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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.)

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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.

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Bears 24, Packers 17: Rapid Fire Reaction to a Division-Clinching Victory

| December 17th, 2018


This was not a clean effort by the Chicago Bears. But just think about that. The Bears played sub-par ballgame and beat Aaron Rodgers to clinch the NFC North. This simply has not been possible for the last decade. More thoughts…

  • Mitch Trubisky was great. He was calm and smart under pressure, decisive and accurate with the medium-range passing game and also flashed a few moments of absolute brilliance, including the the left sideline/cross-body toss to Shaheen and the bullet to Bellamy over the middle. This might not have been his flashiest box score but it might have been his best performance of the season.
  • But I’m sure today someone will write that Trubisky can only go to his first read or that he struggles throwing to his left. Why? Because the Bears played Sunday at 1 PM and most national guys didn’t watch the game.
  • Aaron Rodgers did something yesterday I haven’t seen from a QB. Every time Khalil Mack got near him, he switched the ball to the opposite arm. Rodgers knew Mack was going to get him. He wasn’t going to let him get the ball. Smart stuff. (And I don’t know how to write about Mack anymore. He’s everything a superstar player is supposed to be.)
  • DBB will be sending Lou Malnati’s pizza to Jon Gruden today. Updates will be available on the blog over the next few days.
  • Tarik Cohen’s season: 88 carries, 405 yards (4.6 per) and 2 touchdowns. 68 catches, 710 yards, 5 touchdowns. And he’s also the best punt returner in the NFL. The Bear are not division champions without him.

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Week 15: Packers at Bears Game Preview

| December 13th, 2018

This is the moment. Are you ready?


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and the champagne is on ice at Josie Woods Pub. There are few occasions that warrant excessive celebration in the basement bar I’ve called home for eighteen years. Beating the Packers to win the NFC North would absolutely be one of them. And I expect the Bears to deliver.


The Game Haiku

They have earned this stage.

And the lights that shine on it.

Glory approaches.


Why the Bears Will Win.

  • Soldier Field. I mean, I wrote an entire piece on this topic a few days ago. Just go ahead and read that. If you don’t want to read it, here are the CliffsNotes™: the Chicago Bears have become a dominant team at home in 2018.
  • Pass Rush. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 41 times, and hit a lot more than that. He’ll be playing Sunday with about 40% of his starting offensive line. I expect an angry performance from Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and the rest of the Bears front. They know that if they give Rodgers time in the pocket, he’ll find holes in the secondary. Expect them to hit the Green Bay quarterback and hit him often.
  • Run Run Rudolph! Green Bay is one of the league’s weakest run defenses and the Bears are starting to find their identity on the ground as they make their playoff push. This is not a game Matt Nagy is going to ask Mitch Trubisky to win by throwing it 40+ times. This is game Nagy is going to win by controlling the line of scrimmage and keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. They’ll throw it effectively. But the run game will dominant.

Why They Won’t.

  • Rodgers. The Bears have 25 interceptions. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 1 all season. Something’s gotta give, right? And historically it gives in the Green Bay quarterback’s favor. (See: Fuller, Kyle’s only negative plays of this entire season.) A question that may arise on Sunday is will Rodgers pick on Sherrick McManis, filling in for the injured Bryce Callahan? Don’t be surprised to see a bunch of targets for Randall Cobb from the slot.
  • Trubisky. The quarterback was awful Sunday night against the Rams and that was without much pressure. The Packers can put together a pass rush and one would expect Mike Pettine to dial-up blitzes Trubisky hasn’t seen to try and force hurried decisions. Trubisky’s development is still ongoing, even if the rest of the team is on a different plateau now. He’s going to have bad games. But he can’t stack bad games if this team has serious aspirations for January.
  • Specials. Other than Tarik Cohen on punt returns, I don’t trust a single piece of the “third phase”. Not the punter, even off his best outing in years. Not the coverage units, especially with McManis moving into a starting role on the defense. Certainly not the kicker, who is the team’s most substantial liability down the stretch. The Bears need to do a lot of work here in the offseason. But that won’t help them Sunday.

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Aaron Rodgers, Soldier Field & An Opportunity To Become Champions

| December 12th, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images


Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Chicago Bears. This is a fact that does not require statistical, analytical or anecdotal support. It’s as common knowledge a statement as Nazis are bad people, Roy Scheider was criminally underrated in the 1970s and a Saturday night on the Guinness makes my apartment smell decidedly worse Sunday morning.

I am not going to Google “Aaron Rodgers Record Chicago Bears”. I don’t want to molest my current football euphoria with a bunch of grabby statistics. Rodgers has dominated the Bears because since 2010, or for the bulk of Rodgers’ prime, he’s been one of the two best quarterbacks in the league and the Bears have been shit. Rodgers’ dominance is a fact. It’s just not particularly impressive.

Sunday, Rodgers will be a five or six-point underdog at Soldier Field. He brings in a mediocre team with mediocre players. But after beating a terrible Falcons team last week and watching every other sixth-seed contender in the conference lose, the Packers are still clinging to hope of playing in January and the laundry list of what they need to occur is not particularly outlandish.

First and foremost, they have to beat the Bears at Soldier Field. Something that has not been an issue in the past.

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Week One: Bears at Packers Game Preview

| September 6th, 2018


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And, I mean, how can any Bears fan not like the Chicago Bears heading into this 2018 season? The organization has done every single thing they could to build a winning roster. Now they take that roster to the field.


Why the Bears Will Win

  • Khalil Mack. It simply can’t be overstated. Mack makes every single player on an already-good defense better. The Bears should be able to mount their most ferocious, consistent pass rush in the Aaron Rodgers era.
  • Mystery. What the hell are the Bears going to be on offense? Most people have pointed to the Andy Reid units in Kansas City (and kind of Philadelphia) but the talent pool in Chicago right now bears little resemblance to what the Chiefs have utilized the last several seasons. Robinson and Cohen barely showcased at all during public practices and preseason games. Add in offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich’s unique perspective and one has to wonder what Packers DC Mike Pettine is expecting to see Sunday night.
  • Better Run Game Than 2017. In Jordan Howard’s two games against the Packers last season he failed to rush for more than 54 yards. Why? Because Dom Capers wisely understood that stopping the Bears run game meant stopping the Bears offense. (Hell, they ran the ball on every first and second down.) But now there are simply too many weapons in the passing game for Pettine to take a similar approach and that should free up a multitude of running lanes for Howard – the best pure runner in the game.

Why They Won’t

  • Aaron Rodgers. Do you really require a paragraph explaining that Rodgers beats the Bears just about every time he plays them? He’s 15-4 against ’em. So odds are he’ll be 16-4 against ’em by the time the clock strikes Monday.
  • Mitch Trubisky’s Big Night. Anyone who has spent nine seconds on this site knows I’m a big fan of the young signal caller. But this is his first game running a new, complicated offense and it’s on one of the biggest, brightest stages he’ll see the entire regular season. It’s a tough spot. The offense should not be expected to hit it’s stride until 3-4 weeks into the season but can Tru avoid the big mistake early in the season?

Neil Simon’s Best Line

Neil Simon is a criminally-underrated playwright. He never reached the artistic accolades of an August Wilson or Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller but his body of work is unparalleled in the history of American dramatic literature. The man had four hit plays running on Broadway…at one time. RIP Neil.

He also wrote one line I’ve never forgotten and I believe truly changed me as a writer. It’s from Biloxi Blues.

“You’re a witness. You’re always standing around watching what’s happening, scribbling in your book what other people do. You have to get in the middle of it. You have to take sides. Make a contribution to the fight. Any fight. The one you believe in.”

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ATM: Bears Need Roquan Smith On the Field Right Now

| August 15th, 2018

The Bears will need Roquan Smith against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Finally the camp-long nightmare has come to an end. The eighth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has signed his contract with the Bears after a nearly 30-day holdout. Missing nearly all of training camp would typically be enough to rule out a rookie from making an impact in Week One, but don’t be surprised if that’s not the case on the evening of September 9th. While the situation has been far from ideal, a player of Smith’s caliber and skill set should still figure into the Bears’ immediate plans.

Rodgers’ ability to move and make pinpoint throws in the middle of the field make having an athletic inside linebacker a must. It’s why Rodgers calls Brian Urlacher the best defender he ever faced, it’s why Smith was the pick and it’s why they double-dipped taking Joel Iyiegubuniwe in the fourth round.

The plan was for Smith to start Week One. That should still be in play but it’s hard to see the team giving the rookie the nod over Nick Kwiatkoski after the third-year linebacker has, by most accounts, played well in camp. It was to the point that the Bears didn’t even play Kwiatkoski in the first preseason game and he saw very limited action in the second. A bigger issue is that they can’t sell the first few weeks of camp as actually being important if a guy who has never played in the NFL doesn’t need them to be ready to face Rodgers.

Regardless of how well he has played in practice, Kwiatkoski has significant flaws. While many have pointed to his training camp interceptions, anyone who has spent too much time watching camp clips on Twitter has also seen several times in which the Bears got the better of Kwiatkoski. They’ve attacked him in practice, just as opposing teams did in games last year. The Bears actually took him off the field on passing downs in favor of Christian Jones late in the season. Maybe Kwiatkoski has improved in coverage, but it’s unlikely he’s going to cease being a liability there and Roquan figures to be among the elite coverage backers in the entire league.

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Data Entry: Breaking Down Trubisky’s Interceptions

| January 23rd, 2018

In his rookie season, Mitch Trubisky got to play 12 games and throw the ball 330 times. In those 330 attempts, he threw 7 interceptions, which is actually pretty good. That rate – an interception on 2.1% of his throws – was 12th best in the NFL among qualified passers, ahead of established veterans like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers.

As that list above shows, there’s more to being a good quarterback than simply not throwing interceptions. But avoiding interceptions is an important part of a quarterback’s job; in no small part because they can be game-changing plays that make it a lot harder to win.

But not all interceptions are created equal. Sometimes it’s the quarterback’s fault, sometimes it’s on the wide receiver, and sometimes it’s hard to tell. In general, I think you can group them all into one of four categories:

  1. Bad decision. These are throws that should never be made because the receiver isn’t open and a defender has a good chance at an interception. Bears fans have seen plenty of these in the last 8 years from balls being chucked up into double or triple coverage.
  2. Bad throw. The target is open, but the pass is off target. The problem here comes not in the choice to throw but in the throw itself.
  3. Miscommunication. The quarterback thinks the wide receiver is running one route, the wide receiver runs another route, and the defensive back is the beneficiary.
  4. Receiver error. The receiver is open, the pass is good, but the ball bounces off of the target’s hands and gets intercepted.

The first two are both the fault of the quarterback, though in very different ways. The third one makes it pretty much impossible for us to assign fault. The last one is the fault of the target.

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Across The Middle: Dave Toub Could Help Bears Follow Jags Model

| December 20th, 2017

Fans wanting the Bears to follow the Rams model should prepare themselves for the fact that it isn’t that easy. What the Jaguars have done, however, could be replicated next year by hiring Dave Toub.

The comparisons to the Rams are easy. An outgoing veteran head coach who appears to have lost his way, a young quarterback, stud running back and good defense. But is there a Sean McVay available for the Bears to hire?

The hot names are Josh McDaniels, Matt Nagy and Pat Shurmur. McDaniels without Tom Brady wasn’t thought to be an offensive genius, Shurmur had some of the worst offenses in the league in St. Louis and Cleveland and Nagy has one year as an offensive coordinator under his belt.

The other part of the Rams turnaround is that McVay was able to bring a defensive genius with him (Wade Phillips). I have no idea who the next crop of coaches would bring as I don’t see Vic Fangio returning if he doesn’t get the head job. Dom Capers figures to be available, but only because he isn’t getting the job done in Green Bay. Other potential candidates include Mike Pettine, Chuck Pagano and Mike Nolan. Not the most exciting collection of coaches.

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