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Wildcard Saturday Open Thread

| January 7th, 2017

The Picks For Today

Oakland +4 over HOUSTON

You’ve heard the stat all week. Connor Cook is the first quarterback to make his first start in the postseason. And he’s doing so against one of the league’s best defenses. The gambler in me is screaming, “TAKE THE TEXANS!”

But I’m not doing it. Because I don’t think Brock Osweiler is any good and this seems like the perfect stage for him to formally end his Houston career. Not saying the Raiders win the game. Saying they keep it close.

Texans 16, Raiders 13

SEATTLE -7.5 over Detroit

Lions stink. And Devin Hester!

Seahawks 27, Lions 14

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Least Click-Inducing Headline Possible: Best to Approach Bears Opener with Nuance

| September 12th, 2016

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Football has the most schizophrenic fans in sport. The reasons why are (a) there are too few games and (b) there is too much time between them. Baseball fans get to hit the reset button every day. Basketball and hockey fans every couple of days. Soccer fans, especially European ones, never get overemotional about a result because they play a zillion matches. Football fans are only guaranteed 16 games over 17 weeks. Once the season starts, it’s almost over.

Never is that schizophrenia more on display than in the aftermath of Week One. For eight months, we wait. Postseason. Super Bowl. Free agency. Draft. Camps. Preseason. All that time, every moment, leading up to a single contest against a single opponent on a single afternoon (or night). It’s only 1/16 (6.25%) of the regular season campaign, but it just feels like so much more.

Carson Wentz is going to the Hall of Fame.

Alex Smith is the MVP.

Jimmy Garoppolo is going to fetch the Patriots eleven first-round picks.

It isn’t exciting to treat Week One with nuance, especially in Chicago. Nuance don’t get clicks in hashtag hot take culture. But the 2016 Bears require it. Yes, they lost their opener. On the road. To a non-conference opponent, a team that also happened to be one of the league’s five best defenses and a playoff team a year ago.

But anybody who expected the portrait of this young team to be fully painted on opening Sunday was nothing short of delusional. The Bears have some guarantees – Cutler, Alshon, the middle linebackers, the guards – but by conservative estimates the club started about a dozen new players on offense and defense. A dozen.

Sunday asked the questions the Bears will need to answer over the next fifteen games. They weren’t bad against the Texans. They just weren’t good enough. But unlike some of the league’s bottom feeders, the Bears believe many of the answers to those questions are actually on the roster. Kevin White and Cody Whitehair (as a center) and Leonard Floyd and HJQ won’t be judged on how they performed in Houston. They’ll be judged by how much better they are in Minnesota on New Year’s Day.

And so will the 2016 Bears. Nobody expects this team to compete for a title. And if you do, you’re just not paying attention to the rest of the league. But a fair expectation, a real expectation should be a team that improves weekly, wins games and by the end of the season makes everyone believe they are on the precipice of great things.

Yesterday the Bears led a good team, on the road, in the fourth quarter. It’s not a moral victory. It’s a sign. And the sign reads…Close.

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Analysis Adds Up: Rapid Fire Reaction to an Opening Loss in Houston

| September 12th, 2016

Thursday I wrote a column and said the game would come down to protection for Jay Cutler and Houston’s wide receivers vs. the Bears secondary. The game came down to those two things. The Bears lost both battles. They lost the second half. They lost the game.

Rapid fire…

  • Willie Young has to play better in the six-game span McPhee is sidelined. Leonard Floyd’s ability/explosiveness is obvious but the Bears need Young to be their best pass rusher.
  • If the Bears had ANY consistent pass rush they would have forced Osweiler into mistakes. He was fragile. But they made him comfortable.
  • DeAndre Hopkins is an unbelievable player. How can you get mad about the plays he was making? That was all world stuff.
  • The Will Fuller touchdown was inexcusable. But that call – in that situation – was made because Bill O’Brien saw something.
  • John Fox has to challenge that spot. It doesn’t matter if most spot challenges are unsuccessful. That was a 4 and potentially 7 point swing. The risk is a timeout. The reward is you’re still in the game.
  • Dowell Loggains. Not a sterling debut. Did the Bears not expect Romeo to start bringing pressure in the second half?

Read More …

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Playoff Picks: Wildcard Round

| January 8th, 2016

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Administrative Note: We’ll resume our postseason positional analysis columns on Monday with running backs, Tuesday with wide receivers, Wednesday with tight ends & Thursday we’ll wrap up the offensive side of the ball with our analysis of the line. (Defense will come after the division round.)

KANSAS CITY AT HOUSTON

Am I willing to embrace the notion of Brian Hoyer winning a postseason game? No, I’m not. Am I willing to cast my support unabashedly for Andy Reid in a postseason game? No, I’m not. But since I picked the Chiefs to make the Super Bowl in August I might as well continue seeing red. And on a football note, the Chiefs don’t look to throw the ball downfield so their short passing attack should be able to neutralize the Houston’s greatest asset: Watt, Whitney and the pass rush. Chiefs 20, Texans 13

PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI

Here’s what I keep hearing from folks analyzing the wildcard round: nobody wants to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here’s my follow-up question: why? The Steelers controlled their road to the postseason and lost to Marc Trestman and Ryan Mallett! (And the game wasn’t particularly close.) Then in Week 17 the Steelers were horrible against Cleveland, with Big Ben throwing ugly picks to second-rate linebackers. If Austin Davis weren’t starting for the Browns and they didn’t decide to fumble away the second half, the Jets would be in the playoffs. So is Pittsburgh just going to turn it on? Bengals 24, Steelers 22

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Money Where My Mouth Is: Three Picks For Week 14

| December 10th, 2015

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Let’s face it. Last week should have been an 0-3 week but Jim Caldwell conspired to get me on the board. Need a winning week to return that warm and fuzzy feeling to the old wallet. Let’s go.

PITTSBURGH & CINCINNATI OVER 49.5 PTS

Pittsburgh has the most exciting passing in the NFL and – arguably – one of the five worst secondaries. Maybe these teams will shock me and revert to the division’s previous form but I see both teams scoring and scoring at will. Steelers 31, Bengals 30

NEW ENGLAND -3 AT HOUSTON

The Patriots lost two weeks ago, right? They lost last week too, right? When’s the last time they lost three games in a row? I won’t do the research and will just assume Pete Carroll was the coach. Buffalo put together a game plan to neutralize J.J. Watt and exposed the backend of the Texans defense. Expect Tom Brady to put the Pats back into the win column, even if he might be the team’s best receiver. Patriots 27, Texans 14

NEW YORK GIANTS -1.5 AT MIAMI

The Giants stink. They also are going to win the Super Bowl. But in order to do that they must make the postseason. They’ll take the pole position in the NFC East after this week’s done. Giants 20, Dolphins 17

Season Record: 20-17-2

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Money Where My Mouth Is: Three Picks For Week 13

| December 3rd, 2015

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Had a solid 2-1 day last week without putting the slightest bit of thought into the picks. My goal every year in gambling on football is to be 10 games over .500 at the end of the season. Have some to work to do down the stretch to achieve that.

GREEN BAY & DETROIT OVER 46.5 PTS

The Lions have finally started running their offense: drop Matthew Stafford back and throw bombs to Calvin Johnson. (Surprised it took promoting Jim Bob Cooter to recognize what the entire football watching public has seen for years.) I think Detroit puts up 24-30 on Green Bay and the Packers, who’ll play with desperation, should be their equal. 46.5 is a high number but it wouldn’t surprise me if this game goes into the 60s.

CHICAGO -7 VS. SAN FRANCISCO

Explanation will be available tomorrow in the game preview.

BUFFALO & HOUSTON UNDER 41 PTS

Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is from the Parcells/Belichick school of game preparation. What does that mean? It means he’ll look at the Bills tape and say, “We’re not going to let Sammy Watkins beat us.” And if you watch enough of the Bills you realize they are one team when Watkins is effective and another team when he’s injured/taken out of the game.

The Texans offense isn’t any good. Both teams should be in the teens.

Season Record: 19-15-2

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