This is such a weird week. Traffic is down because nobody is around. The game will have little-to-no juice unless the Niners make a game of it in Los Angeles. And we’re on the precipice of getting to big boy football. January football. Playoff football. So this is a Friday thought dump.
- I’ve gone back and forth on how Nagy should handle Sunday a million times but I’ve settled on The Olin Kreutz Approach. The Bears legend believes (a) the Niners are not beating the Rams under any circumstances and (b) subsequently the Bears should sit Mack, Hicks, Cohen and Robinson while playing everybody else for the first half. This takes the game seriously while protecting the club’s most important assets going into the postseason.
- A logical question: what about the quarterback? I’d argue Trubisky would benefit from facing that defense on the road, even if it’s only for two quarters. If the Bears are going to be playing in February they will more than likely need to win a tough game (or two) on the road. Experiences like Sunday could benefit the young QB.
- “But Jeff, why not wait and see how the Rams/Niners game plays out?” Again, fair question. And I don’t have an answer. The value of the two-seed can not be overstated. The two-seed means win one game at Soldier Field, where the Bears have been dominant, and you’re in the NFC title game.
- NFL MVP: Khalil Mack, OLB, Chicago. The fact that Mack is getting no run for this award is insane to me. The Bears only lost four games this season. Two of those losses came when Mack attempted to play with injury (Miami, New England). His “value” is definable. Without him, the Bears are 8-8 at best.
- Offensive Player of the Year: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City. 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards. Mahomes is quite simply the most exciting offensive talent to enter the NFL in a long, long time. And in Andy Reid, he’s found the perfect coach to complement his ability.
- Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles. To get 20 sacks from the interior of the defensive line is borderline unthinkable. This is the production award and Donald’s production edges Mack.
- Coach of the Year: Matt Nagy, Chicago. Everybody knows the numbers but Nagy has changed the Bears culture. The “boom” videos alone should make the unanimous choice of the writers. (Pete Carroll is my second choice.)
- Assistant Coach of the Year: Don “Wink” Martindale, DC, Baltimore. I go Wink over Vic for one reason: that Ravens defense doesn’t have anywhere near the talent the Bears have. Wink has made them one of the league’s best units and statistically the best defense.
- Executive of the Year: Ryan Pace, GM, Chicago. Khalil Mack.
- Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants. If this were rookie MVP, I’d take Baker Mayfield. But Barkley is going to have 2,000 yards from scrimmage as a rookie. His numbers have faded a bit lately with Odell Beckham’s injury but this is the kind of rookie production that deserves reward.
- Defensive Rookie of the Year: Roquan Smith, ILB, Chicago. Yes, Darius Leonard has been terrific. So have Derwin James and Bradley Chubb. But Smith’s season in Chicago is one of the most underrated in the league. He’s anchored the sport’s top rush defense while flying sideline-to-sideline in a way the Bears haven’t seen since Brian Urlacher. This is a homer pick. No question about it. Nobody is giving Roquan this award if you don’t watch him play every week. Well I do. And he wins.
- Here’s hoping the Colts beat the Titans Sunday night because nobody wants to see Blaine Gabbert on the road in the playoffs.
- John Dorsey has a tough task in Cleveland. The smart move is to keep the current coaching staff in place but that means convincing offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens from leaving for a head coaching gig. Many have suggested making Kitchens the head coach but I think that would be a mistake. See: Koetter, Dirk.
- Predictions for wildcard weekend, based on home teams. Houston Saturday afternoon. Chicago Saturday night. Baltimore/Pittsburgh early Sunday. Dallas late Sunday.
- Bets for this Sunday.
- $100 four-team, money line parlay: Steelers, Rams, Chiefs, Eagles. Pays out at about 2-1.
- $100 parlay: Colts -1.5, Browns +6
- $10 long shot bet: Jets money line & over 46.5.