Jay Cutler will have a bounceback game.
Here’s a rather remarkable stat for Jay Cutler. In his season and a half under Marc Trestman, anytime his passer rating in a game has dipped below 90 he has a rebounded well.
Trust history. Cutler’s passer rating: 109.4
Matt Forte will have more carries than he’s had all season.
Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?
I always like the Chicago Bears.
Because there is no earthly reason to believe this football team – maligned quarterback, emotionally excitable star receiver, ignored tailback, coach under the microscope, temperamental right guard, derided defensive coordinator…etc. – can go into Foxboro and beat one of the greatest head coach and quarterback combinations in the history of the sport with their season on the line, they probably will.
Chicago Bears 40, New England Patriots 31
I watched him do it. From behind the goal post, decked out in ski goggles and enough waterproof clothing to stay dry in Seattle, I watched Tom Brady dissect the Bears defense in a blizzard. He was not phased. He was not human. Moon Mullin described the early dismantling:
The Patriots went through the Chicago defense on drives of 85 and 87 yards, lasting 12 and 11 plays against a unit that had allowed drives of double-digit plays only five times in the last five games. Less than five minutes into the second quarter the Bears were in a 14-0 hole.
In fairness I only watched the first half. That was plenty for me.
Now that same quarterback, that same coach, stand between the Bears and the possibility of a successful 2014 campaign. A win Sunday at Foxboro would send the Bears into their bye at 4-4, a respectable mark and a record to build upon over the second half of the season. A loss would compound early inconsistency and leave the Bears to answer a relentless stream of questions over the next two weeks. The most frequently asked question: how did this happen?
The Bears play three of their next four games on the road: at the Martz-had-no-use-for Greg Olsen in Carolina, at the Lovie-found-no-use-for Devin Hester in Atlanta and at Tom Brady and the now prematurely-buried Patriots. Sandwich in a home game against the Miami Dolphins and you have a four-game stretch that will set this season’s tone. Some teams battle for division titles. Some teams chase the top of the table all year long. How the Bears perform over these four games will position them in one of those two categories.
This is not a long-winded column. This opinion does not require a ton of explanation. When the Bears emerge from their bye week in November they play five of the their final eight games at home, including the warm weather, dome-based Saints and Cowboys in Soldier Field on cold evenings where both have been unmitigated disasters in the past. The other three games are at their division rivals. Those eight games will define the 2014 Bears.
Four out of four means the Bears are title contenders. Three out of four means they’re a serious playoff team. Two out of four means they’ll have a meaningful final two months of the season. Anything less is a crap shoot. Anything less than .500 over these next four games will be a serious cause for concern and more than likely leave the Bears with a second wild card ceiling.
To paraphrase Al Davis, “Just win…half of em…baby.”
Sunday September 7th – Noon
Sunday September 14th – SNF
Monday September 22nd – MNF
Sunday September 28th – Noon
Sunday October 5th – Noon
Sunday October 12th – Noon
Sunday October 19th – Noon
Sunday October 26th – Noon
I have never lied. (Is that true?) I enjoy the release of the upcoming schedule far more than the NFL draft. I am someone who travels with extensive itineraries, does vast amount of research, knows the oldest bar in every town I’ll find. The NFL schedule is like a treasure map. The booty is football.
Here’s what should happen this year.
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
No brainer of no brainers. When you have an opportunity for a Super Bowl rematch, involving Peyton Manning, to kick off your season, you do it. I have also been an advocate for the NFL opening the season with non-conference games (with no tiebreaking implications) and this game fits the bill.
As always I will be providing commentary throughout all four of the wild card games on Twitter. You can read my Tweets on the right rail of this page or by logging onto Twitter and following me there.
4-0 picking games last week but only 3-1 against the spread. (Seattle line went off anywhere from 8.5 to 9.5.) Last week I was confident. This week I am not. Well at least half not. Let’s go!
Line: Broncos -5
Analysis: Think both teams are going to have a ton of success running the ball. Think neither team is very good defensively. So what does the game boil down to? Same thing this game always boils down to: which of the all-time great quarterbacks makes more plays in the fourth quarter. I’m sticking with my gut. I believe this is Manning’s time.
Side note: I was disheartened by the performance of Manning’s receivers against the Chargers. Decker let a touchdown pass bounce off his chest and gave away the onside kick. Julius Thomas was a no-show for three and a half quarters. Wes Welker dropped one of the most perfect back shoulder tosses I’ve ever seen. (If Welker catches this ball it would be have been the signature play of the game.) Before last weekend I would have argued the Broncos have a significant advantage over the Patriots on the outside. Now? I’m not so sure.
Final Score: Denver 30, New England 28