Data has done a tremendous job over the past two days breaking down the cap situation facing the Bears this off-season. But I disagree with some of his conclusions, primarily a single point.
The Bears had the best defense in the NFL in 2018 and exited the playoffs on Wildcard Weekend. There’s no doubt in my mind they can return to Wildcard Weekend without Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan on the roster. (The Eagles just made it a weekend further with Cre’von LeBlanc as their BEST corner.)
The immediate focus should be Bobby Massie. Is the right tackle one of the best in the league? Probably not. But he’s a very good starter and a solid veteran presence on the offensive line. Couple that with the great unknown beside him at right guard and it would seem pivotal for the Bears to not enter the 2019 season with the right side of their OL being a question mark. The offense has to make a jump in Year Two of Nagy. Continuity will be key.
The Hunt situation is a delicate one. So next week both Emily and I will be writing full-length columns on the prospects of the Bears bringing him to Chicago. I thought it was imperative to present a female perspective. But I also thought it was imperative to present an opinion with an historical, football-based context. We’ll do both.
We’ve had fun with Pat Mannelly over the years, specifically naming this column space after his crazy decision in that Packers. But he’s one of the best long snappers in NFL history and now he’s trying to pave the way for the next generation of specialists. It’s very, very cool.
It is finally here! Together with @TheChrisRubio and Kevin Gold of @longsnapcom, we present to you The Patrick Mannelly Award presented to the top collegiate Long Snapper! For more information, please go to https://t.co/6lCzCYekfv pic.twitter.com/xOz3WuViRp
— Patrick Mannelly (@PatrickMannelly) January 15, 2019
I was sitting on a stool at The Copper Kettle, my local in Woodside, Queens, and a liquored up friend of mine, a mumbling Irishman known as “Mel” who loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, turned my way. “You know I think you’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said, referring to the Chicago Bears. He actually said, “Joe, binky broofer soul” but I got where his brain was going.
I did what I always do when that particular suggestion is made (and it’s happening more often these days). “We’ll see,” I said. It wasn’t a response out of modesty or fan humility. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid a jinx. In other words, it wasn’t bullshit. It was about altering expectations. That can take time.
I came into this season, especially after the acquisition of Khalil Mack, believing the Bears could weasel their way into the postseason if the quarterback and offense came along by midseason. After watching the Bears dismantle the Vikings from a Paris hotel room in the middle of the night, those expectations changed to a division title. The Bears were clearly the best team in the NFC North. They needed to finish the season atop the table. They did.
Now, with two weeks to go in the regular season, there are only a pair of teams in the NFC with better records than the Bears: the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. And I’m no longer convinced the Bears can’t beat both of them. In any building.
The season has been over more than a week so I thought I’d throw a bunch of thoughts on the entire league into one semi-coherent post.
(1) It was a bad season for the NFL and it all stems from mismanagement at the top. The fallout from injuries/head trauma, player protests, rules issues…etc. were manageable and fixable. But Roger Goodell once again showed himself to be the most flaccidly ineffective commissioner in the history of professional sports.
(2) The “catch rule” has been the mostly thoroughly debated issue in the NFL and the Super Bowl seemed to be a turning point for its legislation, with two touchdowns actually being ruled touchdowns. (This despite the utter confusion of the commentary box, where Michaels and Collinsworth acted like they were asked to call a three-day test cricket match on forty minutes notice.) Possession. Two feet down. That’s it. If you have possession of the ball and two feet on the ground, you have caught the ball. For the first time in a long time, it feels the NFL is headed back in that direction.
(3) Ryan Pace took over the GM job in Chicago prior to the 2014 season.
Now we enter year four. Pace has his coach. Pace has his QB. And if the latter stays healthy, the Bears should be expected to win games in 2018.
Went 2-2 ATS last week and would have been 3-1 if I’d remembered never to lay 9 points on an Andy Reid-coached team under any circumstances. Still, 2-2 is a good start. Need a 3-1 week to keep the dream of topping 7-4 alive. I’m confident.
All spreads from BETUS, Thursday evening.
Saturday – 3:20 pm CT
Pick: Falcons -3
This is the hardest game to analyze on the weekend because it’s impossible to know what to expect from Nick Foles. But if the Falcons defense plays as fast and angry as it did against the Rams, how could anyone expect Foles to get anything done through the air? A few interceptions are likely as the Falcons continue their journey to Super Bowl redemption…maybe. Falcons 20, Eagles 14.
Saturday – 7:15 pm CT
Pick: Patriots -13
This Titans crap has gone on long enough. Patriots 27, Titans 10.
Sunday – 12:05 pm CT
Pick: Steelers -7
Here’s my hot take for the column: the Jaguars defense is overrated. Jimmy G tore them to ribbons on Christmas Eve. Since then they’ve faced the offensive juggernauts of Tennessee and Buffalo and could easily have lost to both. (Tyrod Taylor had plenty of opportunities.)
I can’t imagine a scenario where Ben Roethlisberger repeats his mid-season “maybe I don’t have it anymore” nightmare. I can imagine a scenario where Chad Henne finds his way onto the field to replace Blake Bortles. Steelers 30, Jags 10
Sunday – 3:40 pm CT
Pick: Saints +5
Last week I didn’t trust Goff. This week I don’t trust Keenum. Both had wonderful regular season but the playoffs are an entirely different animal. Every single throw carries the weight of the entire season. Is Keenum ready for that pressure?
New Orleans has the corners to limit what the Vikings receivers can do outside, allowing their front to harass the Minnesota signal caller into mistakes. Then the game falls on the arm of Drew Brees and, well, he’s just fine with that. Saints 20, Vikings 17
There are 11 playoff games. My best record against the spread was 7-4 in 2014. This year I will take that record to the woodshed.
Saturday – 3:20 pm CT
Pick: Chiefs -9.
For some reason I’ve been watching a bunch of Titans games lately, mostly to look at Mariota, and something is very clear: the Titans are terrible. Kansas City was 6-2 at home this season and are quietly coming into the postseason on a four-game winning streak. (The Matt Nagy bump?) This profiles as the weekend’s only blowout. Lay the points! 37-16 Chiefs.
Saturday – 7:15 pm CT
Pick: Atlanta +6.5.
I don’t know why I think this but I think there’s a big effort somewhere in this Falcons team. I’m not sure they can win this game on the road because they don’t have a consistent bone in their collective bodies but I still need Jared Goff to win a playoff game before I can get fully on the Ramwagon. 27-21 Rams.
Sunday – 12:05 pm CT
Pick: Bills +9.
I’m just banking on this game being unwatchably low-scoring. 16-9 Jags.
Sunday – 3:40 pm CT
Pick: Saints -7.
These teams played twice this season. Saints won both. Total score: 65-34. If this game were in Carolina I think a Panthers upset would be in-play but I’m having a hard time seeing it in the dome. I’ll be rooting for Chico and the boys but that egg they laid in Week 17 against the Falcons is tough to shake from my mind. 30-17 Saints.
I always like the Chicago Bears. And they’re going for three straight and .500 at the bye! What’s not to like?
John Fox and Dowell Loggains need to walk into the Superdome Sunday assuming the Saints are going to score in the 20s. Why? Because the Saints always score in the 20s. We’re talking about a team, playing at home, that is:
If Fox/Loggains operate the same offensive mathematical equation…
(Run for 2 + Run for 1) x [3rd-and-7 Throw Under Obvious Pressure] = Success?
…they’ll find themselves chasing the game. And the Bears are NOT built to chase any game.
Halftime of MNF & Eagles lead. If they win, Bears will be one game back of the second wild card. And that team has Brett Hundley at QB.
— DaBearsBlog (@dabearsblog) October 24, 2017
Three. And. Oh. Much needed.
Chiefs are a good defensive team. And here is an amazing excerpt from an ESPN piece about the Baltimore Ravens:
Quarterback Jimmy Clausen didn’t get the win Sunday. He didn’t lead a touchdown drive.
If James Clausen beats you, you get beat.
Bears margins of victory/defeat since Jay Cutler returned from injury: 2, 1, 3, 3, 3, 24, 2, 6, 3. Is there really any reason to believe this game won’t come down to the final few moments and be decided by a field goal or so? Taking the points with the Bears seems the astute move.
Lions v. Rams hit 35 points on Sunday. And the Rams have a terrific defense and putrid offense. The Saints, by comparison, have a potentially prolific offense and putrid defense. And both teams have nothing to play for so this could be one of those, “What the hell, let’s go for it on all the fourth downs!” games.
Season Record: 23-17-2