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Around the North with Andrew Dannehy: Green Bay

| January 29th, 2016

GREEN BAY PACKERS

It’s going to take more than the return of Jordy Nelson to cure what ails the Packers.

The fact they played the Cardinals close led to a lot of confusion about what kind of team they were. But in their last four games, the Cards beat the Packers twice and were blown out by the Panthers and Seahawks. The Packers finished 5-7 and were a Hail Mary away from going 4-8. They were blown out by Denver, Carolina and Arizona. They just aren’t that good of a team and I’m not sure if they can recover.

Nelson was underrated. Now he’s teetering on being overrated. He’s 31 years old and coming off of a major knee injury. He’s good. He’s not Calvin Johnson.

The truth is this. Despite some miracles, Aaron Rodgers didn’t play very well.

We’ve all heard the rumors that Rodgers doesn’t like coach Mike McCarthy. He wasn’t happy when McCarthy took the playcalling over again, demoting his buddy Tom Clements and limiting his ability to audible. Rodgers took shots at McCarthy weekly and it was largely unnoticed.

But it isn’t just Rodgers who doesn’t seem to be getting along with his boss. It was reported a few weeks ago that McCarthy is “fed up” with General Manager Ted Thompson not going after free agents.

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Across The Middle With Andrew Dannehy

| December 2nd, 2015

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• The Bears should have been running into a buzz saw. The Packers seemed to right whatever was wrong with them four days earlier, the weather conditions suited them perfectly and it was a night in which they honored one of the greatest players in their franchise’s history. Shit, Ron Wolf even referred to the field they were playing on as the house that Favre built. At no point did I think the Bears were going to win until about five seconds after — waiting for a flag — Aaron Rodgers’ fourth down pass hit the ground. How sweet it is.

• This wasn’t just a win for the Bears and it wasn’t just a loss for the Packers. The times are a changin’ in the NFC North and both teams know it.

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From the Shadows of Low Expectations, a Season Emerges

| November 30th, 2015

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Before this season began, in the shadows of low expectations, no one could have foreseen an evening like Thanksgiving night at Lambeau Field.

No one could have imagined a thirteen point outing from the home team just a year removed from seemingly scoring thirteen points a minute.

A second half shutout? Pipe dream.

No one could have envisioned the visiting quarterback thoroughly outplaying the man often mentioned in the same breath as a four-time Super Bowl champion.

No one could have guessed a secondary comprised of journeymen and kids would deliver heroic moment after heroic moment, refusing to break under the pressure of knowing a touchdown beats them. They shed multiple blockers. They batted down sure thing completions. They redirected routes and blanketed receivers on crucial downs. They did…everything.

(For video of the final four plays, you can VIEW THEM HERE ON YOUTUBE. The NFL, in its infinite wisdom, has disable embedding of their YouTube clips. Because why would you want to make it easy for those who love your product to consume it. My hatred of everything happening on Park Avenue grows daily.)

And perhaps most shocking, most unpredictable of all, no one would have believed that as the football season leaves Thanksgiving behind it is the fans of the Chicago Bears and not the Green Bay Packers who see their franchise’s arrow pointed decidedly up.

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Bears Win! Bears Win! Rapid Fire.

| November 27th, 2015

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Well, that was something!

  • What a performance by Jay Cutler. White whale captured. He was far and away the best player on the field last night.
  • Officiating debacle continues. The illegal contact on Tracy Porter gifted the Packers points. The tripping on Matt Slauson was one of the stupidest calls I’ve seen in years. Something has to be done. And soon. The experience of watching these games is being seriously hurt.
  • It can’t be understated what Fox & Fangio are achieving with this defense. Look at the talent level.
  • Jeremy Langford has to catch the ball. But he certainly looks far more explosive than Forte.
  • Tracy Porter is going to be on this team in 2016.

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Money Where My Mouth Is: Three Picks for Week Ten

| November 12th, 2015

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Rumor is I made a few picks last week. I have no recollection of this but it has been brought to my attention by several associates. (I was not disappointed in the Rams pick. That game could have gone either way. But I just didn’t think the Packers would lose back-to-back games or that the Bears defense could hold the Charger offense to 12 points.) This week, a rebound…and a theme! Road dogs!

BUFFALO BILLS +3 AT NEW YORK JETS

Here’s why I like the Bills to win outright tonight:

  • When Buffalo’s had their starting quarterback and star wide receiver, they’ve been a different team. Both will be looking to make their 2015 statement in front of a national audience tonight and thrust their team into the playoff race.
  • Jets defense has hit a wall. The Patriots got them for 30, the Raiders got them for 34 and last week the Jags offense managed 23 and – most importantly – kept the game close throughout.
  • I know the coaching staffs are entirely different (including a swap) but the combined score of the Bills/Jets games in 2014 were 81-26.

CHICAGO BEARS +7 AT ST. LOUIS RAMS

St. Louis will be in the 20s. The Bears should be in the 20s. Points just seem too many for a team quarterbacked by Nick Foles.

DETROIT LIONS +11 AT GREEN BAY PACKERS

This has all the makings of a back door cover, especially against a defense that just allowed the Broncos and Panthers – two struggling offenses – 29 and 37 respectively. I’ll take the points.

Season Record: 13-12-2

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A Reason For Optimism: Rapid Fire Reactions to the Bears Opening Day Loss to Green Bay

| September 14th, 2015

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There is reason for optimism in the Kingdom of Bears Fans today. With a brand new collection of coaches installing a brand new scheme the Bears went toe-to-toe with a better foe and for a majority of the game held their own. Give Rick Morrissey, a guy I generally don’t care for, a lot of credit for this passage:

The Bears looked like a professional football team Sunday, no small thing after last season’s debacle, though they still walked away 31-23 losers. There are no moral victories in the NFL, but there are losses that don’t stink to high heaven. This was one of them.

It will be a long year, but maybe it won’t be the kidney stone many of us thought it would be.

Here are my rapid fire thoughts.

  • Jay Cutler threw the crucial interception. Aaron Rodgers did not. Rodgers never does.
  • On the Cutler pick, this wasn’t a typical pick. He was duped into that interception. He didn’t try to force a pass into a tight window.
  • Packers had to make every single play to win this game. James Jones was heroic. Eddie Lacy pulled in one-handers. Clay Matthews chased down sure thing touchdowns. Did the Bears have anyone on their offense do anything exceptional?
  • Catch the ball, Forte.
  • Paging Pernell McPhee. Come in, Pernell McPhee. (Side note: I earned this will become a thing if McPhee no shows a few games. Ravens have a history of letting the right guys walk out the door.)
  • With the complete absence of a pass rush it’s hard to complain about the secondary’s overall performance. Fangio didn’t get overly aggressive with blitz packages. Approach seemed vanilla but that may require a second viewing.

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FrontRowTickets.Com Game Preview: Bears Open Season Against Their Oldest Rival

| September 11th, 2015

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Welcome to our first game preview of the season, sponsored by FrontRowTickets.com. The online ticket marketplace will join us as sponsors for game previews and game threads throughout this Bears campaign and we’re happy to have them on board. Click the image above to visit their site and buy/sell Bears tickets.

A NOT-SO-QUICK THOUGHT

When I was a kid in New Jersey, I couldn’t watch Bears football. Until I was about 12 years old, outside of the occasional national television appearance, my experience of Bears football was:

  • ESPN’s Primetime highlights – still the most important sports program of my lifetime.
  • Scoreboard ticker at the bottom of Giants and Jets games. I used to run in from other rooms when the little jingle would play announcing a scoreboard update and pray the Bears had done SOMETHING. (They rarely did.)
  • Actual league scoreboard at Giants Stadium, where my family had Jets season tickets. I used to have the entirety of section 324 cheering the Bears updates often more loudly than the Jets game in front of them.

This didn’t change until I was 12 and a bar called Jersey Sports Cafe (now closed) opened in East Rutherford. They had a satellite (one of the big ones) bringing in the Chicago feed and now I could sit on a bar stool (illegally) and watch the Bears PLAY FOOTBALL. I didn’t go every week but I went enough.

This is why I cherish the sixteen games we’re guaranteed each season. Because I didn’t have them until I went to college. This is why the night before Bears football begins has always felt like Christmas Eve. I’m wandering down the carpeted staircase in my feety pajamas and there’s a big old box under the tree. What’s in there? What am I going to get to play with for the next few months?

It won’t be the same this season. At least not this Sunday. The 2015 Chicago Bears have to earn back the excitement of people like me. They have to display on the field they are worthy of the passion many have displayed in good times and bad over their lifetimes. They can do that this week, against the Packers, at Soldier Field? How?

Be in the game. With five minutes left, be in it. That’s all I ask. If the Bears achieve that, a week from now I’m in.

PRESSURE UP FRONT

The Packers will miss Jordy Nelson. They just may not miss him this week. If the Bears front seven, and yes all seven will need to be involved, don’t harass Aaron Rodgers he will rip their secondary apart and throw for upwards of 400 yards. Many have reported defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s success against the Packers quarterback but that success came when Fangio was armed with one of the most talented defensive rosters in the league in San Francisco. He doesn’t have that here.

Here’s my stat. Anything less than four sacks and the Bears lose by two touchdowns.

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Fifty Prognostications, Pontifications & Ponderings on the 2015 NFL Season

| September 7th, 2015

Last year’s column caused a FIRESTORM when readers had the nerve to question the veracity of my claiming a more than 50% success rate on the 2013 version. What did I do? I answered with a stunning 51.38% success rate in 2014. This success was not lost on the American public but I did not know how far my column reached.

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So without further adieu, fifty prognostications, pontifications and ponderings on the 2015 season with a nod to every single team in the league.

#1 Nobody’s opinion of Jay Cutler will be different on January 4th 2016 than it is right now.

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#2 Andrew Luck will win the MVP award if his offensive line figures out a way to block people.

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NFC North Preview: Green Bay Packers

| August 31st, 2015

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We hate them. Everyone outside of Wisconsin hates them. They’re good and both their players and their fans make damn sure we know it. The Packers should be the favorites to win the NFC North again this year, but a little bad luck could give the other three teams hope. Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL alone won’t be enough for the other teams to catch up as the Packers still have a roster that stacks up with the best in the league.

Why They’ll Win The North:

Even without Nelson, the Packers can beat opponents in so many different ways. If they want to throw it, they still have Rodgers with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and their third-round pick Ty Montgomery or second-year receiver Jeff Janis. Losing Nelson is a blow, but don’t be surprised if Adams explodes this year and Nelson never gets his starting job back.

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