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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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Entering the Final Quarter, Bears Must Now Pay Off Start & Win Division

| December 3rd, 2018


Lovie Smith always broke the NFL season into quarters – four-game segments that provided enough data for a proper evaluation of performance. The Bears enter the fourth and final quarter of this 2018 campaign at 8-4, top of the NFC North table by a game and a half. Despite a disappointing (yet entertaining) showing in the Meadowlands this weekend, most of which can be laid at the feet of their overwhelmed backup quarterback, the Bears have a great season staring them directly in the eyes.

But this division was never going to be handed to them. Yes, the Minnesota Vikings struggle against the better opponents. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have hit rock bottom, losing at home to a DOA Cardinals team. Yes, the Detroit Lions are the Detroit Lions. The division has never felt more winnable than right now. But the Bears still have to go and do it. And over the next month, they will get that opportunity.

They get the Rams, the conference’s best team, Sunday night. They get their oldest rival the week after. They finish with their closest chaser, on the road in Minneapolis. (They also have a road trip to San Francisco in there but that game doesn’t really fit my narrative here.) How Matt Nagy’s Bears perform over these final four contests will define this season.

They have been everything we could ask over these first twelve games. Aggressive. Exciting. Interesting. They have been in every single game they’ve played. Some would argue getting to eight wins has already made this a successful year. But you won’t read that here. No, what these twelve games have proven – without question – is the Bears are the best team in the NFC North.

Now they have to prove it, do what it takes to hold off the Vikings, and host a playoff game in January. Anything less than that will lend an air of disappointment to what has been a profoundly wonderful experience.

The “same old Bears” would fade down the stretch and give a post-season press conference talking about “learning how to win” and “building a winner” and “coming back fired up and ready to win in 2019”. The Matt Nagy Bears have to be better than that.

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Bears Building Team That Could Take Control of NFC North

| May 18th, 2016

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked and hit by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) in second half action. The Colts defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-27 on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Sam Riche/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1129744

Since taking over before last offseason, Ryan Pace and John Fox have completely rebuilt the Bears defense and it should result in a team that contends for the NFC North in both the near and long term.

I don’t care what happened last year. The Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North. They have the best coach, the best quarterback and – while they’re certainly declining – I’m not ready to proclaim the Vikings or any other team the new King of the North. But what the Bears did to the Packers on Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and now they’re building up their talent level to do it consistently. At the very least, with a good defense, they’ll give themselves a consistent chance.

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Around the North with Andrew Dannehy: Green Bay

| January 29th, 2016

GREEN BAY PACKERS

It’s going to take more than the return of Jordy Nelson to cure what ails the Packers.

The fact they played the Cardinals close led to a lot of confusion about what kind of team they were. But in their last four games, the Cards beat the Packers twice and were blown out by the Panthers and Seahawks. The Packers finished 5-7 and were a Hail Mary away from going 4-8. They were blown out by Denver, Carolina and Arizona. They just aren’t that good of a team and I’m not sure if they can recover.

Nelson was underrated. Now he’s teetering on being overrated. He’s 31 years old and coming off of a major knee injury. He’s good. He’s not Calvin Johnson.

The truth is this. Despite some miracles, Aaron Rodgers didn’t play very well.

We’ve all heard the rumors that Rodgers doesn’t like coach Mike McCarthy. He wasn’t happy when McCarthy took the playcalling over again, demoting his buddy Tom Clements and limiting his ability to audible. Rodgers took shots at McCarthy weekly and it was largely unnoticed.

But it isn’t just Rodgers who doesn’t seem to be getting along with his boss. It was reported a few weeks ago that McCarthy is “fed up” with General Manager Ted Thompson not going after free agents.

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Around the North with Andrew Dannehy: Minnesota

| January 28th, 2016

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The following is part two of a three part wrap-up of the division from DBB contributor Andrew Dannehy.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The common theme with the Vikings is they’re an up-and-coming team but that could be more perception than reality.

The Vikings remind me a lot of the team they had almost a decade ago when they won the NFC North with a 10-6 record. Adrian Peterson was great and their defense was really good, but they didn’t have a quarterback and without a quarterback it’s hard to see them staying on top for long.

The 2008 team upgraded with Brett Favre, which was enough to win them the NFC North again and make them Super Bowl contenders, but I don’t see such an upgrade available to them this time around and they don’t seem to know they have a problem.

Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t make a lot of crippling mistakes. But he also can’t consistently make plays down the field. Will he improve? It’s certainly not a guarantee. Coming out of the draft, he was billed as a “finished product” and didn’t make a noticeable improvement from his rookie season to his second year. If he’s Alex Smith, that’s fine. But quarterbacks like Alex Smith don’t win championships.  Moving indoors next year should help hide his arm limitations.

Bridgewater is not their only issue.

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Around The North with Andrew Dannehy: Detroit

| January 27th, 2016

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There was a changing of the guard in the NFC North this season, with the Vikings overtaking the Packers, but the future of the division remains in question. The following is part one of a three part wrap-up of the division.

DETROIT LIONS

The Lions 2015 season was considered a disappointment but it really shouldn’t have been. When they went 11-5 in 2014, they won close games at an unsustainable rate and lost their best player in free agency before this season (Suh). They finished 2015 with a 7-9 record – right around where they should’ve been.

They had to keep Jim Caldwell. It isn’t just that the Lions were one desperation heave from finishing 7-1. The Lions might have been the best team in the division over the final eight games. They finished 6-2 with a point differential of plus-54, both best in the division.

The issue was they didn’t hire their new GM (Bob Quinn from the Pats) until late and the head coach candidates were winding down. Even if they fired Caldwell and replaced him, the new coach would have a challenge filling out his staff. Keeping Caldwell was the only logical choice, but it could hurt them in 2016.

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Across The Middle With Andrew Dannehy

| January 6th, 2016

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• “Of course everybody’s frustrated, man. We were 6-10, that’s not acceptable.” That quote in itself may not mean a whole lot to most, but, to me I see it as Ryan Pace not losing track of the fact that he is in charge of a bad team. There seem to be quite a few people who have lost track of that fact. The pressure is on Pace and John Fox to make sure 6-10 doesn’t happen again and they know it.

• Going 1-7 at home isn’t OK, but five of the losses came to playoff teams and another came with a preseason lineup against a team that went 6-2 down the stretch. I’m not going to freak out about it that much.

• All of the talk about Jay Cutler’s decrease in interceptions was pretty dumb. You saw on Sunday, a lot of times, the interceptions are more about dumb luck. He’s just as good now as he’s always been.

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NFC North Preview: Minnesota Vikings

| September 2nd, 2015

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There are many around the league who are quietly optimistic about the Vikings this year. OK, so they’re not quiet at all. They’re actually quite annoyingly loud. It’s kind of weird considering that, in terms of DVOA, they were better than just Jacksonville, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Washington, New York Jets and, of course, the Bears. But they went 7-9 last year with a young roster and the expectation is that they will improve in their second year under Mike Zimmer.

Why They’ll Win The North:

There’s no question that Zimmer immediately changed the culture in Minnesota. Leslie Frazier seems like a nice guy, but there was no personality to him or any of his teams and he has a girls name. The players liked Frazier, but they accepted losing rather easily. Zimmer doesn’t put up with any bull shit. He’s a psychotic competitor and the Vikings seemed to take on that personality at times last season.

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