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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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ATM: New Coaches Could Help Bears Solve Pettine Riddle

| July 15th, 2020

It doesn’t seem to matter how bad the Green Bay Packer defense is, the Chicago Bears can’t score on them.

That was supposed to change with Matt Nagy taking over, but it hasn’t.

In four games against Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Bears have averaged a pathetic 14 offensive points and 324 yards per game — the latter being a total that was inflated when the team fell behind big in the most recent match-up. Considering Pettine nearly lost his job at the end of last season as his team has allowed 22.7 points and 354 yards per game since he took over, the Bears inability to score is downright confusing.

Yes, we know the Bears generally haven’t been a good offensive team for most of any of our lives, including the last two years. But they’ve done much better against the rest of the division. Mike Zimmer has had two top-10 units since Nagy came to the Bears, but the Bears have scored 19.5 offensive points and averaged 312 yards per game, both slightly better than the Vikings have allowed on average. Same goes for their performances against Detroit. (Also consider that the Bears have gone nearly full games against both Detroit and Minnesota with Chase Daniel.)

Whether it’s Nagy, Trubisky or somebody else, the Bears just can’t seem to solve Pettine and the Packers. But they may have hired the answers this off-season.

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How the Bears Stack Up in the NFC North: Offense

| June 3rd, 2020


It could be argued that no NFC North team improved as much as the Chicago Bears this off-season. Whether they can reclaim their spot on top of the NFC North is still a major question.

Starting today with the offense, here is how the Bears stack up with the rest of the division.


Quarterback

1. Minnesota

2. Green Bay

3. Detroit

4. Chicago

Analysis: It is impossible to rank Chicago’s quarterback — whether it be Trubisky or Foles — ahead of the others in the NFC North.

The big knock on Cousins has been his performance in big games, but he seemed to disprove that last year with a road playoff win over New Orleans. Rodgers is coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career and is 36 years old. He hasn’t sniffed his career passer rating of 102.4 in three years and has finished with passer ratings below 98 in four of the last five years. (While many have blamed his relative lack of production on a poor supporting cast, Green Bay’s front office clearly doesn’t agree as the only position they invested a major asset into this off-season was quarterback.) And despite Detroit’s constant attempts to ruin him, Stafford is right there with the other two, although a back injury makes him a bit of a question mark heading into the 2020 season.

Bears don’t have quarterbacks of this caliber.


Running Back

1. Minnesota

2. Green Bay

3. Chicago

4. Detroit

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Championship Sunday Gambling Guide!

| January 17th, 2020

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


Still have my head above water this postseason, thanks mainly to believing Derrick Henry is an unstoppable force and wagering heavily on him in both rounds. We’re down to the final three games of the 2019 NFL season. Need a strong finish to a solid gambling campaign.


2:05 PM Central

AFC Championship Game

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)

Over/Under: 52.5

This is Andy Reid’s time. He’s one of the best coaches in the history of this sport. He’s got one of the most prolific, successful coaching trees in the history of the sport. He’s sacrificed so much for this game he loves and all that’s missing from his resume is a title. Once he wins on the final Sunday, his next stop is Canton. I can’t see him losing this title game at home. And I can’t see Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo not completely selling out to stop the run.

Final score prediction: Chiefs 34, Titans 20. 


5:40 PM Central

NFC Championship Game

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-7.5)

Over/Under: 45

They can run the ball. They can rush the passer. They have a quarterback who always gets them into the right play and makes the big throw. Are the Packers a great team? No. But they’re built to succeed in this spot. I’m not taking them to win. But I won’t be surprised if they do.

Final score prediction: Niners 31, Packers 30

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Week 15: Bears at Packers Game Preview

| December 12th, 2019


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and I think they have something cooking right now.


How Things Stack Up

  • Aaron Rodgers is having a very interesting season.
    • His quarterback rating is north of 100 because it always will be. He doesn’t throw interceptions and interceptions are the rating killer. But his QBR is below Kyler Murray’s. And while QBR should not be used as any kind of definitive barometer, it is a nice additional tool to evaluate performance.
    • Rodgers simply hasn’t looked comfortable in this Matt LaFleur offense and the team is averaging 18.8 points per game over their last five. (The Bears are averaging 18.7 points per game this season.)
  • Pass defense is very hard to gauge statistically because garbage time greatly skews the numbers. But the Bears rank 4th in yards per completion against at 6.6. The Packers rank 25th in the same stat at 7.9. This is a pass defense that has shown tremendous vulnerability in recent weeks. (I bet them against the Giants and their defense simply couldn’t get off the field on ANY third downs.)
  • You want the most significant mismatch in this game, outside of quarterback? Mason Crosby is having an absolutely brilliant season. He’s 16/17 on field goals and hasn’t missed a kick since September. Eddy Pineiro is bad at his job. If this game is a close one, Green Bay advantage.
    • The advantage flips when it comes to the return game, however. The Packers rank last in punt return average and near the bottom of the league in kickoff returns. The Bears have the best return game in the league, even though Tarik Cohen’s decision making has been suspect. But when Cohen has the ball in his hands he’s still electric. And Cordarrelle Patterson is heading to the Pro Bowl.
  • Three column headlines from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tell the story of how the Packers are perceived locally:
  • Why are the Packers 10-3 and the Bears 7-6? In the NFL, turnovers often tell the tale. The Packers are +11. The Bears are +1. If the Bears can flip that script this week, they’ll win on the road.

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ATM: Improved Line Play Key to Bears Finish

| December 10th, 2019

The Chicago Bears will go only as far as Mitch Trubisky takes them, but they need the offensive line to hold up so they can see exactly what the quarterback can do.

The line play has ranged from awful to mediocre until the last two games when we’ve seen holes opening up. It certainly appears that the unit is beginning to come together, which will be important for both the immediate and longterm future of the club.

Trubisky earned all the headlines after his dynamic performance against Dallas, but lost in the shuffle was the dominant performance by the offensive line. They didn’t just get the better of one of the best defensive lines in the league. They bullied them in what was unquestionably the best performance the Bears blockers have had all year — and maybe in several seasons.

That was the second straight game in which the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. Trubisky was hurried just six times and hit once on Thanksgiving, according to Pro-Football-Reference, as the Bears also gave their runners 40 yards before contact on 23 attempts. Compare that to a week earlier when Bears rushers had just 25 yards before contact on 26 attempts. (The advanced data for the Cowboys game won’t be available until Wednesday.)

The difference was seen in Trubisky too. While he wasn’t pressured that much against the Giants, it was enough to throw him off as he had 10 of what PFR deems to be bad throws, compared to just four against Detroit and four against Dallas.

The Green Bay Packers know how much pressure impacts Trubisky and they blitzed him 17 times in Week One. They got home a fair amount, sacking him five times, hitting him five more, and hurrying him seven times.

Trubisky was bad that game, but he didn’t have much of a chance to be good.

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Rival Roundup: The Bears Are Good, But Must Be Better to Win the NFC North

| October 11th, 2019


We’re just over a quarter of the way through the 2019 season, and the bye week makes it the perfect time to assess where the Bears stand, both as an individual unit and in relation to the rest of the NFC North.

Rivals:

Green Bay Packers

Right now the Packers are the top team in the NFC North. They’re currently 4-1, and 2-0 in the division. Most likely they beat the Lions on Monday and become 3-0, which would be a boon to their playoff hopes. They also have the second easiest remaining schedule in the division.

Both the defense and run game have improved for the Packers, and much of the tension that hung in the air during the end of Mike McCarthy’s tenure seems to have dissipated under LaFleur (despite initial reports that he and Rodgers were clashing). Rodgers isn’t putting up his usual numbers quite yet, but as long as they’re winning, he seems perfectly content with that.

It’s early and a lot can still happen, but it’s quite possible that Week 15 in Green Bay could hold even more significance than usual in the Bears-Packers storied rivalry.

Detroit Lions

The thing about the Lions is, they’re actually kind of good. They’re also still the Lions.

They could very easily be 4-0 right now instead of 2-1-1. They blew a significant fourth quarter lead against the Arizona Cardinals in their season opener that ended in a tie, and they kept pace with Mahomes and the Chiefs right up until the very end of their Week 4 matchup.

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What Do You Say: Rapid Fire Recap of Bears Loss to Packers in Opener

| September 6th, 2019

This is going to be short because Thursday night’s opener was one of the worst football games I’ve ever watched and it doesn’t deserve an extended recap.


  • The Bears allowed ten points to Aaron Rodgers at Soldier Field. And lost. The Bears sacked Rodgers five times. And lost. The Bears gave up about 250 total yards to the Packers offense. And lost. The Bears have a brilliant defense and that defense is going to win them a lot of games this year. And that’s all I’m going to say about that unit today.
  • Matt Nagy called one of the worst games I’ve seen from a Bears head coach. Whatever that was on third-and-inches. Going for it on fourth-and-ten. Not giving the ball to David Montgomery AT ALL. Sometimes Nagy calls plays like he’s smarter than the guys on the other sideline. He needs to start calling plays that put the gentlemen on his sideline in the best position to be successful. There’s no way to argue he did that last night.
  • Mitch Trubisky was awful. Don’t feed me silver lining shit about a throw here or a throw there. Last night, Trubisky looked like a backup quarterback, called into action mid-game, scrambling to find his helmet. He threw one interception. He should have thrown four. He had zero command of the offense and less awareness of the defense. That’s a lethal combination. (I guess we can postpone that contract extension talk for a bit.)
  • 1st and 40.
  • The Bears better not have too many games like this. The best defense in football won’t stay calm and quiet as their brilliant, heroic efforts are wasted by a limp, futile offensive effort. A mediocre offensive performance beat the Packers by a touchdown. This isn’t new to Chicago. But with this coach and this quarterback, it was supposed to be different. Not only did it not look different Thursday night. It looked worst than it ever has before.

Sunday in Denver becomes becomes pretty close to a must win for the 2019 Chicago Bears. And it is definitively a must perform for the offense.

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