a poor throw by Cutler gave the Bucs life in the fourth quarter. But the Bears D shut the door.

If the season ended today the Bears would be a Wild Card team. They have the head-to-head tie breaker against both the Falcons and the Bucs - so that is huge.

The Lions have faltered and Stafford got hurt late. Anything can happen. The bye week comes at a good time. I'd like to see Earl Bennett and Gabe Carimi get back - it looks like that will happen. Then we get the Eagles at Philly, and then two home games against the Lions and the Chargers. That next stretch of three will again say a lot about this team.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Changing Stats

The Bears got off to a rocky start at 2-3, and their D was particularly troublesome. However, their O-line has talent - unlike last year - and if Martz and Tice can work together to call appropriate plays/protection schemes the Bears can be very effective.

Two weeks ago the Bears were at the bottom in terms of D and O rankings. After the dominating performance that they put up against the Vikings things have significantly changed. The Bears now have the #12 scoring defense and the #10 scoring offense.

If they win in London against a solid, but young Tampa Bay team it will go a long, long way in the playoff hunt. They would have tiebreakers against the Falcons and Bucs.

They have a bye and then travel to Philly in what is likely to be another game with significant playoff implications. Following that, they get a rematch with the Lions in Soldier Field. I like the way the team is coming together - especially the young O-line - and I really like the mix of young and old players that they seem to have.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith

Bears fans are quick to complain about JA and LS. They say they can't pick players or coach. But the fact is that they have been pretty successful since they started running things.

I think Lovie can coach - and he is certainly a player's coach - so guys love him. When the Bears have been weaker it has usually been a result of key injuries and depleted talent - not guys quitting or a lot of coaching errors.

The bigger question that remains is how good JA has been as the GM. He certainly has missed on a lot of high draft choices since he has been in Chicago and he has also largely failed to draft offensive linemen and quality linebackers (although he drafted a few) during his time. However, there are key guys who JA has drafted that have contributed (Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Chris Williams, Johnny Knox, and Earl Bennett come to mind) and getting Robbie Gould as an undrafted free agent was huge.

The trade for Cutler and signing Peppers have been big pickups for the franchise.

It is too early to tell, but J'Marcus Webb appears to be the real deal and was a major find in the seventh round. He completely held his own against Jared Allen and Kyle Vanden Bosh the last two weeks. His size, strength and speed along with Chris Williams could solidify the left side of the O-line for the next decade. If Chris Conte, Major Wright, Gabe Carimi, Lance Louis, Henry Melton, and Stephen Paea all emerge as players it will be hard to argue that JA has been a bad evaluator of talent. All of these guys have been picked in the last three years and all look like promising young pros. We'll see if they develop.

I think the 2-3 start scared a lot of people into believing the Bears were weaker this year. I think they will be much stronger as the year progresses. We'll see.

Bears Win

It was a dominating performance last night and it looked like the Bears corrected a lot of the mistakes that have been plaguing them this year.

The offensive line was great. Minnesota may be a weak team but their front 7 - especially Jared Allen - have shown that they can get to the QB. Chris Williams is turning into a very good guard and I like the development of J'Marcus Webb at LT. He did a great job on Allen. Garza is always solid but the removal of Frank Omiyale really helped. The Bears also got smart and did some additional things with their TEs and running backs to give Cutler time. With that time he made great throws.

On top of that, the O-line opened up plenty of big holes for Forte. I still think it is a good group of guys that will develop as the season wears on.

Devin Hester is awesome.

The Bears D was much improved. They got pressure from their front 4 most of the night, but they mixed in a few more blitzes which I liked to see. It was nice to see second round pick Stephen Paea make some plays at DT, including the safety on McNabb. Peppers and Briggs had good games, but the guy I was probably most impressed with was rookie third round pick Chris Conte. He always seemed to be in the right position and he made some really good tackles - I don't remember him missing an assignment or missing a tackle all night. If he can solidify the back end, it would be great. I'm not going to annoint him a star but he was clearly a difference maker last night.

The Bears head to London for a game against the Bucs. They win that game and they are in great shape going into the bye. Then they get the Lions at home in what I expect will be a much better performance by the Bears.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bears Lose Again

Very disappointing effort. Cutler was under duress all game, but made plays. Forte had a good game and I thought the offensive game plan was good. The problem was clearly the offensive line. Nine false starts are just too many.

The safety play just killed the Bears. Chris Harris came back from his hamstring injury, but he looked like he needed more time off. Defensively, the Bears were solid except at the safety position. The two big plays - the 75 yard TD to CJ and the 88 yard run by Best should not have happened and would not have happened if the safeties could play.

All that said, the Lions defensive linemen are tremendous and Stafford to CJ seems like it can happen at any time.

There isn't much to say for the Bears except they need to just win in coming weeks. They get Minnesota in Chicago this week and then they go to London to play Tampa. If they win those two games - and they are big ifs - they get to the bye at 4-3 and they get to play the Lions at home in Chicago the following week. There is a lot of football to play, but it is going to be an uphill battle.

Bears - Lions

The Trib has a piece today that has it right - the Lions want to win, the Bears need to win.

Falling 3 games back of the Pack and Lions with losses to both teams would pretty much knock the Bears out of the North race. Given the way the NFC is, they would be fighting for a Wild Card spot.

It is a very interesting game for both teams. We'll see how good the teams really are.

To me, the Bears D will show up. They have not played particularly well this year, but they have gotten key turnovers. The special teams will be good. the question is whether Cutler and the O can become more efficient. I'd like to see a nice balance in the play calling and some good short passing with quick hitters to keep the Lions front 7 under control. Then, a couple of shots down the field to try to get the big play.

In the end, I expect it to be a solid Bears win. 27-20 Bears.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Danny Boy's New Yacht

I love this story - especially the things the yacht comes with (obviously they are jokes).

It will probably run into an iceberg and sink given how well Danny Boy manages the Deadskins.

Early Thoughts on Bears-Lions

Huge game for both teams. The Bears D comes off a week in which they gave up a lot of yards, but still made plays when it counted - in the Red Zone. They forced a pick-6 early and in the second half when everything was on the line they kept Carolina from scoring. Carolina scored a very late trash TD that did not amount to much. The problem defensively is that the front 4 have been inconsistent in generating pass rush and stuffing run plays. The linebackers have played reasonably well and the corners have played well, but the safeties have been horrible. This week Chris Harris will return to the lineup which will make a huge difference. The question is whether Meriweather or Wright gets the start opposite of him. Right now, I would go with Meriweather. The guy has been burned twice in three weeks, but at least he delivers big hits. Wright has been slow, had terrible pursuit angles, and missed way too many tackles. I expect to see a much better defensive effort this week.

Offensively, the team just seems out of sync. Forte has been incredible, but everyone else is out of step. The O-line will get better each week, especially when Gabe Carimi returns next week, and I think the matchup between Chris Williams and Suh will be a good one to watch. They gave up one sack last week and three the week before so the pass protection is improving. I am not worried about the O-line. Cutler needs to play better and the receivers need to make plays. They need to get a few plays to Hester on crossing patterns and quick screens and perhaps one or two shots down the sideline. I'd like to see Earl Bennett back because he is the only one who knows how to break off routes on blitzes. Knox has returned to the starting lineup and should be productive.

Special team are just good.

I don't think it is as much about what the Lions will do or can do, as much as it is the Bears needing to dictate tempo and the game. To me the Bears have far more playmakers on D and enough talent on O to win this game. They just have to put it together.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bears Win

A win is a win, but there are some things that the Bears really need to clean up. First, it was clear that the Bears O-line was able to dominate the Panthers front 7. I watched most of the game and was impressed by the overall physicality of the O-line. The Bears gave up one sack - I cannot remember it and it may have happened in the first quarter when I was not watching. But their run blocking was great. I will comment on one thing that I thought worked really well. Chris Williams is a big, athletic LG, but he does not trap block (i.e., pull and block inside the right tackle). However, he does get out in front of sweeping plays to the left and even to the right fairly well. There were a number of clear out blocks that he was able to make that sprung Forte on bigger runs (he ended with 205 yards rushing).

I thought Cutler played OK. He had a bad interception that could have really hurt the team in the second half, but it didn't. On the interception he had time but he sailed a ball high because he didn't set his feet. He had a few good throws but not much to write home about. The receivers seemed OK, I do remember one drop by Dane Sanzenbacher that would have resulted in a first down. The Bears finished 3 for 10 on third down. That has to be higher. It will be nice to get Earl Bennett back.

The special teams were great. A blocked field goal, a couple of made field goals, a 76 yard kickoff return to set up the Bears first TD, and a 69 yard punt return to the house were all critical plays.

Where there was an issue was on the defensive side of the ball. The Bears decided to play Cam Newton with their standard Tampa 2 shell D. The idea was to try to get pressure on Cam with the front 4 and drop everyone else into coverage and then wait for Cam to blow it. Cam has been really good at hitting hot reads and burning blitzes, but he has not been particularly good at throwing into heavy zone coverages. The front 4 did not get any real sustained pressure and Cam was on target throughout the day. I thought he had a great day. That is going to happen from time to time, but what cannot happen is that there were a number of long plays in which the safeties did not cover deep enough or get over and help fast enough. I thought Major Wright, in particular, was bad. He blew one coverage and seemed to miss a number of tackles. He looked slow and weak at the safety position.

The Bears head to Detroit and I think it will be a very good test of where both teams are. I'll be interested in the injury report - it would be good to get Chris Harris and Earl Bennett back and I know there were a couple of injuries on the O-line (Spencer and Omiyale). I expect the Bears D to play better and for it to be a tough game.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bears - Carolina

I am going to keep this simple. The Bears will get back to running the ball and will overwhelm Cam Newton with their D. I expect Peppers to get 2 sacks and the Bears D to force at least 3 turnovers. Cutler will only throw 24 times and the Bears will rack up 160 yards rushing en route to a 27-10 victory at Soldier Field.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Other Bear Thought

I hate the orange jersey. Go back to the dark blue one. They look ridiculous. To me the dark blue is much more traditional and they are much more intimidating. It has to be a management decision to try to sell more jerseys.

Political Musings

I have largely avoided politics over the last few weeks. I am extremely disappointed in President Obama. Not because of what he has done, but by what he has not done. He had a clear mandate and could have pushed through liberal/progressive policies that really could have changed the nation, but he has bent over backward to try to appease Republicans. The end result is that we have been largely stuck with Bush's economic policies and homeland security/war strategies.

It is no surprise to me that the economic conditions have not improved enough to generate jobs. There has been significant improvement from where President Obama started from - largely as a result of the Stimulus - but President Obama has not been more bold and has largely adopted the horribly misguided tax policies of Republicans.

All that said, I have no idea who the Republican will be who challenges the President. Perry and Bachmann are complete idiots. The Republican establishment has decided to never allow Ron Paul to win. Cain actually won the Florida straw poll, but has no real chance. Newt and Santorum are joke candidates. I personally like Jon Huntsman but he barely registers because he is too moderate for Republican voters. In the end, the only candidate that makes any sense or who could truly beat President Obama is Mitt Romney. He has the look and the chops to win, but he is Mormon and seems to be despised by large swaths of Republican voters. Whoever wins the nomination is likely to be a weak candidate given the field and the way the Republicans seem to be splintered. President Obama may end up winning by default rather than because of his leadership and vision.

Bears Stand at 1-2

Obviously I would prefer 2-1 or 3-0, but their start is not really all that surprising given their schedule combined with their injuries and the death of Urlacher's mom. The only thing they really need to clean up is the play calling. The overwhelming imbalance toward pass plays is taking away any real chance to keep the defenses they are playing honest and to help beat up the D linemen so that later in the game they are worn down.

The NFL is a passing league and you win in the air, but you have to have some semblance of balance to be truly effective. You look at how the Falcons and Vikings are struggling and you can see that they have moved away from the run unnecessarily. The Bears are at their best when they have better balance. I expect that they will get that cleaned up just as they did last year.

I expect the Bears to beat Carolina fairly easily in Chicago this week. They have a guy in Cam Newton who can make plays, but that should not be enough. The Bears also get Chris Harris and Major Wright back from injury (Harris is the playmaker at safety that we have missed the last two weeks), and Marion Barber should get a fair amount of work. I expect to see a much more physical O-line and running game that is able to control the clock.

We win that game and we stand at 2-2 with a trip to Detroit. That will be a true test of where the Bears and Lions really are and it will probably go a long way to determining who will finish second in the North and make it to the playoffs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fantasy Thoughts

It is early, but I am 3-0 in both my leagues. I like the teams I have. Unfortunately I lost Kenny Britt in CEAFOD, but I have Fred Jackson who I plugged right in. Right now my CEAFOD team is loaded.

I've never seen this before, but I am a 56 point favorate against Rookie Brits this week.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicago Bears Thumped

Disappointing game - no other way to put it. I thought the D played well enough to win and kept the Bears in the game throughout. Special Teams didn't do anything special but was OK. The return at the end that was called back for a hold was too bad, but I'm sure there was an unnecessary hold even if there wasn't a good shot of it on the replays. The major problem was the offense - from poor play calling, to drops, to some terrible throws, to some line breakdowns. Let me start from the back and go forward with the list.

1. O-line. Overall it played pretty well. Jay wasn't harassed all day and given that they had so many pass calls, I thought the pass protection was good. That said, there were a couple of line breakdowns. The first sack was Chris Williams blocking down when he should have had the defensive end who rushed unimpeded through the line. Williams also whiffed on a play where he pulled and missed Clay Mathews on a running play. Garza made the right calls throughout but there was a play where he forgot the snap count and everyone went except for him. There were a couple of false starts and a holding, but all that said, I did not think the O-line was a major issue. The little things need to get cleaned up but they played OK.

2 Jay had time, but his mechanics were at time shoddy. A few back foot throws and passes that sailed led to interceptions. There are plays where the pass is not there and he needs to throw it away. He was sacked three times, but one of them was clearly a coverage sack that he needs to just throw away. Not a horrible game, but mistakes that need to get cleaned up.

3. There were so many drops - Klutts, Knox, Davis, Roy Williams all had at least one drop. Knox and Williams also had balls that they needed to make a better play on and/or fight the defender for. Those again need to get cleaned up, but it is frustrating to watch and it doesn't help build confidence with Cutler.

4. Here is the major problem as I see it - MIKE MARTZ REFUSES TO RUN THE BALL. Martz called 9 rushing plays total. There were two scrambles by Cutler that gave them 11 rushing attempts. Running the ball effectively requires a commitment to run. I know the stats say the Bears couldn't run the ball, but two things: (1) even when you don't run the ball effectively you wear out D-linemen and hold the linebackers on play action plays because they have to respect you. And (2) offensive linemen and running backs get lathered up when you give a steady dose of run plays and then you break a couple of longer ones. Beyond the two obvious benefits you also get to control the clock and give your D a little longer break.

In today's NFL you are not going to stop teams from getting yards, you need to force a couple of stops and turnovers to have an effective D. The Bears did that yesterday but did not get a good enough offensive effort to win. They need to do better in coming weeks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bears - Pack

After the week 1 win against the Falcons Chicago was flying high and the fan base was thinking Super Bowl. Then the Saints game seemed to change everything. My contention has always been that this is a dangerous Wild Card team. The Pack should win the division, but I do not feel that the Bears are that far away, and can certainly beat them.

The Bears are without their starting right side of the offensive line and their two starting safeties. I don't mind seeing Brandon Meriweather in for Major Wright - I think they are about the same - but it is a big step down to go from Chris Harris to Craig Steltz. The Pack are without Nick Collins, so they have their safety issues.

There has been a lot of talk in Chicago about Mike Martz's poor play calling last week and it just seemed that the team was flat coming off the emotional loss of Brian Urlacher's mother. Many of the team and coaches were in New Mexico for the funeral the day before the Saints game, so it also disrupted the normal schedule. The game was close for the better part of 3 quarters but it all seemed to fall apart in the fourth where the play calling and injuries on the O-line seemed to manifest themselves in the form of 5 sacks in the quarter.

With the Lions nipping at the heels of the Packers and Bears this game is critical for both teams, but especially the Bears because it is a home game. The last three games have been decided by seven points or less with two going to the Pack and one to the Bears. No reason to see any change in that, but I think this will be a relatively high scoring affair. I expect the Bears D to play a spirited game and get that key turnover that they always seem to get against the Pack when they play at home. The play calling will be better and the O-line will rise up to meet their challenge. In the end, I expect the Bears to win 27-24.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Most Interesting NFL Games This Week

Obviously the Bears-Pack and Deadskins-Cowboys games are important and intersting, but here are two games that I think will really start to tell us some things:

Lions at Vikings. The Lions have looked good against Tampa and KC. Are they for real? Going on the road to play a desperate Vikings team and beating a division rival would be huge for them. In addition, is McNabb washed up? This game may answer some of those questions.

Patriots at Bills. The Bills look like the real deal. They have a QB that no one knows, a ton of offensive weapons that no one knows, and just enough D to be dangerous. I don't expect them to beat the Patriots but if they do take advantage of a suspect Pats D, it would be very interesting.

The Lions and the Bills have been doormats for years but they look like they are on the rise. These games will tell us something about how much progress they have made.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Great and Glorious Deadskin Turnaround (Take 6)

I spent a bit of time looking back and it is telling. These are JKSD's direct quotes (he used to just be "Justin's Dad" then went to "JKD"). The first three are from his blog and the last two are from mine. Pretty much every year in September the Deadskins have a big (surprising) win and then JKSD thinks the corner has been turned and things are really changing. Yet, every year the end result is usually the same - misery. Every year is different and perhaps this year will be an actual turning point for the Deadskins - we'll see. However, what is certain is that JKSD will tell us that everything is changing.

From September 2010 (after the Dallas win):

"Shanny has brought a new attitude to this team. Last year, I was embarrassed to be a fan of the Redskins. I am sure the players were embarrassed at themselves and the organization. I have been saying it for months now that there seems to be a sense of order now that we have not seen in years."

From September 2008 (after the strong start by the Deadskins in Zorn's first few games):

"I grow more and more horny for Zorny. This guy has brought a modern system to the team and the players seem to be enjoying the higher offensive production . . . That's three in a row now and I can't be more pleased with the team right now. I figured there would be more in the way of growing pains and JC and Zorn and the entire offense having to learn the system and trust each other. It is happening much quicker than expected. There is still a long way to go but I am really liking this team. We seem to be building on something which is something that I feel that we haven't done in the past."

From Septemeber 2007 (after the 'Skins started off 2-0):

"You can really feel like the team is generating some confidence and momentum. It will be really good if we can beat a struggling Giants team next week and head into the bye week at 3-0. I think we will really start turning some heads."

From September 2006 (at the start of the season):

"Bringing in Gibbs was just what the Redskins needed. After debacles with Norvell and the egomaniacal Spurrier, Gibbs brings back some legitimacy to the 'Skins. He brings back some of the old magic."

From September 2005 (after the Dallas win when Brunell threw to Moss twice in the final minutes):

". . . this is the kind of game that can have an impact for the rest of the season. I think in those final four minutes Washington grew as a team. I think they gained alot of confidence and hope. It was inspiring and exciting. It's one of their best victories in a LONG time."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bears Lose

Tough loss. Disappointing effort in the second half - both from a coaching and offensive line standpoint. The Bears D was OK, but not really as aggressive as they normally are.

The Bears were coming off a big win at home against Atlanta and had to go to the Superdome to play a Saints team that was not planning on going 0-2. At halftime it was 16-10 Saints and I felt like the Bears were playing well - not great, but OK. Except for one Devery Henderson long play, the Bears were keeping the high flying Saints D in check. Forte was playing well and the offense was doing OK. The O-line was really playing well and did not give up any sacks in the first half.

The Bears lost starting RT Gabe Carimi, WR Earl Bennett, and safety Major Wright in the first half, but were hanging tough.

To start the second half the Bears kicked off and forced a 3 and out. They went down and kicked a field goal to make it 16-13. They kicked off and forced another 3 and out. All the momentum was going the Bears way, but at their own 36 yard line in a 3 point game TE Kellen Davis was slow off the snap and allowed an end rush strip sack of Jay Cutler. Five plays later it was 23-13.

That was the key to the game, but there was still time. The problem was that the Bears completely abandoned the run and allowed 5 more Cutler sacks. New Orleans kept the clock running with so many 3rd down plays that resulted in first downs. It seemed like the Bears D could not get off the field. The team just seemed to fall apart after that fumble. They were short handed, but certainly not out of it. I blame Martz for his poor play calling.

That said, it was an unusual week for the Bears. Going down to New Orleans was always a tough proposition, but the injuries made it tougher. However, Urlacher's mother passing had an effect and a lot of the Bears players and coaches were in New Mexico on Saturday at the funeral. I did not feel like the D played a particularly good game - they seemed flat. I did not feel like Urlacher was really into the game and as a result the D seemed off.

I have concerns about the RT position. The injury to Carimi may be serious. Lance Louis, the starting RG was out yesterday but should be back. If Carimi cannot play, it is going to be interesting to see how they handle it. There will be some shifting of players on the line.

Green Bay comes to Chicago on Sunday. They won't be intimidated and I expect them to play well. They need to address their O-line issues but Lovie needs to sit Martz down and tell him not to abandon the run. When the Bears went 7-2 last year to close out the year, and win last week against the Falcons there was a much better mix of pass-run.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bears - Saints

The Bears are heavy underdogs going into New Orleans. Not really surprising. This game would have been the divisional playoff game had the Saints beaten the Seahawks.

The Saints offense was great against the Packer D. But the Saints clearly have defensive issues. I expect Double G to dial up a ton of blitzes to test the Bears' young offensive tackles. The crowd noise will also be a factor.

I expect the Bears' offense to do extremely well against what I consider to be a subpar D. The Saints will move the ball and score, but the Bears' D will make enough plays to control the game. In the end, the Bears will win 30-24.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Urlacher Status

Apparently there is some family emergency that Urlacher has to take care of in Arizona. Reports are that something happened with his mother. Hopefully all goes well for him and his family. It may have some impact on whether he plays this week.

If that happens, it is next man up. It will probably be undrafted rookie free agent, Dom DeCicco. He surprised in camp and I think the guy can really develop. He may be pressed into service, but I'm sure he will be ready.

Happy for Rex

I've said it for years - the guy can play. It is unfortunate how he was berated and ushered out of Chicago. I think Lovie supported him, but all the negativity required that he move on.

I respect the fact that he went to Houston, got his head on straight and had an opportunity to revive his career. He beat out high priced free agent Dan Orlovsky to become the backup QB to Schaub. Then he made his way to DC with Kyle Shannahan. He performed reasonably well in his three starts last year, but still had to beat out John Beck who had apparently been hand-picked by the Shannies to be the starter at the beginning of training camp.

Rex has just worked hard, kept his self-confidence up, and all of his effort has been rewarded. He looked great this past week as the starter for the Deadskins.

Les Carpenter wrote a good piece about Rex. What I find interesting is that every place he has ever been (Florida, Chicago, Houston, and now DC), he is viewed as a leader and is very well respected and liked by his teammates. That says a lot about a guy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bears O and D Lines Played Well

Trib writer Dan Pompei studies the game tapes of Bears games and grades out all of the positions and players each week. The D line was dominant and the O line was solid against Atlanta. It is not surprising that they graded out well given the dominating performance the Bears put on this weekend.

The front 4 on defense really allowed the linebackers, especially Urlacher, to work from sideline to sideline unobstructed. As a result, Urlacher was able to make the big interception on a pass thrown to Gonzalez. Julius Peppers and Henry Melton each had two sacks. Peppers is just an awesome force, but if Melton can emerge as a consistent defensive stud, the D can become special.

Are all of the issues on the offensive line resolved - no. But the fact is that the Bears are much bigger, stronger, and faster on the O-line. They are younger and better suited to play against the big D-tackles (Raji and Suh in particular) in the NFC North. The switch to more powerful blocking tight ends will also help to build the power running game. This is critical as the weather worsens in the North.

The thing that is certain is that all of the jail breaks and disasterous blocking from last year is likely behind the Bears. The guys they have up front now are much better able to perform and can become a real strength for the team.

Monday, September 12, 2011

5 Thoughts About NFL Week 1

1. Most surprising game of the week - Baltimore-Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh got totally flattened and no one saw that coming.

2. Donovan McNabb - is it time to retire?

3. Tony Romo - WTF? He totally blew it in the fourth quarter. The punt block and the decision to continue to play an obviously hurt Dez Bryant didn't help, but Romo really messed things up.

4. KC - how can you let Buffalo come to town and blow you up like that?

5. The Bears are for real!

Huge Bears Win

The defending NFC North Champs showed that they are for real. They destroyed the Falcons. They did not give up an offensive TD to the prolific Falcons offense, and the Bears offense really dictated most of the tempo all day.

Couple of thoughts.

1. The defensive front 4 were dominant and pressured Matty Ice all day. Peppers and Melton each had 2 sacks, and reclamation project Amobi Okoye got one. That is critical for the Tampa 2 to work.

2. Urlacher looked 10 years younger. His diving interception showed his athleticism.

3. Tillman stripped yet another ball away and forced a critical Turner fumble. The guy is just the best in the NFL at doing that.

4. Forte ran well and had a huge play on the 50+ yard screen pass. He read his blocks well and broke a couple of tackles on his way to "the house."

5. Cutler was just great. He missed one easy TD pass to Kellen Davis right before halftime (it was a roll out to the right with a throw back to Davis who was all alone on the left). He hit big, long throws and he was on target on the short throws that allowed his guys to run after the catch (i.e., Forte's screen and Hester's flanker screen for 50 yards).

6. The Bears offensive line gave up 5 sacks. One was Cutler's fault for not throwing it away when there was good coverage on a short timing play. That said, they were solid and opened up good running lanes. Lance Louis got hurt and Chris Spencer had to take over at right guard in the middle of the game, but I think they may have improved with Spencer in.

7. Special teams were solid - the new punter boomed it when necessary and pinned the Falcons back when necessary. Most of Gould's kickoffs weren't returned.

Nobody - except for me and some other Bears fans - has been discussing the Bears as a serious challenger for the NFC crown. We'll see how they do against the Saints. I think they will match up well. The thing is that most teams are afraid of the Packers, but not the Bears. They are not intimidated by Rodgers and the Packers D. Can't wait until this weekend.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Bears - Falcons

The Falcons come off a year in which they had the best record in the NFC. They have skilled offensive players and a very good young QB. Defensively they seem sound. That said, their starting center is out and they have a new guard that apparently has not done as well as they would like this pre-season. Michael Turner looks like he is out of shape and has not been very good this year. In their third pre-season game against the Steelers they threw the ball 42 times in the first half.

I think the Bears will control the line of scrimmage and get to Matty Ice a few times. I don't think Turner will do much. They have great receivers and will make some plays, but I don't think the Falcons will be able to do enough against what I think is a very good Bears D.

Offensively the Bears will be committed to balance and will be able to run the ball with their much improved offensive line. Cutler will make plays and keep drives going. They may not punch it in as often as I'd like, but they will hit field goals and control the clock. I also expect a couple of big special teams plays that give them short fields.

End result, Bears 24 - Falcons 17.

Packers-Saints Thoughts

Obviously it was a great game. Came down to the last seconds. I'm not going to summarize, but I'll make a couple of points.

First, Woodson was a punk and should have been thrown out. No need for that kind of B.S. and it is disappointing because I don't think of Woodson as a punk.

Second, Brees and Rodgers were on fire. Brees played better because he faced more pressure and hit some incredible throws. I felt like Rodgers was just machine like, but he has an advantage in that he has far more potent weapons in my opinion. Both were great and should have big years.

Third, the defenses did not look great - especially the Saints - but it is hard to judge because the offenses were so good. They do not have any real playmakers or big hitters. They didn't seem to be able to cover or pressure. Their linebackers were weak also. The Packers have more talented players. They can cover and stuff the run with Raji. If not for Brees making great decisions the Packers would have crushed New Orleans.

All of that said, I think the Packers will roll this year, but the Saints have some work to do. I think the Saints D will be their trouble spot. The game last night seemed to just be an extension of what happened last year in the playoffs. The Saints D sucked against Seattle and the Packers made plays when they needed to to win.

To beat the Packers and Saints you will have to score more than 25 points and your will have to play great defense to try to keep them under 25. I think it will be easier to do that against the Saints.

The Bears get Atlanta this week and then the Saints and Packers. Those may be the best offenses in the NFL.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bears Thoughts

The roster looks fine to me. I am concerned that the Bears only have 5 linebackers to start the season (I'd like 6), but I think the injuries to backup safeties (and special teams standouts), Steltz and Conte, have forced their hand. They went out and signed a Pro Bowl safety (Meriweather) to shore up their depth and challenge Major Wright for playing time.

Overall, I have no real complaints and like the roster. I think the Bears are better than they were last year because of their stability on the offensive line. I think the Bears defensive line is also much improved.

Briggs is being a knucklehead but I don't think it will amount to much.

The only contract situation that I would like to have addressed in Matt Forte's deal. Apparently the Bears and Forte have suspended active contract negotiations until after the season. I think they want to remove any distractions. However, I fully expect that there will be a new deal in place before the end of the season.

The Bears apparently offered a guarantee of about $15M - Frank Gore got $13.5M guaranteed in SF. At this point, I think the Bears were fair and I think Forte can play out the year and probably get more from them next year if he is as productive as he should be. By mid-year the two sides will come to some agreement.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Pre-Season and the Detroit Lions

People are starting to talk about the Lions as a surprise team because they are undefeated this pre-season (the Rams are the only other undefeated pre-season team). They may surprise, but let's look at history.

Over the last 5 years here are the undefeated pre-season team:

2010: San Francisco
2009: Miami, Baltimore, Seattle
2008: Detroit
2007: None
2006: Cincy, Giants, Carolina

The only one of these teams that had a winning record in the regular season following their undefeated pre-season was Baltimore at 9-7 in the 2009 season. We know how Frisco imploded last year and the 2008 Detroit team ended up as the only NFL team to go 0-16.

Last year the Jets and Packers were 2-2 in preseason. The Bears and Indy were both 0-4. These 4 teams met in the AFC and NFC title games.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Die Hard 5 is Coming!

Bruce Willis returns as John McLain - this time in Russia. Sounds interesting.

Bears Fans vs. Deadskin Fans

I will say this - most Deadskin fans are optimists about their team. On talk radio and on postings to stories in the Post online you a lot of fans who think their team is going to roll or play very well.

Bears fans are largely the opposite. You see a lot of criticism of the owners, GM, coaches, players, hot dog vendors, etc.

This is not to say all Deadskin fans think their team is making the playoffs, and all Bear fans think their team will suck, just that the contrast is interesting to note.

In both cases, and probably in most cities, fans are pretty delusional and uninformed. I'd say most have never even played organized football, and do not understand all that has to happen to succeed (e.g., talent, coaching, schemes, execution, no injuries, luck).

The two things that I find most annoying among many Bears' fans is the idea that the Bears are cheap, and the criticism of Lovie Smith as a head coach. In an era of hard salary caps for all teams, the only cheap teams are the ones that do not use up their cap. The Bears do. As for Lovie - he is a players' coach that has gone to the Super Bowl and just got to the NFC title game. There are plenty of teams that never even get a sniff of that type of success.

Fans can do what they want, but it would be nice if the ignorance level of many fans was not so high. At least then I could respect some of the criticisms.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

CP Works Out for Seattle

Portis may or may not be washed up. Frankly, I think he would be a solid 3rd down back, but the question is whether he can accept that type of role. He can catch, he can block, and he can probably still give you 5-10 carries per game. His problem is his ego and his salary demands.

With Chester Taylor available, I'd probably go with him if I was looking for a vet. He is used to the role and has the same skill set. The fact that he has always been more of a "team" guy would tip me toward him over CP.

Chester Taylor Thoughts

Chester apparently misunderstood his standing with the Bears following his meeting with Lovie Smith earlier this week. After the meeting his agent sent out a note saying that Chester had been released. Not true.

The Bears are not jerking Chester around. I am sure they are shopping him to see if they can get a draft pick for him. If he is on the active roster at the start of the season then he is guaranteed $1.25M for the year. If the Bears choose to release him there is no way he will get that kind of guaranteed money.

It is still possible that Chester plays for the Bears - he is relatively cheap and knows the offense. If Marion Barber's calf problem is worse than we have been led to believe then he may still be in the Bears plans. That is not really likely, but it is a possibility that would not surprise me.

The best thing that can happen for Chester is that he gets traded and not released. He will earn more than if he has to sign a new contract. The Bears are doing exactly the right thing for both the team and Chester.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bachmann's Promises on Oil

She thinks she can get gas prices below $2/gallon. She incorrectly claimed that when President Obama took office gas was $1.83/gallon (WRONG!), and she believes that with a "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy we could get under $2/gallon. Silly, silly, silly.

She wants to drill everywhere including the Everglades if necessary. The joke is that any new oil drilling won't have any impact on prices for years. Under her own plan, the maximum benefit we would receive would be a 3 cent reduction in gas prices seven years from now.

Look, even if we allow Big Oil to drill everywhere it won't change our dependence on foreign oil or the price of gas. Our problem is we don't have enough refineries to convert oil into gas and there is no way that private corporations are going to spend the billions needed to produce another refinery so that they can lower the price of gas and cut their own profit margins. Oil is a commodity sold on the world market for the highest price. Unless we nationalize oil production and refining, we aren't going to get any change in gas prices (except up), because no private, for profit company is going to cut profits. I've said it many times. It is so patently obvious, but "Drill, Baby, Drill" zombies drone on with their silly chants without understanding basic capitalism or economic realities.

Bears Preseason

The Bears look like they are just about ready for the regular season. The offensive line was great against Tennessee. Gabe Carimi made a couple of rookie mistakes (false start and a blown pass protection that led to Cutler getting hit after delivering a pass), the O-line looks solid. It is bigger, stronger, younger, and much more athletic than it has been in years.

Forte was awesome rushing and receiving.

Cutler was very comfortable in the pocket and on a couple of rollouts.

The D looked good overall.

The concern areas are receiver - more specifically, Roy Williams - and special teams. Robbie Gould has not had a strong preseason. He missed a 29 yard field goal before hitting a 46 yarder. He has gone 5 of 9 this preseason (one miss was from 56 yards). It may be a result of having a new holder, but whatever it is he needs to improve. The coverage teams have looked suspect at times - not as much against Tenniessee. I expect that to be corrected when the guys who are not going to be on the team are taken off of coverage.

As for the receivers. Clearly the best receiver is Earl Bennett. He runs routes correctly and never drops a pass. Cutler clearly has confidence in him. Hester needs to get a couple of shots deep and some slants in the slot - but he is not a precise route runner. Knox has speed and runs fairly good routes. His problem is that he does not fight hard enough for balls. That may come with experience, but he needs to toughen up. Sanzenbacher is a Wes Welker type who runs good routes and seems to be popular with a lot of the players. I'd rather him be the fourth receiver than keep Roy Williams at this point. Williams has been horrible in the preseason. He has dropped balls left and right. The guy is a big target and he runs reasonable routes, but you cannot trust him with the ball. He may get cut - although I doubt it. His one year contract is not enough to keep him around. We'll see.

We're 2 weeks from having Atlanta come to town. I fully expect the Bears to win that game and start the season strong.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is Wrong with the Republican Party

They actually want "Joe the Plumber" to run for Congress. Has the Party fallen that far that they actually want to run a guy who has not been able to hold down a real job for years and who regularly demonstrated complete ignorance? He must be a Tea Party favorite.

Bears' Receivers

The Chicago media is all in a frenzy about Roy Williams and the Chicago receiving corps. My guess is that Roy will get cut if he doesn't pick it up soon. He is on a 1 year contract that isn't that expensive. We need a guy who will go up and get the ball - if Roy can do that then great. If not, I am very comfortable with Hester, Bennett, and Knox. I like our tight end situation much better. Davis and Spaeth are huge - they block and catch well. Then we've got Forte and Barber. Skill position players are not an issue for the Bears. It will be on the offensive line to open holes in the running game and pass block so we can make plays.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Food Stamps and Wealth in America

Because of the ongoing economic downturn, there are now 46 million Americans who receive food stamps. Obviously there are likely to be some cheats who should be prosecuted, but no doubt most of these folks need this government program to live. Sadly, many of these folks are the working poor. They work, but just cannot earn enough to feed their families.

The cost is now nearly $70 billion/year - unacceptable.

What I continue to find amazing is that there is no serious effort to close corporate loopholes or increase taxes on the wealthy in order to help this country. Think about this - If we divided the country into quarters based on wealth, we would have the following:

Top 25% - 87% of the nation's total wealth
Middle 50% - 13% of the nation's wealth.
Bottom 25% - 0% of the nation's wealth

Republicans want to cut programs for the bottom folks, not ask the wealthy to do anything, and then hope that we improve. If we don't look to the wealthy to sacrifice and help this country then we have no hope of ever solving our economic issues. We can never be a Super Power when the middle class is falling into the growing permanent under class.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bears Thoughts

Just finished watching the first half of the Bears-Giants game. Thought it was a very solid effort. The O-line looked great. Cutler got hit a couple of times - but nothing major. The one sack they gave up was Cutler not throwing the ball away when he was outside the tackle box.

Forte looked good on a 40 yard screen pass. Jay threw effectively. I'm not worried about the D. They were OK, nothing special. I didn't like that Devin Thomas got some good returns. I think that may be a product of trying out guys who are on the bubble on coverage teams. I expect the Bears to have great special teams as usual.

Right now, I think the Bears are going to be significantly better on offense. They are in the second year in the Martz system. Jay is in fantastic shape - he lost about 15 pounds - and he seems to be dedicated to being great. They have more experience at receiver - a very talented group. The addition of Marion Barber will be huge in goal line situations. But the biggest thing is that the O-line is bigger, younger and more nasty. They are going to dominate teams with their running game.

The Lions look better. The Vi-Queens should be solid. Both teams should be tough but both will likely be around .500. It will come down to the Packers and Bears. But the North may be the toughest division in football.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Republican Presidential Field

I have to say, as weak and vulnerable as President Obama may be right now the Republicans are making it much easier for him to get re-elected. The Tea Party and the Republicans in Congress have pushed Congress to all-time lows in approval ratings, but it is the presidential candidates the Republicans are fielding that are truly a joke.

Rick Perry seems to have vaulted to the top - but I doubt he will be the nominee. The guy is clearly not intellectual enough, but it is hard to take a guy who liked the idea of a Texas secession seriously. Questioning President Obama's patriotism and love for the country and calling Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke "treasonous", while calling for Texas independence is pretty idiotic.

Michelle Bachmann has gaffes every single day. It is clear she is not a serious candidate - she is another Palin or Christine "I am not a witch" O'Donnell.

Romney is totally unacceptable to the Republican base, but his insistance that "Corporations are people" will come back to haunt him if he is the nominee. The guy used to be a moderate, but he has tried to move to the right and it just seems so unnatural. It makes him look like a flake.

Newt Gingrich. Everyone has abandoned him and all he is left with is his wife who is very fond of expensive bling. This wouldn't be a problem except that Newt indulges her with his $500,000 Tiffany's line of credit. Not the image you want to project to a country that is economically struggling.

Herman Cain and Rick Santorum - Really?

Thad McCotter - Who?

Ron Paul is a truly traditional conservative and he has some backing from the Tea Party folks - but he is unacceptable to the Republican kingmakers. I find it amazing how they have marginalized this guy but he keeps gaining more of a following.

Frankly, I expect someone else to jump into the race. I cannot believe that any one of these folks will actually be the nominee.

Palin will get in because she will want to raise money - but she has no chance of getting the nomination. She just wants to try to stay relevant and collect more money from the dupes who support her.

I think the two people who are likely to jump in and get some serious consideration from the Republican establishment are Congressman Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) and Senator Marco Rubio (Florida). Ryan may feel threatened by losing his seat in Congress because of his radical economic proposals and the tide that is rising against Republican Governor Scott Walker. He may decide to bail on his seat and try his hand at a higher position. His views on Medicare and SS are likely to doom him. However, Marco Rubio is an interesting candidate. I don't know much about him, but he seems pleasant. As a Hispanic he could bring in new voters to the Republican ranks. As a southerner he could hold on to the base. He would be a wild card entrant who people may find interesting, but it is getting very late in the game to try to build a national campaign. If he doesn't decide by Labor Day, he probably won't get in.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

President Obama's Bus Tour

The President is in the Midwest on his campaign-style bus tour talking economic issues. I think it is a good thing, because he needs to get out of the White House and remember what he campaigned for and why people elected him. He has allowed Republicans - and in particular Tea Party folks - to dictate economic policies that are dangerously ignorant and out of touch with what we actually need to do.

There was an exchange w/a Tea Party leader in Iowa that I thought was great. The thing I like about it is that President Obama needs to be seen confronting these folks. He is at his best when he is communicating.

Not surprisingly, right wingers are asking why Obama is away from Washington. It is silly political criticism as usual. President Bush used to get out all the time, but he would only allow approved invited guests - not all Americans. That is another difference with this President.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mitt Romney- Corporations Are People!

This is why Mitt won't become President. The tea party folks who hate Wall Street must hate Mitt. He doesn't really fit the social conservatives either. Given these observations, it is highly unlikely he will get the Republican nomination.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Jon Stewart's Take on the Wall Street Beating

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Debt Reduction vs. Job Creation

Conservatives believe that if the government cuts debt and a new slew of tax cuts could lead to job creation. It is plain silly because there is no evidence to suggest that would actually happen. Just look at what happened with the FAA shutdown a couple of weeks ago. The government could not collect $200 million in taxes because of the shutdown. Did airlines cut their fares and pass along savings to customers? No. They pocketed the money as straight profit.

The point of capitalism is to make money and increasing shareholder value. It is not a social program. With the economy stalling, there is no incentive whatsoever to expand - why bother when consumer demand isn't there. American corporations are sitting on record cash reserves because of record profits. They won't spend that money until things are actually improving.

How will it improve? We need a huge stimulus effort to make things happen. We don't have any trouble servicing our debt or taking on more debt right now. We need to take advantage of that and use the money to invest in American infrastructure. This would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and get consumers spending again. If you believe we have trouble servicing our debt, then you are not paying attention. As the markets tanked, where did the money go? Gold and U.S. Treasury bonds. Our debt is fine right now - our economy is sick. Cutting government spending will only make things worse.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Rout is On

Not surprising - we're down 300+ right now. I expect the losses to hit about 550 on the Dow today.

There is just no energy or news that will turn around the negative sentiment. Congress is out and the President may feebly talk about some business tax credits, but that won't do anything. We need a huge spending bill by the government to shock the economy to life. Otherwise we are just going to continue to suffer through a negative drift.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Market Will Collapse Tomorrow

The foreign markets are getting hammered tonight as countries weigh the slowing economy and, more acutely, the S&P's credit downgrade.

The Tea Party got their way and sent the nation to the brink. Many of those idiots actually thought a default would be a good thing. If the ceiling had not been raised, the panic and uncertainty would have sent us into a global economic depression.

We didn't avoid damage - the brinksmanship is what drove the S&P downgrade and as a result we are going to end up seeing the dollar collapse and interest rates rise. I've already seen one report that we can expect interest on the national debt to cost about $100 billion more over the next year because of this downgrade. So over a 10 year period we can probably expect another trillion in government costs because of this mess. That wipes out the savings that was negotiated with the deal.

Our problem in this country was not the deficit/debt - those are longer term issues - but the slowing economy and the fundamental weakness. We need more government stimulus, not less. The private sector is not going to start spending because government deficits are lower. If we don't get some sense out of Washington, we are going to end up with Herbert Hoover-type policies that address deficit at a time when we need stimulus. Hoover was convinced - as the Tea Party is - that debt and deficits were a problem and in a slowing economy he cut back on spending. It sent the country further into the Great Depression abyss and created Hoovervilles (tent cities of homeless folks who could not make a living). It was FDR's stimulus/deficit spending that put people back to work.

Friday, August 05, 2011

S&P Downgrades U.S. Debt

For the first time in history, the U.S. lost its AAA credit rating by Standard and Poor's. We are now AA+.

S&P gave the reason for the downgrade:

“we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade. … Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with a ‘AAA’ rating.”

What it means is that there is likely to be higher interest rates in coming weeks/months.

Moody's and Fitch - the other two credit rating agencies - left the U.S. at AAA. On Monday, it is likely there will be major changes in the bond markets and the stock markets will be in a tizzy. I would not be surprised to see a large drop as people try to figure out what to do.

On the political front, there will be typical partisan sniping back and forth, but this downgrade is a result of the ridiculous "debate" that took place in the recent debt ceiling increase. Holding the debt ceiling hostage and failing to seriously address the structural imbalances in our debt are good reasons for the downgrade.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The President is in Trouble

President Obama will be overseeing a stagnant economy with enormous deficits and high unemployment if he does not put forward a serious plan right now. He has walked away from progressive stimulative policies and adopted Republican/Bush-era economic policies. It is an odd play that won't solve our issues and it unnecessarily slaps his base.

He needs to push forward with a robust construction/infrastructure jobs program right now to get people to work. To pay for it and to cut the deficit, he has to push for an immediate end to the Bush tax cuts and the elimination of corporate subsidies and tax loopholes (particularly for Big Oil). This would be enough to create a $100 billion/year jobs program.

I'd still say that he has a great shot at re-election because I think the Republican field is largely a joke. I would support Jon Huntsman because he is reasonable. The rest of them are either spineless (Romney and Pawlenty), crazy (Bachmann), delusional (Newt), or just plain irrelevant (the rest).

Philly is LOADED

The team to beat in the NFC is clearly going to be Philadelphia. With Vick and VY, they have two dynamic QBs. They have the receivers, a solid tight end, and they just signed Ronnie Brown. Their offensive line is suspect, but they have mobile QBs who can make up for it.

On D they got the best CB and D-lineman on the market. With their offense, they just need some competent D and I think they will have that.

Football is a funny thing. You need skill, luck staying healthy, and the ever elusive chemistry. I think the Eagles clearly have skill. I think they will have good chemistry. The question is will they stay healthy.

Keith Olbermann Special Comment August 1st, 2011

Colbert's Take on the Debt Deal

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Bears Moves

It has been a largely uneventful off-season for the Bears. No big, huge splashy free agents and no huge losses. Surprisingly Olin Kreutz turned down a one year $4M deal. There is no way he is going to make more than that. I would have liked to have seen him stay, but am not losing sleep about the loss.

Danieal Manning moved on to Houston and Rashied Davis left for Detroit - not huge losses. Greg Olsen was traded, but he wasn't super productive anyway.

I like the Roy Williams and Marion Barber pickups. We get a bigger receiver and a short yardage back that we really need. The offensive line will be better, but they need to settle on their lineup. First round pick Greg Carimi will start and Chris Spencer should end up as the starting center if he can stay healthy. If those two guys start and are effective it will be huge.

Here is a good piece on the Bears moves so far.

Upon Further Review and Reflection . . .

The debt ceiling increase was essential and I still think the Dems can win politically - if President Obama actually tries to frame the issues more clearly about the need for tax increases. If the super-Congress comes back with just spending cuts - especially to SS and Medicare - then it will be an outright win for Republicans.

What I truly lament is that there is a complete and utter failure on the part of our President to lead. He should have been fighting for tax increases and an increase in the debt ceiling much harder. He allows Tea Party Republicans to set the agenda. They are committed and he simply is not.

President Obama has no real leverage because he chooses not to use it. He caved on the Bush tax cuts in January and largely caved this time. Both times he says that he is ready to fight the bigger looming battles that will come down the road. The question is, "WHEN!?"

Monday, August 01, 2011

Deal Struck on Debt Ceiling

The debt ceiling is going to be raised. Looks like there is a deal that seems to make some sense. In two years there will be some significant cuts in government spending. By the end of the year we will likely see some tax increases and there will be some deficit reduction.

There will be a super committee of members of Congress who will look to cut the deficit further that will make recommendations for deficit reduction by the end of the year. If those are not passed, it will trigger significant across the board spending cuts that would be trouble for both Republicans and Democrats. So we will get a plan through Congress later this year.

People are mad at both the Dems and the Republicans, but I think the plan favors Democrats from a political standpoint. The Tea Party folks will be angry so the Republicans will have to deal with those folks. Dems may not like some of the spending cuts, but it is unlikely that there will be any effects on SS and Medicare recipients.

We'll see what the recommendations are later in the year.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

BBA and Senate Vote to Kill House Plan

Not surprisingly the Senate killed the Boehner plan within 2 hours of its passage. Six Republicans even voted it down - although most of those folks were probably radicals that voted against it because they wanted even more cuts.

Anyone who thinks the Boehner plan was a good one does not understand what it takes or means to amend the U.S. Constitution. The Boehner plan would require any future increases in the nation's debt ceiling to be preceded by the approval of a balanced budget amendment. That means that 2/3 of both Houses of Congress would have to vote in favor of an increased to the debt ceiling.

Getting the deficit under control is important and the BBA may sound like a good idea, except that the federal government needs to have the flexibility to run deficits in order to pay for extraordinary circumstances. In times of war, after natural disasters, or to stimulate the economy there are times when you want the government to overspend.

Radicals forced Boehner to include the language. Let's say that it passed and we changed the Constitution. Then imagine if we had a natural disaster and were attacked by Iran. We would not be able to pay for the appropriate responses because of the BBA. Taxes would have to be raised immediately to raise funds - which would likely be a problem because of the economic uncertainty following these types of events. This would compound our problems but be required because of the BBA. It is an absolutely silly idea because it unnecessarily limits the nation.

Friday, July 29, 2011

More House Nonsense

Boehner was able to scrape enough votes to pass his version of the increase to the debt ceiling. However, it was crazy theatrics that were needed to convince hard-line crazies in the Republican Caucus.

The new bill raises the debt ceiling by $900 billion - which should be good for about 6-8 months of government spending. It cuts $917 billion in projected spending over the next 10 years. However, given current spending levels, we will be back where we are today in just a few months.

The problem is that any future increases to the debt ceiling could only be made under the House plan if the Senate and the House vote in favor of a Constitutional Amendment to require the federal government to balance its budget each year. That means that 2/3 majorities in both houses of Congress would have to support such a change to the Constitution. That will never happen and if Boehner's bill actually became law it would virtually assure that we would have a default on obligations in a matter of months.

The bill will get killed in the Senate and we basically have to see what the House is going to be willing to do. Not much has changed and yet we are getting closer to economic doom.

Obama Hits Lowest Approval Rating

The Gallup tracking poll for the President's approval hit 40 percent . This is not surprising given the economic weakness and the whole ridiculous debt ceiling issue.

The President has failed in two areas that could have dramatically changed the course of the nation and the economic fortunes of all Americans. First, he expanded operations in Afghanistan to no real benefit and he has not drawn down fast enough in Iraq. This has kept up spending on these lengthy and very expensive operations (blood and treasure). Second, he did not allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on those making more than $250,000 or more. Had he done those two things, we would have at least $150 billion per year in the Treasury.

Those were the two biggest things he talked about during his campaign and instead of changing from Bush's policies he adopted them. He has done the same with warrantless wiretapping, Guantanamo/secret prisons, Predator missile strikes, more tax cuts, etc. He is basically carrying on the Bush policies that sent this country into a tailspin.

Frankly, if there was a viable candidate for President that openly and honestly talked about the things that need to get done I would listen. Candidate Obama was much better than President Obama. But, for those Republicans who hate him, I don't know what they are complaining about. He gave them more Bush and even greater tax cuts. There is no real Republican option. Romney? Bachmann? That is even crazier.

House of Reps Nonsense

So after a one day delay, last night the House was supposed to pass Boehner's plan to raise the debt ceiling. When it became clear that the Tea Party folks weren't going to go along with it and that no Dems were going to go along with it, they delayed the vote.

Boehner cannot even pass his own plan and he wants the Dems and the President to negotiate with him. What for?

So he will load up some more goodies for those folks who are on the fence and try to pass it today. I have my doubts because many of the Tea Party folks actually believe default would be a good thing.

With time running out, Boehner is going to have to build a coalition of mostly Dems and the non-crazy Republicans in the House. This means he is going to have to use Senator Reid's horribly flawed plan which will pass in the Senate.

If Congress was actually interested in economic stability and deficit reduction they would immediately pass a debt ceiling increase and then come up with a plan that cuts spending and increases taxes on a one to one basis. This is shared sacrifice.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cutting Spending vs. Increasing Taxes

We have an unsustainable debt and deficit situation in the U.S. Republicans and Dems have somehow come to the conclusion that taxes should not be raised and spending should be cut. This is exactly the opposite of what you want to do in a weak economy or recession.

If we spent $200 billion per year on infrastructure (schools, roads, bridges, etc.), we could create 5 million new jobs ($40,000/year jobs). That would be more than 400,000 new jobs per month for a year. That would greatly reduce unemployment and increase tax collections and spending in this country.

Part of this $200 billion could come from states and localities who wanted to improve local infrastructure, but we could pay for this spending by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (about $100 billion per year), eliminating farm and oil subsidies and tax credits ($15 billion per year), and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on those making more than $200,000 per year.