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.