173 Comments

Training Camp Diary: Miller Out, Rodgers Retiring?

| July 26th, 2021


Anthony Miller Traded to Texans

Late Saturday night, the boys over at NFL Network broke the story that Miller, the talented and temperamental wide receiver, would be leaving Chicago for the worst franchise in professional sports. My initial response was being slightly ticked that I wasted an hour writing Friday’s column, wherein I deemed Miller the “player to watch” on offense this summer. But after a bit of time, a new reaction emerged: why?

Yes, I’m sure there are folks out there, those who worship at the altar of the almighty draft capital, arguing that swapping late-round picks is tremendous value the Bears simply could not pass up. But there is a camp of pragmatists who abide by another maxim: you don’t quit on talent.

What is the cost of bringing Miller to camp this week? If he’s a pain in the ass, or a detriment to the organization, surely the late-round swap is still available from Houston (or another organization). It’s not like the additional week of work is going to turn Tyrod Taylor-to-Miller into the new Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison. The potential upside was not necessarily that Miller “figure it out” but that he simply learned to exist as role player and became a productive member of the offense.

This is the Chicago Bears we’re talking about. And while optimism is at an all-time high due to the arrival of Justin Fields, this is still a group that has been desperate for playmakers. That’s why Ryan Pace brought in Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. That’s why Damien Williams was added to the running backs room and Khalil Herbert was drafted late. The Bears need as many playmaking options as humanly possible. And they just shipped a potential one south.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

111 Comments

ATM: Rodgers Question Lingers Over NFC North

| July 13th, 2021

“I never said I’m unhappy with my boss,” Aaron Rodgers replied to a jab made by Tom Brady in a video that was released last week. The video was mocking a game of Jeopardy between the two star quarterbacks, Rodgers the 2020 NFL MVP and Brady the Super Bowl winner. The answer was “He’s an NBA owner, a self-taught guitarist and has guest-starred on both The Office and Game of Thrones” to which Brady added “He’s unhappy with his boss and has no options. Who is Aaron Rodgers?”

But Rodgers had the response ready and it seems to be a safe bet that he’s going to use that line again.

Rodgers has said a lot since the end of the 2020 season that would lead one to believe he wanted some sort of commitment from the Green Bay Packers. He didn’t get it and the day of the NFL Draft there were reports that he wouldn’t play for the team again. But, as Rodgers was quick to say: he never said that.

As training camp nears, the question of “will he” or “won’t he” lingers over the entire league, especially the NFC North, where Rodgers playing could have a very direct impact on what kind of season the Bears have.

Should Rodgers play, we’re probably penciling the Bears in for two losses. If he doesn’t, two wins or a split at worst. That one game could be the difference between the Bears making the playoffs or missing out. With seven teams making the cut, it isn’t hard to see how the Bears could once again be in contention for that final spot.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

172 Comments

Wednesday Lynx Package (7/7/21)

| July 7th, 2021


Camp is still weeks away and with it comes the anticipation of analyzing every single throw from Justin Fields and Andy Dalton for days and days and days.


Updated NFC North odds:

Green Bay remains the favorite at -121, which could only be the number if DraftKings believed Rodgers will end up playing for the Packers. Minnesota and Chicago – +225 and +350 respectively – are sitting at pretty good numbers. Detroit is +2000 and those odds are still too low.

Tagged: , , ,

117 Comments

Bears Can’t Let Rodgers Set Their QB Timetable

| May 6th, 2021


It’s been a week since Justin Fields became the next quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

It’s been that same week since Aaron Rodgers decided he would no longer go gentle into that Green Bay night. After weeks of apparently expecting to be traded and not, while also receiving contract extension offers without enough guaranteed cash, Rodgers decided to have his people call Adam Schefter’s people and fly the Enola Gay over the draft proceedings in Cleveland.

Immediately, DraftKings Sportsbook pulled the NFC North odds for next season off the board. As rumors of Rodgers’ probable destinations surfaced – Denver and Vegas being the leaders in the clubhouse – DK also pulled the AFC West off the board. (Both divisions have since been reinstalled, with the Packers -115 to win the division, which might be where the odds settle without Rodgers in the mix.)

Will Rodgers be on the Packers this season? He’s told the team he will not. He’s told his teammates he will not. I’m pretty sure he told half the bartenders at Churchill Downs he will not. (“Hey man, you know this is one good Mint Julep. You know anything about the golf clubs in Denver?”) All signs are pointing to the end of the Rodgers era in Green Bay and the first set in the main room for Jordan Love, who’ll now begin his quest to provide the Packers with three consecutive Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

No matter the outcome of the Rodgers saga, the Bears must ignore it. All of it. Yes, Rodgers out of the NFC North would mean the division is up for grabs in 2021 and the Bears would be well-positioned to win it. But the team can’t let the circumstances of another club, even their oldest rival, impact the development of their quarterback. If the plan coming out of camp is for Andy Dalton to start the season at quarterback and for Fields to learn at the hip of Matt Nagy for a period of time, stick to that plan. If Dalton starts 0-2, so be it.

History definitively tells us two things. (1) Andy Dalton isn’t winning the Super Bowl. (2) Rookie quarterbacks aren’t winning the Super Bowl. So while winning the NFC North would be a nice treat in 2021, the team will be far better served ensuring their young quarterback is ready to win the whole shebang in September 2022.

Rodgers leaving the division would be a remarkable moment; a three-city sigh of relief. But when it comes to the long-term success of the Chicago Bears and their quarterback, it shouldn’t mean a damn thing.

Tagged: ,

174 Comments

Championship Weekend Gambling Guide

| January 21st, 2021

4-0 last week.

Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Two more bets for Championship Sunday, as we try and go into the Super Bowl on a bona fide heater. (As always, betting odds come from DraftKings Sportsbook & Casino.)


Sunday 2:05 PM CT – Buccaneers @ Packers

Aaron Rodgers over 2.5 touchdown passes: +145

_____

Tampa Bay allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the sport this season, limiting their opponents to only ten over their first 17 games. So if you expect the Packers to score touchdowns – and I certainly do – you either need to pick his targets accurately or pick his total. The latter seems more appealing and the odds suggest that. (You really wanna lay +115 odds on Robert Tonyan? I don’t.)

Yes, it’s going to be cold but Rodgers has thrown more than two touchdowns in six of last eight games and this does not feel like a low-scoring affair.


Sunday 5:40 PM CT – Bills @ Chiefs

(Note: There are far fewer prop bets available for this contest due to Patrick Mahomes’ concussion/neck/foot issues. He’s going to play, but in what shape will he be?)

Josh Allen to score a touchdown: +135

_____

Allen looked shaky against Baltimore’s high-pressure approach last week and he should expect more of the same from Steve Spagnuolo’s unit this week. But Allen is a gamer and this feel like an evening where he’ll need to leave EVERYTHING on the field if the Bills are going to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since January 30, 1994. Brian Daboll doesn’t hesitate to call Allen’s number inside the red zone and it could be the perfect remedy to beat an ill-timed Spags blitz.

Tagged: , , , ,

130 Comments

Week 17: Packers at Bears Game Preview

| December 31st, 2020


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And…


Three Things the Bears Must Do To Win

  • Pressure Rodgers. Yes, this seems like an obvious point but it’s even more important with the injuries in the secondary. Rodgers is a master at identifying the weakness in the opposing defense and exploiting it until the score is out of hand. Mike Glennon, with a clean pocket, was able to attack Vildor and Shelley successfully. If Jaylon Johnson doesn’t return, what will Rodgers do to them?
  • Trubisky Plays to His Non-Packers Norm. No, Trubisky is not a great quarterback. But he’s also not the AWFUL player he has been against the Packers.
    • He completes 63.65% of his passes overall. He’s sub-60% against the Packers.
    • His career passer rating is 87.4. It’s 79 – a massive drop – against the Packers.
    • He’s been sacked 110 times overall. 21 of those sacks have come against the Packers. (Detroit got him 13 times, Minnesota 8.)
  • Pound the Ball. 
    • Bucs beat the Packers with 158 yards rushing. Colts beat the Packers with 140 yards rushing. Vikings beat the Packers with 173 yards rushing. Jaguars took the Packers to the wire with 109 yards rushing. The Bears have to know, right now, that anything south of 100 yards rushing won’t get it done against Rodgers and the Packers. This has to be a David Montgomery game.

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

112 Comments

The One About Chuck Pagano

| December 30th, 2020


The Bears are allowing 22.3 points per game.

The Packers are scoring 31.6 points per game.

Split the difference. 26.95. Let’s round it up for a good time. 27.

That’s the number. Chuck Pagano needs to keep the Packers under that number. Would everyone around the Chicago Bears like to see his defense keep Aaron Rodgers WELL below that number? Of course. But they just haven’t been that kind of unit since returning from the bye. Rodgers, the last time, got to 41. Stafford got to 34. Even Cousins got to 27.

Criticizing a defensive coordinator is always tricky. So many times it devolves into, “We’re not getting enough pressure with our front so why don’t we blitz?” Or even the sillier, “That wide receiver is good, why don’t we cover him?” So many times what looks like bad defensive coordination is actually orchestrated by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage. So often that matchup that leaves a fan scratching their head has been mapped out all week by the opposing offensive coordinator.

The problem with Pagano’s defense is they’ve often looked like a passive group. They don’t dictate the terms of play. They are reactionary. Yes, that’s a product of the modern rules. But it’s also a product of attitude.


Why Are They Struggling?

A lot of that is the result of a pass rush that has failed to live up to expectations.

Khalil Mack has been reliably disruptive but offensive coordinators have been willing to use as many players as necessary to keep him off their quarterbacks. (Several times Sunday the Jags used two OL and a chipping back to keep Mack at bay.) Robert Quinn has played better of late but has had perhaps his most forgettable season. Akiem Hicks has had his least productive (healthy) season as a pass rusher since coming to Chicago.

The Bears pass rush ranks middle of the league in most viable categories: sacks, pressure rate…etc. Middle of the pack is poor when the GM has committed this much money to it. The pockets have been too clean, too often, and that’s left the secondary vulnerable.

A clean pocket for Aaron Rodgers is a death sentence.

What is Sunday?

Which brings us to the bigger point. There’s been much talk around this team that Sunday is a season-defining game. Dan Pompei went so far as to suggest it’s the only game of the 2020 season that matters. But I’ve got some sad news for Bears fans: the Bears aren’t as good as the Packers. And as long as Rodgers is the quarterback up north, that’s likely to be the case. Does that mean the Bears can’t win Sunday? Of course not. Anybody can beat anybody in this league, especially this year.

But if I had an abs off with Brad Pitt, guess what? I’m going to lose. He has intense dietary restrictions, a tireless workout regiment, and an expensive personal trainer ensuring he stays sculpted. When I walk into my local bodega, I don’t even tell them which beer I want. I just give them a number and that’s how many 24 oz. Coors Banquets show up on the counter.

But if Brad and I contest our battle on a different playing field, perhaps the golf course, his abs become a secondary issue.

The Bears can’t make this game about Rodgers’ success. If that’s the playing field, they’ll lose.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

191 Comments

Thoughts From Around the NFL After Week One

| September 16th, 2020


Normally, these kinds of thoughts would be relegated to the Twitter feed once the season begins but this season is unique. With no good camp reporting anywhere, and no preseason fake games to look at it, the last five days were the first opportunity to see these 32 teams in any realistic way. So having caught at least condensed game versions of every team, some thoughts.


NFC North.

A week ago, these were the odds to win the NFC North: Vikings +160, Packers +180, Bears +380, Lions +550.

Today, these are the odds: Packers +110, Vikings +260, Bears +300, Lions +900.

These odds didn’t move because of the lunacy of Bears/Lions. They moved because Aaron Rodgers was the best player in the league Week One and the Vikings defense didn’t look like they’d practiced this summer.  (The gap closure between the Vikings and Bears is sizable for one week.) Pay no attention to the final score of the game (43-34). The Packers led 30-10 going into the fourth quarter and called off the dogs. Oh, and they scored two more touchdowns without the dogs. If Rodgers needed 60 Sunday, he could have gotten it.


NFC East.

The story in this division was a tale of two lines. Washington has a terrific collection of DL talent but it’s clear Carson Wentz and the Eagles won’t survive with their makeshift OL. Wentz was a sitting duck, sacked 8 times, and flustered throughout.

Sometimes coaches get enamored with this “next man up” bullshit and that’s clearly what happened with Doug Pederson. “Next man up” is fun to say but teams don’t have the economic freedom to create the depth necessary to execute it. The Eagles don’t have good players on their OL right now and their scheme relies upon having one of the best lines in the game. They need to embrace what’s actually happening, and change the scheme.

(The Cowboys changed coaches and looked exactly the same.)

Read More …

Tagged: , , , ,

36 Comments

Thursday Lynx Package (8/6/20)

| August 6th, 2020


  • Who provided the most in-depth look at Mitch Trubisky’s competition preparation? Unsurprisingly, it’s a guy I used to drink with in bars when that kind of thing was allowed: Adam Jahns. And in his piece for The Athletic he gives plenty of reason for Mitch loyalists to believe the young signal caller is capable of finally turning a corner. My two cents? I just don’t understand what he’s done to earn another shot. If I’m the Bears, I tell Mitch that Nick Foles is starting the opener but to keep his arm warm in the bullpen.
  • This spring I got into a somewhat public Twitter spat with Stacey Dales for having the gumption to challenge an opinion of hers. Now full reporting shows that Aaron Rodgers (a) was pissed at the selection of a first-round QB and (b) is openly discussing the end of his tenure with the organization. I get that some in the sports media get overly protective of those they cover to protect access. But this was dumb argument by a smart reporter. You’d have to know absolutely nothing about Rodgers to think he wouldn’t be offended by the pick.
  • Kelly Stafford went a bit ballistic when it turned out Matt Stafford’s Covid-19 test was a false positive. “I have been losing my mind because of how my Family has been treated since my husband was put on the Covid-IR list,” Kelly, who has four children with Matt, said. “Even after we knew it was a false positive, I was approached in a grocery store told I was ‘endangering others,’ my kids were harassed and kicked off a playground, I was told I needed to wait in my car when trying to pick up food, and people closest to us had to get tested just so they could go back to work… and that’s just to name a few things.” Kelly has battled significant health issues and I understand her frustration. But all the things she suggests here are the PROPER PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE with a positive test. If it’s false positive, great. But before that is known, you can’t just pretend it’s life as usual.
  • IN ACTUAL BEAR NEWS: Here are some bears “pole dancing” in West Hartford.

Tagged: , , , ,