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A Four-Quarter Game Prediction For Super Bowl 53

| February 1st, 2019

Quarter One

This game starts fast. Both of these offensive coaching staffs thrive on the two weeks of preparation and script out the first 15-20 plays to perfection. Tom Brady does it with his trademark short passing game, exploiting the Rams underneath with a ton of James White. Jared Goff hits the Pats secondary over the top. Call it Brandin Cooks for a 54-yard TD. Three possessions. Three touchdowns.

Score: 14-7 Patriots


Quarter Two

Things slow down. Both offenses try and get their running games established, to limited success. Goff makes the first major mistake as halftime approaches, tossing an interception to Stephon Gilmore, and setting up the Pats for an easy score and a comfortable half-time lead.

Score: 28-14 Patriots


Halftime

Shit.

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Three Thoughts on the Actual Football Game Being Played Sunday in Atlanta

| January 31st, 2019

The best bar in Atlanta.


Thought 1. The Rams need a steady & consistent interior pass rush

Nobody pressures Brady from the perimeter because no quarterback in the history of the league is more comfortable stepping up quickly in the pocket and delivering the short-range bullet to a wide open, usually-white receiver. If your game plan to defend him is reliant upon edge pressure and disguised coverages (*cough* Vic Fangio *cough*) Brady will dice you up like a sous-chef working a garlic bulb.

You must put defenders in his face. And few teams are better equipped to do so than Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and these Rams. This game has career-defining potential for Donald.


Thought 2. Where the hell is Todd Gurley?

A few months back, the player Bill Belichick would have completely removed from this game would have been Todd Gurley. “Eliminate Gurley and force Jared Goff to beat us” might have been his rallying cry. And it would have been the correct approach. The Bears showed the league that if you take away the Los Angeles rushing attack and pressure Goff, you control the game.

But Gurley seems to have eliminated himself, unless you believe the injury fairy tale spewing out of the City of Angels. C.J. Anderson has somehow become every bit the horse but Anderson does not have anywhere near the game-changing explosiveness of a man many considered the best offensive weapon in the sport in, like, October! If the Rams are going to win this game, Gurley can’t be riding the stationary bike on pivotal possessions.


Thought 3. Return Men

Three names will be involved.

For the Rams, JoJo Natson.

For the Pats, Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman.

All three are capable of conjuring the kind of game-altering play that decides which team is holding the Lombardi at the end of the evening. (And all three rank in the top ten at all the relevant return statistics.)

Who will it be? Watch out for Patterson. If Greg the Leg gives him an opportunity to give the Pats an easy six, he may just do it.

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ATM: All About Matt and Mitch

| January 29th, 2019

As the New England Patriots prepare to play in their 79th Super Bowl of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, they serve as the sport’s finest example of what the Bears – and every other organization – are trying to accomplish.

We can talk about Chuck Pagano, Khalil Mack, future first-round picks, draft steals and everything else, but what this era of Bears football becomes depends almost entirely on the quality of the head coach and the quarterback. And the first year got off to an adequate start for Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky.

The Bears were a top ten offense in both points per drive and DVOA until the QB was injured. Then they slid back. They struggled for most of the playoff game, but the quarterback made enough big plays to give them a chance to win.

Then Ray Finkle blew it.



Despite what Lt. Lois Einhorn did with those uprights, the Bears coach and QB gave us hope for the future. Hope that this thing could be special.

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Week 7: Patriots at Bears Game Preview

| October 19th, 2018

[Disclaimer: The following game preview is being written under the assumption that Khalil Mack will play Sunday. It is also being written under the assumption that he’ll be limited, to a degree, by his ankle injury.]


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and I just like this game, hence yesterday’s flamboyant column. This should be the most intense, feverish crowd at Soldier Field in five plus years. And don’t be surprised if the Bears come out and match that intensity, eager to prove last week’s rollover in Miami was a fluke.


The Game Limerick

There once was a goody named Brady

Whose fitness guru seemed a bit shady

The coach tossed him out

Now Goody got gout

But at least he still has a rich lady


Why the Bears Will Win

  • Patriots on the Road. New England is 4-0 at home and 0-2 on the road but it’s how they’ve looked on the road that’s been jarring. They didn’t just lose to Jacksonville and Detroit. They lost by a combined score of 57-30 to mediocre teams. The Bears have a better defense than the Jaguars and currently a better offense than the Lions. (Note: These games were pre-Julian Edelman’s return and Josh Gordon’s arrival.)
  • The Andy Reid Coaching Tree. Matt Nagy isn’t going to require much research when building his game plan to attack the Pats defense. Look no further than the success Andy Reid had versus New England Sunday night. Okay, fine, look further. Doug Pederson put up more than 500 yards of offense on Bill Belichick & Co. in the Super Bowl with Nick Foles under center. (I still contend Pederson’s success with Foles is one of the most impressive playoff runs in league history. Foles is terrible.) The blueprint is drawn. And Nagy is very close to the men who drew it.
  • Taylor Gabriel is becoming a star in this offense and he’s going to be wide open 2-3 times against this Pats secondary because, quite frankly, Gabriel has been wide open for more than a month. But there are soft areas in New England’s deep zone and teams have had an easy time exploiting them. Trubisky HAS TO hit those throws Sunday.

Why They Won’t

  • Belichick. He’s the best coach in the history of the NFL and has made a career out of confusing young quarterbacks into bad decisions. Trubisky will see 3-5 looks he’s never seen previously. Stat: quarterbacks under 25 years old are a career 1-42 at Foxboro. (Yes, I know this game is not there but that stat is absurd.) Here’s what Mike Lombardi said about it: “He makes them play left-handed…He takes away what they do and they don’t have the experience to go and do other things.”
  • Tom Brady. He’s Tom Brady.
  • Edelman. Maybe this is the Sunday hangover talking, but it’s inconceivable that Josh McDaniels won’t throw 5-7 bubble screens against this defense and see if their performance in Miami was an anomaly or a trend. One would think those throws would would go to Edelman, the most elusive of NE’s receiving targets.

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As Patriots Come to Town, Bears Face Their “Moment in the Woods”

| October 18th, 2018

Prologue: Into the Woods

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods attempts to be about a lot of things. Love –  between mothers and daughters, princes and maidens, men and themselves. Loss – trying to rationalize the end of human life. Abandonment – a father who left his family as a young man confronts his son about to do the same, in a lovely piece of writing called No More.



But like most of Sondheim’s post-Hal Prince career, there is a general messiness to the piece. (Prince, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerry Robbins are perhaps the only geniuses of American musical theatre structure.) Into the Woods is seemingly about everything and nothing at the same time. And just like their other major collaboration, Sunday in the Park With George – the show’s two acts fail to meld, so much so that when Woods is performed by amateur groups the second act is often excluded altogether.

But whilst Woods is an often sloppy re-telling of classic fairy tales, Sondheim and Lapine create enduring characters by adhering to a basic tenet of Dramatic Writing 101: the folks on stage make big life choices at big life moments. The lyrical refrain of “into the woods” reflects their acceptance of the challenges before them and the risks they’re willing to take. Their “moments in the woods” are life-defining decisions to be embraced, not avoided.

Into the Woods, at its core, is about what we do when “the moment” presents itself and these characters are defined by what they do, in their moments, in the woods.

The Moment

Sunday at Soldier Field is a moment for this Chicago Bears organization.

Bill Belichick, the greatest head coach in NFL history and the Big Bad Wolf for our purposes, is coming to town. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history and our Prince Charming, is with him. They are the NFL’s gold standard; a tribute to consistency and greatness in a league constructed and governed to deter both. And they are a villain to be identified and subsequently vanquished.

They are a moment.

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Super Bowl 52: Three Wagers To Make Sunday Interesting

| February 1st, 2018


Gambling is silly. Gambling on the NFL is stupid. But the Super Bowl is a long day and I’m not drinking for another thirty-one days, so I’m going to have some money on it. For a terrific list of prop bets, check out this link to William Hill. (If you’re betting the Phoenix Open, I like Rickie Fowler to win, Webb Simpson for a top five and Pete Uihlein for a top ten.)


Alshon Receptions, Over/Under 4.5

My Bet: Over 

What could possibly infuriate Bears fans more than Jeffery going off in the Super Bowl? That’s why he’s going to be everywhere Sunday, so my inbox can explode going into Monday morning.


Pink’s Anthem, Over/Under 2:00

My Bet: Over (-150)

You heard her sing lately? She could take more than two minutes to sing her f’n name.


Player to Score Last Touchdown

My Bet(s): Tom Brady (20/1) & Nick Foles (22/1)

The odds are good. And these are the only guys on the field guaranteed to touch the ball. Why not float a few bucks on Foles taking a zone read to the house or Brady, the league’s best QB sneak QB, taking one over the line to ice the game?

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Eight Thoughts on a Bizarre Super Bowl

| February 6th, 2017

I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The morning after, I still can’t believe it. Eight thoughts…

  • The better team won this game. A lot was made of the adjustments made by the Patriots coaching staff as this game progressed but the truth is the Patriots were simply playing an awful game for the better part of three quarters. Brady missed wide open receivers. Edelman had a drop that was an easy 30-35 yard gain. Josh McDaniels couldn’t get a handle on things. When those mistakes stopped, the Pats scored at will.
  • After the brilliant Julio Jones catch, the Falcons are three kneel downs away from taking an 11-point, two possession lead and essentially ending the game. But what did Kyle Shanahan do? He went pass heavy. He went pass heavy!?!?!! Sack. Hold. For the second consecutive Patriots Super Bowl, their opponent lost their mind when the moment got too big.
  • The difference between 4-3 in the Super Bowl and 5-2 is night and day. The Patriots were staring down the barrel of being remembered as a slightly above mediocre Super Bowl team, with many pointing to luck (Pete Carroll) as the only reason they weren’t 3-4 in the Fantastic Football Foray. Instead, the coach and quarterback have five championships and lay claim to the label of the greatest ever.
  • Julian Edelman’s catch (pictured above) was poetic justice. For Tyree. For Manningham down the sideline. For the Welker drop in the open field. No, it didn’t happen against the Giants but there were few eyes not thinking of Big Blue when Edelman scooped the ball off the field of a Falcons defensive back. When that catch happened I thought, “this game is over”.
  • This was not the greatest Super Bowl of all-time. This was the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all-time. It’s hard to call a game great when one team completely folds. The Falcons didn’t sleep last night. They won’t sleep tonight. They won’t sleep tomorrow night. This is the kind of loss franchises have a hard time getting over and Atlanta immediately becomes the most fascinating team in the NFL in 2017. History and the odds will tell you this group will more than likely be sitting home next January.
  • How is James White not the MVP? His versatility and production were the number one key to the Patriots comeback. It’s always somebody you don’t expect with the Pats. This year it was White.
  • Shea McClellin, Super Bowl Champion.
  • The word I’d use for the game: surreal. I was texting with four different people over the course of the game. Here is a text from each one of them:
    • “Wow. This is just…wow.”
    • “I can’t believe this is happening.”
    • “Are the Falcons serious?”
    • “I can’t watch this.” (Jets fan)

One of the most memorable Super Bowls in history. And now the offseason begins.

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Super Bowl LI Prediction

| February 2nd, 2017

Honestly, I haven’t spent much time thinking about this Super Bowl. The NFL starts to drift from my mind moments after the conference championship games are concluded. (At this point, golf begins to take the leaves the lounge and comes into the showroom.) But having seen a boatload of both teams over the course of the season, here are five thoughts:

  • I don’t think the Falcons have enough in their secondary to handle the Patriots spread game. But Dan Quinn’s defense will need to do two things to keep Brady & Co. from piling up the points: (1) avoid the deep hit and (2) tighten up against the run inside the red zone.
  • Brady has lost two Super Bowls and both of them were not solely because of Eli Manning’s heroics. He lost those games because both of those Giants teams got after Brady with their defensive lines. Both of those Giants teams did not require blitzing Brady – which is schematic suicide – to pressure him into quick throws. While Vic Beasley led the league in sacks, the next guy on the Falcons had 4.5. They’ll need more than Beasley.
  • Is it safe to assume the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game when the entirety of the football universe believes the Patriots will take Julio Jones out of this game? If we all assume that, doesn’t Kyle Shanahan also assume that? And wouldn’t that mean there’s probably a healthy helping of Sanu and Gabriel and the two backs coming? I think Atlanta is going to have an easy time moving the ball.
  • This has nothing to do with Sunday’s game but I wonder where the Bears would be today if Phil Emery had listened to me and brought in Kyle Shanahan five years ago. I believed then, as I believe now, that Shanahan is going to be an excellent head coach in the league.
  • This game comes down to one player: Matt Ryan. He’s got a checkered playoff past but he has an opportunity to cement his legacy in the league Sunday and don’t think that hasn’t weighed on him the last two weeks. A Super Bowl title gives a quarterback a blank check for the rest of his career. Joe Flacco could write an essay for the Baltimore Sun denouncing the use of Old Bay seasoning and he’s still not going to be replaced as the Ravens signal caller.

The “expert” analysis seems to be moving towards Atlanta every day. I’m not going there.

New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 31

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Super Bowl Preview Volume II: Why I Have No Problem With Greatness Prevailing

| January 31st, 2017

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, I hate more than fluke champions. It devalues everything I long for from the Chicago Bears; everything that brings me to the keyboard each and every day. I’m not arguing the Atlanta Falcons would be a fluke champion should they win the Fantastic Football Foray. Far, far from it. But the most definitive reason why I have no problem with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning their fifth championship together is simple: greatness.

The Patriots of this era are the most brilliantly run organization in the history of professional sports. Don’t give me the heyday Celtics or late 70s Steelers or late 90s Yankees or Jordan Bulls or one of those hockey franchises that wins a bunch. Every one of those aforementioned runs had a talent advantage on the opposition. Their guys were better than the other guys. They won because they should win.

The Patriots operate at a time where championship continuity is seemingly impossible. They let solid veterans walk out the door and turn castaways into household names. Rob Gronkowski done for the year and maybe longer. Who cares? They lose their Hall of Fame quarterback and still win. They lose his backup and, guess what, they don’t lose.

The Patriots have Tom Brady. And Tom Brady is great. But how many times have the Patriots had the most talented roster in the conference, let alone the entire NFL? Their current defensive roster, the league’s best scoring unit, is nowhere near as talented as the reigning champs in Denver. Their skill players on the offensive side pale in comparison to the group they demolished a week ago from Pittsburgh.

But they are great because of Brady. And Belichick. And Ernie Adams. They are great and if they win their fifth championship Sunday, I will applaud them. They deserve it. Theirs is the success of which all fans should dream.

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