Monday, September 23, 2013

3-0 Bears

The Bears won their third game in a row and their first win on the road. They played a desperate, but undermanned, Pittsburgh team and won. There were points in the game when the Bears looked unstoppable, and then there were other points where it looked like they might blow it. In the end, it was a very good NFL road victory.

The first quarter was fantastic for the Bears. They took the opening drive down the field and kicked a field goal. The D got a turnover and created a short field which then ended in a Forte TD. The D forced a 3 and out and the Bears third drive ended in a Bush TD run. It was 17-0 and it looked like the rout was on. After a Pittsburgh field goal, the Bears O was stopped for the first time in the game but after the punt, Big Ben threw a pick-6 to Major Wright. Bears 24-3.

At that point, it looked pretty bad for the Steelers. The Bears D held and had forced a punt. But a roughing the kicker penalty on the Bears extended a Steeler drive that resulted in a TD. So, the halftime score was a respectable 24-10. The Bears forced a Steeler fumble after the half and kicked a field goal. Bears 27-10. Then the Steelers clawed their way back and with about 10 minutes to go had closed the game 27-23. Cutler pulled out another great fourth quarter drive that ate up clock and ended in a TD. Bears up 34-23 with under 6 minutes to go and the game was effectively over. Peppers ran in a 42 yard fumble to put the final margin at 40-23.

It was an efficient offensive game, with a couple of timely drives for the Bears, but it was a truly dominating defensive performance. The Bears forced 3 fumbles and the Bears safeties picked off two passes. Add three sacks and constant pressure on Big Ben, along with two more defensive TDs last night, and the Bears D showed itself to be a real force.

On to Detroit for a stiffer road test.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tim Tebow to Jacksonville?

The Jaguars stink right now. They have some nice young pieces and their D is OK, but they stink. They will be lucky to win 3 games this year. The fans don't show up to games and there is a lot of gloom around the team. So, does it make sense to sign Tebow?

There was a "rally" to get Tebow. He got 20 supporters to show up. There is also an online petition in Jacksonville that has nearly 600,000 people saying he should not be signed no matter what.

In the end, it probably is not worth it. If you sign him you have to deal with the circus around him. That is OK if you win a couple of games, but you cannot run a pro-style offense and it may actually hurt the development of your offensive line and receivers. I doubt you would keep Tebow next year when the first pick will likely be a QB that you want to build around. Use this year to work on fundamentals and figure out who the character guys are on the team. Then, next year let the rebuild start with around a new QB.

Fantasy Football

I lost my two games last week and won my two games this week. So I am 1-1 in both leagues. I got Giovani Bernard in the middle rounds of both leagues and he may end up being a steal. He scored twice for Cincy last night and secured my victory for the week in one of my leagues (I benched him in favor of Ahmad Bradshaw in my other league).

I also have Kembrell Thompkins as a late round pick on both my teams. He would have had a great week if he could have held on to the diving catch he tried to make this past weekend. Tom Brady is still looking for options in the passing game. I think Thompkins is the best bet to emerge among the lesser known guys. Julien Edelman looks like he will be the new Wes Welker. Gronk will be Gronk when he comes back, but Thompkins looks like the guy who will be the deep threat.

To win in fantasy football, you have to have guys who come out of nowhere and become studs. Injuries always play a part, but the difference in the end is finding players who are late picks and free agent pickups who become point producers and difference makers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2-0 Chicago Bears

Awesome game yesterday. I had a bye week from soccer and it was the first time in a long time that I got a chance to go to a sports bar and watch my Bears play. My son is a Ravens fan and we were able to sit and watch the Bears and Ravens play at a local establishment. The Bears were in a back-and-forth battle all day. The game was filled with huge plays and tide-turning mistakes. The Vikings returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a TD. Devin Hester had two really long (about 80 yard) kickoff returns and one that was about 50 yards (he set a record for most return yardage for a Chicago Bear). Tim Jennings got a huge pick-6, but Cutler gave one up with the Bears driving he fumbled and it got returned for a TD. The Bears had a first and goal on the 1 yard line and then called for a play action pass that got deflected and intercepted in the end zone, but then Cutler closed the final 3 minutes by driving the ball down for the winning TD pass to Bennett. Great game to watch because we won.

I like the Bears offense. There is a great mix of shots down the field with short passes. I haven't looked at the stats, but there were a lot more 3rd and 5 plays than 3rd and 10 plus plays. The Bears have a lot of manageable 3rd downs that they have to deal with but when they get them and keep drives alive it saps some of the energy from the opposing team. The offensive line is playing very, very well. The pass protection is there, but so are the running lanes. There is great balance with the play calling and the key players are making plays. Marshall had another 100 yard receiving day. Bennett got 75 yards and 2 TDs. Forte rushed for 90 yards and got another 70 receiving. Jeffery and Earl Bennett also had key catches. In fact, the Bears offense moved the ball pretty well most of the day. If not for the two first half turnovers that I mentioned above, the Bears may have cruised to victory.

The defense is solid. They got sacks and they largely controlled AP. He ripped off one 36 yard run, but other than that he was held in check. The Bears also got the pick-6 and bailed out the offense after a Forte fumble in Chicago territory and after a second Cutler interception.

The Bears go on the road to Pittsburgh. To me, that is a game I expect the Bears to win. Fantastic start against solid competition, but they just have to keep it going.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chicago Bears - Minnesota Vikings

The Bears get a second game at home and could establish themselves as a team to watch out for if they can beat the Vikings. Frankly, I expect the Bears to win by at least 10 points. Defensively it all comes down to stopping Peterson - which I believe the Bears will do. Christian Ponder will make a couple of mistakes and set up short fields. The Bears' offense is a work in progress, but if they can keep Cutler upright they should be fine. In the end, I expect a 24-14 game, that goes to the Bears.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Thoughts on Syria

No question that Syria is a mess. It is quite likely that chemical weapons were used against the Syrian people by their government. Last night the President spoke to the nation - unfortunately I did not watch it, but I have an understanding of what he argued for. We will use diplomacy with the help of Russia, and if that doesn't work stronger action will be taken. The President is trying to build support for military action, but it is not likely to come. Quite frankly, unless there are clearer objectives and a strategy that is in our national interest we should stay out of Syria.

Bashar al-Assad appears to be a cruel dictator, however, regime change does not ensure Jeffersonian democracy that favors American interests. Iraq is still a mess. Afghanistan is still a mess. Egypt is a mess. Libya is a mess. The "rebels" in Syria are unlikely to have strong pro-American views, so if we were to support them, it is likely that they to will be anti-American soon after they were to take power.

The moral argument that we have to protect children who are being gassed by the Syrian government is a compelling moral argument, but the U.S. is not the policeman to the world and there is no real national interest for the U.S. that I can see that would convince me that American blood and treasure should be spilled in Syria. I may change my mind, but for now there just isn't a reason that I can see.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NFL Thoughts after 1 Week

There is so much hype and craziness after one week in the NFL. The teams that won are all going to the Super Bowl and the teams that lost have major problems. Here are my top five stories after week 1.

1. Pittsburgh may be in trouble. They could not run the ball at all and struggled mightily on offense. They lost Pouncey and Foote - two key veteran players and don't seem to have an NFL running back on their team.

2. The AFC North teams all lost - Ravens, Cincy, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Cincy probably played the best of the bunch, but who knows what is going to happen. I think the Ravens and Pittsburgh are a little worse this year from a personnel standpoint. Cleveland is better - but their QB situation may be trouble. Cincy should probably win the division.

3. The flying Chip Kellies in Philly will be interesting to watch. They are unique, and they pretty much destroyed the Redskins in the first half. The second half they seemed to slow down, but it is hard to tell if it was a function of taking their foot off the gas (they seemed to run much more in the second half), or playing prevent defense and allowing points. My view is that Vick will get hurt in a few weeks and Foles won't be as effective. I also fully expect defenses to catch up to the tendencies of Chip Kelly. By mid year we'll see how effective the offense really is.

4. Jacksonville should sign Tim Tebow. That franchise has very little going for it and the way they got carved up by KC at home is messed up. There were no fans left early in the fourth quarter. Tebow will sell tickets and may be able to generate some excitement.

5. Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning are really good. Both exploded this week and it is tough for me to decide who was better. They have to be the favorites to meet in the Super Bowl after week 1.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Chicago Bears 1-0

The Marc Trestman era is off to a great start. I was able to catch the fourth quarter and saw the Bears complete the comeback against a very solid Bengals team. Here are a couple of initial thoughts. The Bears defense is going to be really good this year. They have a great rotation on the defensive line. The linebackers are very active and the secondary is awesome. I think the retirement of Brian Urlacher has actually helped the defense in that the team's speed is better. I know there will be times when calls won't be right, but as the season progresses, I think the additional athleticism will be more beneficial.

The special teams were solid. Robbie Gould hit a franchise record 58-yard field goal - which turned out to be the difference in the score. Kickoffs were also good, so it looks like he has recovered fully from his late-season injury from last year. I'd like to see more out of the return game - and I expect to see it in coming weeks as Devin Hester is now basically just a full-time return man.

The offense started slow, but it seems that the offensive line is much improved. They played well against a very good front 7 and did not give up a sack. After Cutler threw a horrible interception early in the 4th quarter, the defense forced a fumble and the offense just seemed to click. Cutler was efficient in moving the ball 80 yards for the go ahead touchdown. It was a great drive with a good mix of runs and passes. There was a long pass to Marshall, an 18-yard scramble by Cutler, an 8-yard run by Forte on a 4th and 1 play, and then a laser pass to Marshall on a back shoulder fade type route that capped the drive. The Bears D held Cincy and the Bears offense was able to bleed the final six and a half minutes of the game with a great sustained drive. I was very pleased with the effort and think the key to the season is continuing to improve on offense. This should happen as Trestman gets more comfortable with the personnel and the Bears get more comfortable with his system.

Next up is Minnesota at Soldier Field. I like the matchup for the Bears.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

NFL Predictions

The season starts today and as always I am excited. This is a time of year when hope springs eternal and everyone can dream of the Super Bowl for their team. Here are my top five thoughts:

1. Super Bowl Predictions. First, I think a lot of teams have a chance, but if I had to pick a final game I would say San Francisco vs. Denver. Denver wins the championship. The Broncos offense will be very good this year. They have great wide receivers, good running backs, and a great QB. There is some question about the offensive line, but with their quick passing attack they should be fine. The question will be on defense and special teams. People remember Jacoby Jones getting behind the Bronco secondary, but they forget that there were two special teams TDs that also did in the Broncos. I think Denver will put it all together and win this year. Frisco is a tremendous defensive team that plays a very physical offensive game also. However, Kaepernik won't sneak up on anyone and I expect he will take a few shots on the field as he takes off to run.

2. Chicago Bears. Very unusual for a new coach to inherit a 10-6 team that has a very good defense and great offensive pieces. Everything will hinge on Jay Cutler this year. Sure Marshall and Forte have to deliver, but the question that has to be answered is whether Cutler is truly a franchise QB. He has to make plays that keep drives alive and he has to avoid the soul-crushing turnovers that he sometimes commits. The offensive line has 4 new starters and has shown some good signs in pre-season, but I expect that there will be some issues early, but I like Marc Trestman and believe he will call more innovative plays that take advantage of Cutler's abilities to move out of the pocket and throw. In the end, I expect the Bears to go 11-5 and compete with Green Bay for the division crown. I think the Lions and Vikings are solid teams, so it is going to be a tough race. As with most teams, the key will be who can stay healthy. With a little luck, I do think the Bears can compete for the Super Bowl.

3. Washington Redskins. Great offensive team when RGIII plays. Solid team when other guys are at QB. The defensive secondary is still too weak to compete for the NFC title. Too many teams have wide receivers that can torch the Redskin D. I think the Redskins will go 8-8 this year. I do think the NFC East is a weaker division so that helps. The Eagles should be improved, Dallas is OK, the Redskins are OK, and the Giants are better than average. My sense is that the Giants are the team to beat. I know there is a lot of love for the Redskins in the national media, but there are simmering issues with RGIII/Shanny and it is not clear how a change in play calling (away from the read option) will help/hurt the Redskins. People should not expect RGIII to electrify like he did last year, and if he doesn't and the Redskins lose a few because of their suspect secondary then there will be a weird dynamic on the team.

4. Dark Horse Teams. The three teams that I would say could surprise this year are Kansas City, Carolina, and Cincy. Cincy was a playoff team last year and I am not sure if they are much of a surprise, but Carolina should be improved and I expect Cam Newton to really take off. Carolina played a lot of close games and I also think their style of play will allow them to compete against Atlanta and New Orleans who should be at the top of the division. However, with a couple of breaks, Carolina could surprise folks. Kansas City has a QB and a coach with a history of success. I would not be surprised if they compete for a playoff spot. They seem hungry and they play in a weak division.

5. Weak Teams. Oakland is terrible. The organization is a mess and they will clean house after this year. The Jets are probably going to have to clean house also. I think San Diego will be considering a change at QB next year. Tennessee won't go anywhere with Jake Locker. There are a lot of mediocre teams, but the one surprise team I'll put on this list is Dallas. Romo got a huge contract but I am not sure he can overcome all of the issues on the team. The team lacks overall depth and there are questions about Garrett as a head coach. Romo is likely to still make a lot of bone-headed mistakes. The receiving corps is still suspect. Dez Bryant is a star, but Witten is getting older, and Austin always seems to be hurt. Injuries on the defensive side of the ball may not be able to be overcome. Somehow I think Dallas is ripe for a disaster this year.

Should be a fun season.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Virginia Football

Great start to the college football season for Virginia. A home win against a solid BYU team in a driving monsoon wasn't pretty, but it will work. The defense was huge - it was an attacking defense that held BYU in check and got the big turnover late in the game to set up the winning score in the final 3 minutes.

Oregon is coming to Charlottesville next week. More than likely, they will roll over Virginia. But it will be a pretty good indicator of how far the D has come. I expect a 20 point loss next week, but that may not be that bad if the Cavs O can score 20.