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Is Anything Worth Watching Sunday?

| December 26th, 2016

While the nation’s drinking amateurs battle their New Year’s Eve hangovers, many of us with saddle up our favorite barstool to watch the last Chicago Bears game of this depressing, injury-plagued 2016 campaign. But is the experience anything more than a mere formality?

Many will argue no. They will say nothing happening on the field in Minnesota will have any bearing on the future of this football team. And, honestly, it’s a point well-taken. But my job is to find meaning. So I’m doing my job. Here’s three things worth paying attention to when it comes to the finale.

The Barkley Rebound

#Barkleytime is coming off his first clunker of 2016 and it would be easy for fans to expect the sailing passes and poor decision making from his effort against Washington to continue. Sunday’s Barkley was the one many us expected and were shocked not to see through his first four starts.

Another dud and the bloom comes entirely off the rose. But a solid, mistake-free start could make it easy for Ryan Pace to keep Barkley in the fold moving forward. He’s shown tremendous rebound within game, often shaking off a poor three quarters to deliver a brilliant fourth. Can he rebound with a week of negativity between starts?

The Run Defense

A coach once told me “run defense is all about want to”. If that’s true the Bears haven’t wanted to in a fortnight.

Both Green Bay and Washington out-muscled the the middle of the Bears defense and took advantage of their lack of discipline on the outside. Yes, there are injuries playing a role in these struggles. But injuries don’t excuse McPhee letting Cousins around the edge, Amos taking bad angles or Hicks disappearing after a dominant period mid-season.

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Got A Christmas Present? Better Unwrappid Fire!

| December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to you all. Thanks for another wonderful year at DBB. I hope I can keep improving this place for years to come.


Bad game yesterday. Very bad. Here are some quick thoughts.

  • That was a full meltdown from Matt Barkley and quite frankly, I half expected it. I knew yesterday was not going to be an “on the bubble” performance. It was going to be definitive. How Barkley responds next week, on the road, at a division rival, will have a huge say in his role with the organization moving forward.
  • Bombs to Josh Bellamy when he’s triple covered?
  • Would I pay Alshon Jeffery $17 million a year? No. will anybody in the league pay him that? I don’t think so. Bears need to get a deal done, even if they slightly overpay this guy. Jeffery may not be a weekly ten-catch guy but he is always capable of the spectacular and there’s distinct value to that.
  • Cam Meredith is going to be the third receiver next season.
  • Don’t want to get ahead of myself here but Jordan Howard is starting to look like one of the best Bears draft picks ever. If they held the 2016 draft today, Howard is going in the middle of the first round.

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Seven Quick Thoughts on Bears Loss to Packers

| December 19th, 2016

Travel day. Not a lot of time to write. But here are my quick thoughts.

  • Matt Barkley looks every bit an NFL quarterback. And this makes 3 of his 4 starts where he took the team down the field with the game on the line and made plays to win or tie em. If Barkley’s teammates were better, he’d be a main story in Chicago.
  • Guy in Billy Goat yesterday: “Barkley’a good but he can’t throw the long ball.” Amazing what people believe despite their own eyes.
  • Bears secondary never had a chance against Aaron Rodgers but – on the final play – why does a safety even have a decision to make? There should be two guys standing 25 yards off the line of scrimmage.
  • Packers had a massive third quarter because of Bears mistakes. Bears had a massive fourth quarter because they dominated the line of scrimmage.
  • Jordan Howard is a star.
  • Love Alshon Jeffery’a post game passion,  expressed in this column by Adam Jahns. This is what the team needs: desire to win. They are fighters. What separates fighters from winners? Talent.

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My Alshon Jeffery Reporting

| December 17th, 2016

The following is everything I know about Alshon Jeffery’s current status and future with the Chicago Bears. It is based on conversations with individuals in three different organization, none the Bears, and some local confirmations.

  • The Bears want Alshon in Chicago long-term and they firmly believe he wants to be in Chicago long-term.
  • The Bears made Alshon an offer last year well over the $10 million per year I had suggested earlier in the week. Alshon’s team rejected that offer and it frustrated people inside Halas Hall.
  • A “scout” with another organization told me, “If the numbers we heard are true, I can’t believe Jeffery’s people didn’t make him sign.”
  • Some around the league believe Jeffery’s lack of production and suspension in 2016 will humble him and make this deal and easy one for both sides to do come this offseason.
  • The Bears will have a breaking point with this. They won’t be bullied into overpaying Jeffery.
  • I don’t have numbers I can confirm as to what was offered or what will be offered now. My guess is Alshon will end up with a contract totaling in the $60 million range with about half of that guaranteed.

What’s important to note is that I believe I’ve been wrong about how the Bears value Jeffery. I’ve argued they don’t see him as a top tier receiver. At least as of early 2016, they did. I think this deal gets done.

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Across The Middle — Week 15

| December 14th, 2016

If you follow a losing team long enough, the crappy seasons tend to all blend together. But if the 2016 Chicago Bears want to be remembered, they can make it happen this week by beating the Packers.

The Bears have been a losing team for most of my life, but there are a few teams I remember fondly. I remember the 2003 team because Charles Tillman ripped a pass out of Randy Moss’ hands and cost the Vikings a playoff berth. I remember Brian Urlacher running all alone down the field after intercepting Brett Favre in a 35-7 Bears win in 2007. I remember the 2015 Bears beating all odds by beating the Packers on Thanksgiving when Favre was being honored at halftime.

Those are the bad teams I remember positively and this year’s team has a chance to join them.

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Jeffrey on Jeffery: Alshon Returns From Suspension

| December 13th, 2016

Alshon Jeffery is a terrific wide receiver. He is a true number one option on the outside. But he’s not Odell Beckham. He’s not Julio Jones. He’s not a game-changing talent. And that makes his future with the Bears difficult to discern. More thoughts:

  • The ability to use the tag a second time is why I believe Alshon will return to Chicago next year. It allows the Bears, with their copious cap space, to keep a talented a player in the mix while not committing long term financially. It also gives Jeffery another opportunity to prove to the NFL he’s worthy of A.J. Green money. (His attempt to do so in 2016 failed miserably.)
  • PED suspension will have no negative impact on the front office. If anything, Alshon’s absence proved Cam Meredith – while an intriguing talent – is not ready for primetime.
  • If the Bears move on from Jeffery – a mistake in my opinion – wide receiver becomes a focal point of the offseason. Without Jeffery the Bears would be far more reliant on a healthy and productive Kevin White than they want to be. I wouldn’t rule out the team looking at Clemson’s Mike Williams in the first round.
  • Jeffery also has the opportunity to make the case for #barkleytime this week. Barkley’s had one viable excuse for not being 3-0 as Bears starter: his wide receivers don’t belong on a pro football field. Jeffery is such a massive upgrade I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barkley throw a few jump balls to him Cutler-style to take adavtange of his size and hands.
  • But let’s not pretend this is an easy decision for Ryan Pace. I get the sense Pace recognizes Jeffery’s ability but is not enamored with him as a player. GM’s hate spending money out of positional necessity but with the state of the Bears receiving corps, Pace simply may not have a choice.
  • One has to believe Pace has already made the decision on Jeffery’s future and these final three games will have little impact.

One thing is certain. If Jeffery returns in 2017 he needs to be more available. With the power run game in place, Jeffery’s ability to win over the top on play action could provide him the stage for his most productive season. Of course, it depends on who is playing quarterback.

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Bears Dominate Vikings in Jay’s Return

| November 1st, 2016

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Jay Cutler was great. The defense was great. And the Bears dominated a team someone (me) told you was a great match-up for them. Rapid fire.

  • The pass rush did exactly what it should against that Vikings offensive line. Minnesota had no answer for McPhee, Floyd or Hicks.
  • Jordan Howard is the real deal and it seemed John Fox came to that realization at some point Monday night. This is not a player who should be rotating at the running back position. He is their best runner at the position, their best pass catcher at the position and a solid pass blocker. Spell him, of course, but he should be getting twenty-five touches every week.
  • Two plays stood out to Jon Gruden Monday night when it came to Cutler. One, obviously, was the step up in the pocket shuffle pass to Howard for a big gain. The other was far more subtle. Later in the game. First down. The pocket collapsed on Cutler and he scrambled to his left and ran for a gain of one or two. Was it a big play? No. Does Brian Hoyer lose seven or eight yards on it? Absolutely. That’s the difference.

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Three Reasons the Bears Can Win Tonight

| October 31st, 2016

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You may think it’s odd but the Vikings are a decent match-up for the Bears. Even with the RapSheet report of turmoil inside the Bears organization, this team has a chance to give their fans a nice moment in what will be their last nationally televised ballgame.

Three reasons they may win.

  • Vikings can’t block the edge and the Bears pass rush is emerging. With McPhee back on the field, Floyd coming off his breakout performance and Young delivering steady performances each week, the Bears edge rushers have an opportunity to wreck the game and force Sam Bradford into some horrible mistakes.
  • With injuries on the offensive line, Jay Cutler’s return is massive.  Brian Hoyer would have been a sitting duck for this Vikings’ rush but Cutler’s ability to extend plays with his legs and actually run for available first downs should allow the Bears offense to stay on the field. (And he’s fresh!)
  • Alshon. It would be shocking if Jay doesn’t float at least 2-3 balls deep to Jeffery tonight. Both men have a point to prove – to this organization and the 31 others – and both will be eager to prove it together. Every time the Vikings isolate Alshon in man, expect Jay to look his way.

Should the Bears win? No. Can they? Absolutely.

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Bears Fall Short in Indy: Rapid Fire

| October 10th, 2016

Hard game to get emotional about. But there’s things to talk about so let’s talk about them.

  • Brian Hoyer played a terrific game for a backup quarterback. But when your team racks up 500+ yards and scores only 23 points, it’s time to start asking why. Hoyer doesn’t extend plays with his legs. He doesn’t throw the ball to the Bears best player (for some bizarre reason). And…he’s just limited. Jay Cutler wins Sunday’a game. And I happen to believe he wins it by a couple of touchdowns.
  • Hoyer dinks and dunks. His drives take 10-12 plays to get into the end zone. Those drives can be derailed entirely by one mistake or penalty. Penalties told the story of the game.
  • John Fox, through five games, is having a rough season. Challenges, timeouts, personnel decisions…etc. One has to wonder if he has any feel for this roster right now. Sadly, Fox can’t be properly evaluated until the actual team is on the field.
  • Why would you bench Bryce Callahan? Let the kid learn on the field. He was playing a solid game yesterday.
  • Terrific performance from Cameron Meredith. The fumble was bad, and cost the Bears the game, but his emergence was far more significant.

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