Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his stirring, cold cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!
“What’s to-day?” cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.
“Eh?” returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.
“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“To-day?” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven ‘t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!”
-A Christmas Carol
Sunday, for the NFL diehard, is Christmas Day. It is the only experience that can mirror the anticipatory excitement we felt as young children, sneaking silently down the stairs to catch a glimpse of what new thing waited for us beneath the tree. We have our routines and rituals. We have our family. And while we might think we know what will be found under the layers of wrapping by the shape of the box, we can never be sure until the paper is removed and the box is opened.
With all that mystery, why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
But why else?
- The rejiggered Bears defensive line should manhandle this porous Bills offensive line which includes Chris Williams as the starting left guard. The line’s best player – Cordy Glenn – missed almost all of Buffalo’s off-season with an undisclosed illness that caused rampant speculation and yielded no answers in northern New York.
- The knock on E.J. Manuel this summer has been his insistence on checking down plays at the first sign of pressure. What the Bears defense can’t allow Manuel to do is complete easy, instinctual routes to tight end Scott Chandler over the middle or give the Bills’ talented wideouts ample space on the outside. Make Manuel think and the Bills will struggle to move the ball.
- There are two players on Buffalo that should terrify the Bears: Sammy Watkins and C.J. Spiller. If the Bears miss tackles in the run game, Spiller will take a three of four-yard gain for seventy with his explosiveness. And I expect Doug Marrone to call 3-5 quick screens to Watkins (if he plays) in an attempt to simply get him the ball in space and let him make plays. Tackling, the defense’s biggest flaw in 2013, will be pivotal Sunday.
- If the Bears block the Bills front (which is extremely talented) I expect them to execute in all phases of their offense. And as I’ll most likely repeat for the duration of the season, the Bears should not lose a game at home this year if they are able to execute in all phases of their offense.
Thoughts About Special Teams…
The Bears better be careful.
For years the Bears compensated for deficiencies in their offense with the most explosive special teams player the sport has ever seen. But the Bears are entering the 2014 season with more questions on specials than answers. Outside of Robbie Gould’s greatness is anything from the third phase a guarantee? (Yes I love Pat O’Donnell but calling him a guarantee is a reach until he’s at least played a game at the professional level.)
The return game is a question. The coverage units are questions. The punt game is somewhat of a question. The answers could go a long way towards determining the success of the Bears on Sunday and beyond.
Jim Kelly is as beloved in Buffalo as Walter Payton in Chicago. He is also one of the most underrated players in NFL history. His fight against cancer has inspired a community also fighting to keep the club they love in their city. You should watch this video.
UPDATE: Kelly announced Thursday his biopsies came back negative and he now cancer free.
“HOW DID I MISS THIS” ALERT!
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that guard Chris Williams is signing a four-year contract worth $13.5 million with $5.5 million in guarantees, according to a source informed of the player’s plans. The team later made the signing official.
The former first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears started all 16 games for the Rams last season but struggled as a run-blocker and pass protector. He graded out poorly as the No. 74 player at his position out of 81 entrants in 2013, per Pro Football Focus.
How in God’s name did the Bills give Williams more money than the Bears gave Slauson? Discovery of this decision has influenced my prediction by 9 points.
Side note: Bills have been terribly disappointed by Chris Williams’ inability to stay on the field. They would not be disappointed if they knew anything about Williams.
…a big Jay Cutler performance. There is a lot of confidence emanating from the offensive coaches and players. I think they know how good they are and I think they’ll be disappointed every time they don’t score thirty points this season.
I DON’T EXPECT…
…a big performance in the pass game from Bears tight ends. With the Williams boys at defensive end for Buffalo, Trestman/Kromer (Tromer?) will need to keep a tight end on whomever is starting at right tackle’s hip.
A FEW RELEVANT LINKS
There is a “high-level panel with the responsibility of evaluating proposals to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills” that many in the area would like to operate with more transparency.
Jim Kelly’s daughter writes a lovely letter defining herself as a Bills fan, praising Ralph Wilson and evaluating the impact of the Bills in the local community.
GAMBLERS ANONYMOUS (EXCEPT YOU KNOW ME)
This will be a feature wherein I take a prop bet for the upcoming game.
Right now the Bills are +105 as first team to score. Strikes me as an essentially 50/50 undertaking and if the Bills receive the opening kickoff it would be a bit of a surprise if they didn’t at least grab a field goal.
Bears defense knows they have a ton to prove and their ability to restrict Buffalo in the red zone gives the offense enough space to pull away just after halftime.
Chicago Bears 31, Buffalo Bills 16