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Baltimore at Kansas City
The Chiefs are a 3 point home underdog and they are coming off of a horrible performance in a home loss to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. Can Matt Cassell and Co. rally the troops and play well against one of the league's best defensive units? Can the Chiefs defense handle Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very solid offensive line?
How about Baltimore and their awesome defense? Can Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and their mates control Cassell and the solid Kansas City running game? Who wins the special teams battle? This game should be close and despite what some believe I see it a more high scoring affair that comes down to the turnover battle.
**As always, these selections are for entertainment purposes only**
Baltimore -3 over Kansas City
Baltimore/Kansas City OVER 41
Green Bay +3 over Philadelphia
Green Bay/Philadelphia UNDER 47
I can see the Eagles winning but not covering the spread. I also see the game being a much more low scoring contest than many expect simply because both teams have excellent offenses and both teams have struggled as of late with Green Bay scoring only 10 points at home in a win over the Bears and Philadelphia losing their last two games both of which were at home.
I will be back with a look at the BCS Championship game tomorrow. Have a great day!
Today's slate of games have some very important battles that can decide playoff fates and home field advantage. The game at Soldier Field in Chicago between the Bears and the Jets is important to both teams so we should see a very intense battle.
I see several games that I find intriguing so let's get right to it with our picks for today.
**As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only**
Houston -3 over Denver
Tennessee/Kansas City OVER 42
San Diego/Cincinnati UNDER 44
Tampa Bay -6 over Seattle
Indianapolis -3 over Oakland
2 Team Teaser on New England (-8 1/2) and San Diego (-8)
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(**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**)
Pittsburgh +3.5 over Baltimore
Miami -4 over Cleveland
Kansas City -8.5 over Denver
Tennessee -3.5 over Jacksonville
Bears -5 over Detroit
Here we go for Week 9 in the NFL....
(**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**)
New York Giants -7
San Diego Chargers -3
New Orleans Saints -6 1/2
Chicago Bears on the money line (I am not comfortable laying the 3 points)
So away we go....
(*As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**)
Tampa Bay +3
San Diego -4
Okay, onto the NFL where there are eight games with spreads at 4 or under. A tough week but there are a handful of games that I like. Good luck!
**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**
Washington +3 over Bears
San Francisco/Carolina OVER 35
Arizona +7 over Seattle
Tennessee -3 over Philadelphia
Pittsburgh -3 over Miami
So Away We Go!
**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**
Kansas City +7 1/2
San Francisco on the money line
BEST BET OF THE YEAR SO FAR IN THE NFL
San Diego -6 1/2
Here is today in the NFL against the spread:
**As always these picks are for entertainment purposes only**
New York Giants -3 1/2 over the Bears
Buffalo +6 over the New York Jets
Tennessee -7 over Denver
San Diego -9 1/2 over Arizona
Bears/New York Giants OVER 44
Here is the latest on the happenings in the NFL from Pro Football Talk.
More to come....
Head coach Lovie Smith flew to Charlotte, NC on Thursday evening, and will fly back to Chicago with Peppers and his agent. According to Carl Carey, who represents Peppers, "the deal is the Bears to lose." And sources tell me that there is no way the Bears will fail to get this deal done.
Add in a solid running back in Chester Taylor, and a blocking TE, and you have a tremendous upgrade in talent for the Bears. Manumaleuna's addition could mean the end of Greg Olsen's time in the Windy City, but perhaps he could bring Anquan Boldin back in trade or a draft pick that could be used on an offensive lineman.
Give Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo credit for their aggressiveness and their plan. Now they have to finish it off. Stay tuned.
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Additionally, it appears that the Bears are going all in on free agent DE Julius Peppers and their contract offer could be the biggest contract in franchise history. Stay tuned!
Here is the transcript of the interview. Read his quotes where he says the Bears told him that he would be the #3 QB going to training camp if he signed with the Bears. Unbelievable to think that a Hall of Fame QB wanted to be here and just wanted a chance to compete for the QB job and the Bears wouldn't allow him to.
KAP : KURT WARNER JOINS US. WHY WAS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO CALL IT A CAREER?
WELL ITS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT WHEN YOU PLAY YOU UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU'RE NOT WILLING TO COMMIT TO PLAY AT THE STANDARD YOU'VE SET.. OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS I'VE QUESTIONED HOW MUCH LONGER I'VE WANTED TO MAKE THAT COMMITMENT. LOT OF PRESSURE, LOT OF STRESS, LOTTA EXPECTATIONS WHEN YOU PLAY AT A CERTAIN LEVEL. THE OLDER YOU GET, THE LESS YOU WANNA DO THAT. IT CAME TIME ABOUT THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON, WHERE I STARTED TO BELIEVE THIS WAS GONNA BE MY LAST SEASON, I WANTED TO COME IN THE REST OF THE SEASON, WANTED TO TRY TO WIN ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP. I WASN'T WILLING TO MOVE FORWARD. I WANTED TO SPEND TIME WITH MY FAMILY. I WANTED TO TAKE PART IN OTHER ENDEAVORS THAT I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO. SO THE ORGANIZATION WAS IN A GREAT SPOT. I WAS PLAYING AT A HIGH LEVEL.IN A POSITION TO LEAVE AT THE TOP. ALL THOSE THINGS COMBINED I THINK MADE IT THE RIGHT DECISION AT THE RIGHT TIME.
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I'm in San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American game and Football Combine and have learned the Bears have interviewed University of Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney for their open offensive coordinator position, according to an excellent source.
Prior to becoming the Vols' offensive coordinator last season (he's also the tight ends coach), he spent the previous three seasons as assistant coach for the St. Louis Rams coaching the offensive line. He also coached the Rams' tight ends.
Chaney has also coached at Purdue (where he coached Saints quarterback Drew Brees and former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton) and Wyoming, schools with prolific offenses in that time.
According to his Tennessee bio, Purdue was ranked in the top 10 in the country in total offense six times under Chaney.
I recently spent some time with a good friend who I will call Al. Al is a former police officer who is now retired. Al had one of those very first satellite dishes, you know, the ones that were enormous and you had to have built in your backyard?
Back then if you were watching TV via a satellite dish, you not only got the program you wanted, you also got the off camera interaction while the station you were tuned to was playing commercials.
What you are about to watch is never before seen footage of former CBS anchor Johnny Morris, as he anchors a post game show following a Bears victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The date is October 9, 1988, and the win moved the Bears to 5-1 with a game against the Dallas Cowboys coming up the next week.
Sit back and enjoy, and don't miss the ending, because it's classic! Please forward this on to your friends. They won't believe it when they see it. (Note: there is explicit language.)
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As the first decade in the 21st century comes to a close, let's take a moment to reminisce about the best and worst moments and athletes of the past ten years in Chicago Sports.
Best Team: 2005 Chicago White Sox
Only one Chicago team could call itself champions in the first decade of the 2000s, and that team plays at 35th and the Dan Ryan. The White Sox magical run to a world championship in 2005 erased an 88-year drought of glory on the south side. Everything went right for Ozzie Guillen's club that year, as his starting staff of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia each won 14 or more games in the regular season, leading the club to a 99 win campaign. Playing "Ozzie Ball", the Palehose used speed and timely hitting to scratch across runs with Scott Podsednik changing the team's offensive strategy. The White Sox stormed through the playoffs, going 11-1 in October, which included a sweep of the then-defending champion Red Sox, and the Astros in the World Series. Their bullpen was rock solid all year, as Bobby Jenks burst onto the scene as a bona fide closer, and earned the save on October 26, 2005 to earn the Sox a ring.
Worst Team: 2000-2001 Chicago Bulls
After a historic run of six world championships in the previous decade with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, things went very bad and very fast for the Bulls after the nucleus of the team left the Windy City. The team did have Elton Brand, who averaged 20 points per game, Ron Mercer, who could still contribute, and Ron Artest--who by his own admission--was drinking on the job. The team went 15-67, bad enough for a miserable .183 winning percentage, and ranked dead last in the NBA in points per game (87.6). Need any further proof this team was a disaster? This team only had three players average double-digit scoring, and Ron Artest barely qualified in double-digits with just over 11 points per game. Also, how about these names that contributed minutes to Tim Floyd's club that year: Dragan Tarlac, Khalid El-Amin, Dalibor Bagaric, A.J. Guyton, Jake Voskuhl. Need I say more?
Best Athlete: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
Say what you want about Urlacher's attitude, or problematic character at times. It's no question this city could have embraced him far more than they did over this past decade. But when it comes to the best athlete in Chicago sports over the last ten years, Urlacher takes the cake. After being drafted in the first round out of New Mexico in 2000, Urlacher immediately emerged as a standout linebacker for the Bears and quickly vaulted to the top of the NFL. He had more than 800 tackles in the decade, 37.5 sacks, and 17 interceptions. He was one of the most feared defensive players in the league for the majority of the decade, and led his team to multiple playoff appearances including a Super Bowl berth in 2006. Note: Honorable Mention goes to White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, for a consistent and successful decade.
Worst Athlete: Corey Patterson, Chicago Cubs
Corey Patterson had a three good months as a Chicago Cub. That's it. Otherwise, his career as a Cub could really only be described as a debacle. The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft figured to solve the Cubs center field problem for the long haul. All we read and heard about him coming up was that he had great speed, great power, and could be a five-tool superstar type player to anchor the Cubs outfield. Instead, he was a free-swinging, undisciplined, stubborn liability for the Cubs for parts of five seasons. Other than the 83 games in 2003 in which he hit .298 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, he was detracting from the team's success. (And funnily enough, when Patterson got hurt the Cubs acquired Kenny Lofton, who was a catalyst and a big reason why the Cubs nearly reached the world series that season.) In 2004, he was a microcosm of the team's shortcomings, and his 2005 season was one of the worst statistical seasons put forth by an everyday player in history. He's still toiling around baseball, last seen with the Brewers this past season. The Cubs traded him to Baltimore before the 2006 year, and the Cubs have still not found a long term solution for center field.
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Not only has the team regressed over the past three seasons, but it's painfully obvious that the Bears are being out coached. Smith is the same man who asked all of us to "trust me to do what is best for our football team", when he fired Ron Rivera as defensive coordinator following the 2006 season, the year the Bears appeared in the Super Bowl.
Then, Smith hand picked linebackers coach Bob Babich for the defensive coordinator role, which failed miserably. Consequently, Smith took over defensive play calling responsibilities before the 2009 season. The result? You have a Bears defense that ranks 12th out of 16 teams in the NFC with only Seattle, St. Louis, Detroit, and Tampa behind.
Let's go to Sunday's loss to the arch-rival Green Bay Packers. The Bears are trying to drive for the tying touchdown, and Jay Cutler throws a pass to Greg Olsen. He initially grabs it, but does not control the ball all the way to the ground and it's ruled incomplete. Smith takes his first charged timeout of the 2nd half. After the timeout, and just as the Bears are set to run the next play, he decides to challenge the Olsen incompletion. He threw the red flag, risking a failed challenge, and potentially costing them two timeouts in the same play before another second runs off the clock.
Well, that is exactly what happened. Referee Mike Carey deemed the play stood as called, the drive stalled, and the Bears never scored again, losing to Green Bay 21-14. Who knows if they would have scored if they had an extra timeout? Common sense tells me no, but you can't dispute the fact that they would have run their final drive differently if they would have had another timeout to work with.
Furthermore, Lovie Smith told the media after the game the reason they called the first timeout on that play was because they had "some things going on" that necessitated using it. Just what those "things" were? He didn't say. But offensive coordinator Ron Turner said there was nothing going on that would have warranted using another timeout.
Whatever the case, this team is in disarray and a major house cleaning has to take place to give the team a chance for improvement in the near future. And if Smith is fired, General Manager Jerry Angelo also has to go, because he has done a poor job of assembling the roster. This team is out manned in terms of talent nearly every week.
I keep hearing that because both men are owed significant dollars no changes will take place. The Bears are a franchise valued at over a billion dollars. To keep them both says very simply to a tremendously loyal fan base that winning just isn't that important. Please, members of the McCaskey family, tell us that isn't true.
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Next week we will look at the lovely ladies from the basketball world but today we look at college football and the NFL. Enjoy!
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In addition, the lurid details about his sex life are now surfacing which has turned the intensely private Woods into a late night talk show punch line. And with the count of women coming forward now at six who knows when this story will leave the news and allow Tiger and his wife some time to work on repairing their relationship.
Then you had the Bears who were coming off of an embarrassing blowout loss to the Vikings. Well, on Sunday the beloved Bear finally put a game into the win column by beating the completely inept St. Louis Rams 17-9 at Soldier Field.
The Bulls finally won a game after they beat the Detroit Pistons at the United Center earlier in the week. However, they were drilled both Friday and Saturday by the Cavaliers and Raptors respectively with the latter winning by 30+ at the United Center.
The Blackhawks won 2 of 3 this week with an 11 round shootout deciding a tough win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening before the Hawks lost to Nashville on Friday night at the United Center. However, the Hawks bounced back quickly beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in OT on Saturday evening.
Baseball now grabs center stage with the Winter Meetings officially underway in Indianapolis. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are expected to be very active participants with the Cubs hoping to move Milton Bradley while the Sox are considering dealing closer Bobby Jenks.
So who makes our week in pictures? Check em' out because we have the stars of the week and the women who are reportedly chasing a Tiger.
Enjoy and get ready for our updates of the Winter Meetings which are in high gear through Thursday and where we have a ton of great sources. Also, please make sure you tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7 p.m. Have a great week! Kap
Gallery sneak peek (27 images):View the gallery...
**As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only**
Green Bay - 3 vs Baltimore
Best of the Rest
New England -4 over Miami
Seattle +1 over San Francisco
Pittsburgh -15 over Oakland
NY Giants +1 over Dallas
St. Louis/Bears over 40
There is no better city in America for sports than Chicago and with the end of the year fast approaching it is time to ask for your help to vote for the best in Chicago sports in 2009.
Each year on Chicago Tribune Live we award The Kappy's to honor excellence among Chicago athletes. Click here to vote now! Your help is greatly appreciated!
Then you have our Chicago Bears, who were so completely dominated in every facet of yesterday's 36-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that it is now painfully obvious that the entire front office of the team has to be cleaned out and overhauled. The same goes for the coaching staff, which has seen a Super Bowl team in 2006 slide into oblivion at astonishing speed.
Finally, the weekend's most bizarre story comes courtesy of Tiger Woods, who was involved in a one car accident as he was leaving his home in Florida. First reports indicated that his wife, Elin, had rescued him from the wreck by taking a golf club and smashing out the windows in Tiger's 2009 Cadillac Escalade. Then, we started to hear that perhaps his facial lacerations were not from the accident, but from the wrath of his wife after she reportedly found out about another woman in his life.
Here is the latest on the Woods story courtesy of the fine folks at TMZ.com. which just seems to keep getting stranger every day. Tiger reportedly told a friend that he needs a "Kobe Special", which refers to the enormous ring that Kobe Bryant bought his wife Vanessa after his episode in Colorado a few years ago.
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So here is how I have decided to ask the question. If you had to carve a Mt. Rushmore of Chicago sports who would be the four men who would have their likenesses carved into your tribute to their greatness?
Below I have pictures of the players that I have nominated. Am I missing someone? Please post a comment with your nominees and your thoughts. Soon I will have a competition to crown the winners based on your voting. However, I have to make sure that the ballot is correctly done. And for that I need your help. So please weigh in. Thanks, Kap
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Arkush, citing unnamed sources, said on WSCR Radio the Bears have begun the process of looking at coaching candidates. "Inquiries have been made, feelers have been put out," Arkush said. He specifically mentioned three names the Bears are interested in as potential candidates, listing Super Bowl winning coaches Bill Cowher, Mike Shanahan, and Jon Gruden.
Tonight, a Bears source told Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh that there is absolutely no truth to the report. Now, does that mean that the Bears won't change coaches after the season ends? Absolutely not. It simply means that no official search is underway and with 6 games still to be played in the 2009 season, it would do the Bears no good to undercut Lovie Smith and his staff as they try salvage a very disappointing year.
Should the Bears fire Smith and his staff at the end of the season? Absolutely. This will be the third consecutive season that the Bears will miss the playoffs, and the future looks anything but bright with question marks all over the roster. The team hasn't quit on Smith but it is becoming painfully obvious that the team is woefully inadequate to compete for a championship.
**As always these are for entertainment purposes only**
Minnesota -10 over Seattle
Cleveland at Detroit over 37
Detroit -2 1/2
Atlanta +7 1/2
Chicago + 3 1/2
The latest I am hearing has the Cubs and the Rangers seriously discussing a trade that would send the disgruntled outfielder back to the the team that he starred for before signing with the Cubs last winter. However, read this nugget in Rangers' beat writer Evan Grant's blog regarding a possible Bradley return to Texas, and you'll see just how tough it may be for the Cubs to move him.
As for the Tigers willingness to trade center fielder Curtis Granderson, things are starting to heat up, as they explore several different options in both the AL and NL. The Cubs are definitely on the Tigers radar, since they fit several of the requirements Detroit has in any Granderson deal. First, they have a handful of excellent prospects that are nearly major league ready and they would be the key to any deal. Also, the Cubs don't play in the AL and definitely don't play in the AL Central. That could make this deal more likely, since Detroit is very reluctant to trade him within their league and even more so in their division. If you were Jim Hendry, would you trade rising shortstop prospect Starlin Castro in a package to land Granderson?
However, from the Cardinals first possession, it was obvious that the defense had no chance at slowing down Warner and Co. and that was without All-Pro wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was sidelined with an injury. The Cardinals ground game came into the contest averaging an embarrassing 65 yards per game, and ripped the Bears apart for 182 yards. In fact, the Cardinals set their season high in yards on the ground in the first half.
It was a thorough butt-kicking and one that proved the Bears are a lousy football team. In fact, if Jeff Reed and Olindo Mare make a couple of field goals, the Bears could be sitting here today as a 2-6 team, with their only wins over Detroit and Cleveland. The Bears are nowhere close to being a contending team, and they need to spend the rest of the 2009 season evaluating which players should stay and go as they attempt to build toward the future.
That starts with the head coach, who is so out of touch with reality that it's laughable. I have never been a fan of Lovie Smith, because of his inability to display any sense of honesty in his dealing with the fans and media. When his team plays poorly he refuses to ever call out a player or unit for poor performance. I am not asking him to be Mike Ditka, because he doesn't have that type of personality. But his failure to hold people accountable and his willingness to give out jobs to players before training camp and before they have earned is one of the reasons the Bears are where they are now.
So how do you fix it? You start by firing the head coach and hiring a no-nonsense guy who has a proven reputation as a winner. He must possess an ability to connect with the fan base and the media, and a willingness to roll up his sleeves and contribute years of expertise in personnel matters. Furthermore, he must be able to evaluate personnel well enough to take some of the responsibilities away from current GM Jerry Angelo. I'm not asking for the new coach to necessarily be the "architect" of this team, but Angelo has done a very poor job during his 8+ seasons in Lake Forest.
Angelo is under contract through 2013, so the thought that the Bears would pay both he and Smith is probably fantasy. So here's what I would do: fire Smith the day the season ends so I could have all available coach options available to me right away. I would also call Jerry Angelo into a meeting where he will be offered the chance to stay as GM, but he will also be asked to relinquish some of his power to the new Head Coach/Football Operations boss. Should he balk then he can quit. However, with a ton of money owed to him for four more seasons, I would be surprised if he walked away.
Then, I would offer Bill Cowher whatever it took to land him, and I would make it clear that Chicago Bears football is back and is changing its image, effective immediately. Cowher is a proven winner, he would energize the fan base, and he is a tremendous motivator. With the right moves next spring, the Bears could put some of the necessary pieces in place around standout quarterback Jay Cutler. And they could start to rebuild a team that is obviously not responding to Lovie Smith.
More to come as we get the Pittsburgh point of view on Cowher next. Have a great day! Kap
The offensive line continues to look suspect. If the Bears aren't careful, they won't have Cutler as their QB too much longer, because the beating he's taking will eventually lead to serious injury. Today, Cutler was sacked 4 times and hit 7 times with many of those hits being very physical plays. Say what you want about him, but Cutler is showing tremendous toughness as he takes a beating each and every week and keeps on playing hard.
I also loved the exchange between Cutler and Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan that was captured on the broadcast. Both men were screaming at each other, and it is that passion that we have not seen in a long time from a Bears QB. After the game the two men hugged as they walked off of the field and shook hands, and Cutler talked about his respect for Ryan in the post game press conference.
Now, with the Browns out of the way, the Bears will have to step up their performance a notch as the Arizona Cardinals will come to town next Sunday afternoon. While the Cardinals looked awful today against the Panthers, the fact is they have a handful of road wins on their resume and they should be a formidable foe for the Bears.
Did You Know Dept.?
The victory before a Soldier Field crowd of 59,493, ended a two-game losing streak, no insignificant achievement since only one team (1979) in franchise history had lost three straight and reached the postseason.
Post game Grades:
Jay Cutler took another beating but he had only one turnover and that came on a tipped ball and he did throw for 225 yards on a 17-30 performance. His QB rating was mediocre at 66.7 but let's not forget he has a brutal offensive line and a suspect set of skill position players around him.
Matt Forte ran for 90 yards on 26 carries and while he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry he did take care of the ball and help the Bears keep the clock moving en route to a time of possession victory of 37:25 to 22:35. He also found the end zone twice.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
While nobody caught a TD pass and no one had a 100 yard day they did do some good things to keep drives alive and they contributed by blocking in the running game.
Just 1 sack is unacceptable and if that trend continues the Bears have no chance at making the playoffs and doing damage once they get there. In addition to the one sack, there was only 1 tackle for loss. There were only three QB hits, and while that may work against a team like Cleveland, it will not work against any of the good QB's left on the Bears schedule. The D-Line was okay against the run as the Browns ran for 117 total yards.
Solid performance from Nick Roach, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lance Briggs, who were solid in coverage and against the run. This group is doing all they can with both Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa out for the season.
Picked off 2 passes and forced 2 fumbles. In addition, Tillman took his pick back for a touchdown. They covered well and they gave good support against the run.
Robbie Gould was 3-3 on field goal attempts and Brad Maynard stuck three punts inside the 20 yard line. He did shank one kick but otherwise he had a solid performance. Add in no special teams turnovers and the unit did a pretty fair job.
Lovie Smith had his guys ready to play and they were able to put the memory of last week's 45-10 blowout at Cincinnati in their rear view mirrors fairly quickly. However, Rod Marinelli's D-Line has to pick it up as does Harry Hiestand's offensive line. Ron Turner takes a ton of heat for his play calling, but it is hard to take a ton of chances down the field when your offensive line can't give the quarterback much time to throw.
Much was made about Cedric Benson and his relationship with the Bears while he was here, and what was said by the team when the Bengals were interested in signing him. Certainly Benson did not duck questions about the situation all week. But CSNChicago.com's John "Moon" Mullin, who has been covering the team for roughly fifteen years, had this interesting article about the real truth about Cedric Benson's time in Chicago. Check it out.
My Grades on the Bears Performance Against Cincinnati
Jay Cutler was intercepted three times and was unable to generate much of anything offensively. He did throw for 250+ and a TD, but the Bears never got much going. And without a running game he had no chance.
So about that running game, or lack there of. The Bears had a net total of 35 yard rushing Sunday afternoon, and that combined total includes THREE different rushers. Matt Forte's sophomore slump continued, as he took the ball just six times and amassed a mere 24 yards. Of course, when you fall behind as quickly as the Bears did, you are stuck throwing the ball to get back in the game, but the Bears haven't run the football well all year, except for the Lions game.
Outside of Ozzie Guillen, name me one guy who you think really keeps it interesting, and is engaging not only with the media, but in the way he acts on the playing field. Let's examine the coaches and managers first, then we'll look at the players who call Chicago home.
Managers and Coaches
He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I find him so entertaining to watch and to cover that he would probably the guy I'd hire if I owned a baseball team. Ozzie is honest to a fault, and he says what most fans are thinking even if his players don't like his frankness. His personality keeps the White Sox in the headlines even when his team may not be great. Plus, he has a World Series ring on his hand. So those who don't like him can't really argue much, because he accomplished something that no one else has done in this city in a very long time.
When Lou was hired by the Cubs, many fans and members of the media (myself included) expected a Mike Ditka-like presence in the Cubs dugout based on what we had seen of Sweet Lou during his time as the manager of the Seattle Mariners. However, with rare exception, we have seen a much more mellow Piniella, especially in 2009 when his lack of public anger frustrated many fans. When he shows his emotion, he is a colorful "Chicago type" personality. And that is what he needs to show in 2010.
While he may know his football, he is one of the most boring personalities we have seen on the Chicago sports scene in a long time. Smith is steady and unspectacular, but his lack of charisma drives fans who remember the days of Mike Ditka crazy, when every news conference and media moment was must-see TV. Smith is true to himself, but I believe that sometimes management forgets that professional sports are entertainment and you need to keep people watching even when you aren't going to the playoffs.
Coach Q is very intense, and will flash a glimpse of his fiery personality from time to time behind the bench. But he does not usually show that side of himself away from game action. His news conferences are calm and informative, but he doesn't do much to garner attention.
Vinny Del Negro
Another of the modern day coaches who does not ever say anything to stir the pot. Del Negro is polished and concise in his comments, but like most of his Chicago counterparts he is not must-watch TV when he addresses the media.
Add in a terrible night for the special teams and a rough night for the offensive line, and it spelled defeat in an extremely winnable football game in the Georgia Dome. How does the special teams have 12 men on the field late in the game when the Falcons had just been forced to punt? That cannot happen, but fortunately for the Bears they were bailed out one play later when Matt Ryan threw his 2nd interception of the game.
Still, the Bears could not drive down and tie the game in the final moments, due to their inability to score when they were in the red zone. Cutler threw for 300 yards, but he and the offense generated only 7 points on three trips inside the 15 yard line. That is completely unacceptable, as is Orlando Pace's false start penalty on 4th and 1 with 34 seconds left in the game.
**As always these are for entertainment purposes only**
Auburn -13 over Kentucky
Best of the Rest
Stanford +4 over Arizona
Indiana +3 over Illinois
Central Florida +14 over Miami, FL
San Diego -3
As the day unfolded we stayed locked on the Bengals/Ravens game which was competitive right down to the final seconds. As the Bengals finished off the Ravens this nugget flashed up on the screen: Cedric Benson is the first player to run for over 100 yards against the Ravens in 39 games, tallying 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground. I paused, looked at my son Brett and then he said some startling words to me: "Dad is that the same Cedric Benson who the Bears had?" When I told him yes he remarked, "why was he so bad here and looked so good for the Bengals?"
Did you know that the over/under total of wins for the Bears in Las Vegas when the season began was 8 1/2? You have to think that the large numbers of Chicagoans who travel to Vegas must have put some serious money down on the over. The Bears look pretty solid and with Jay Cutler at the controls it would take a real collapse to not win at least 9 games.
The total bet in Vegas that has the casinos very happy is the number that they posted on the Broncos of 6 1/2 after seeing huge money come in on the under with the total posted at 7 1/2. The casinos adjusted their number out of concern that they could lose a ton on the under. Several "wiseguys" continued to pound the under and the casinos could make a fortune with the Broncos already 4-0.
You can't really see him in this one...but it's still fun to watch anyways!
**As always, the following picks are for entertainment purposes only**
Oakland +3 at Kansas City
The Raiders lost a tough game against San Diego on Monday night and now they have to come back on a short week. However, they have much more firepower than the Chiefs and this is only week 2 when players are still relatively fresh and not banged up. Look for Oakland to stretch the field and to handle the Chiefs relatively easily.
Pittsburgh -3 at Chicago
I would love to pick the Bears here but since I picked them on TV to start the season 0-3 back in August I will stick with what I felt deep down before the season started. This is not a great football team because they have no depth at wide receiver, the defense (before Brian Urlacher went down) was questionable and now it is really suspect. The defensive backfield is mediocre and against Ben Roethlisberger that can be a real problem. The Bears should come out ready to play in their home opener after a tough loss at Green Bay. Lay the points as the Steelers win and cover.
New Orleans -1 at Philadelphia
The Saints can score in a big way and with Donovan McNabb probably out with a rib injury it will be very tough for the Eagles to keep pace if the game turn into a shootout. The key will be if the Philadelphia defense can slow down Drew Brees and limit his effectiveness in the Saints passing game. I don't believe they can so I am pick New Orleans to grab a big road victory.
Buffalo -4 vs Tampa Bay
I know that the Bills literally handed the game last Monday night to the Patriots after Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff that he should have never tried to return late in the fourth quarter. I know that they are on a short week of preparation after playing on Monday night. However, this is a pretty good football team and head coach Dick Jauron usually has his team ready to play. I look for Buffalo to rebound with a win at home.
Long Shot 6 Team Parlay Play
Dallas on the money line
The following is Jay Cutler's press conference with the media at Halas Hall from Wednesday. There has been a lot of consternation regarding his poor handling of the post game news conference on Sunday after his 4 interception performance in the Bears loss to Green Bay. Listen to what he had to say today when questioned on a variety of topics.
The Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure received a text message from Urlacher saying that his season is over. Coach Lovie Smith is expected to confirm Urlacher's status at his Monday afternoon news conference at Halas Hall. His loss, combined with a knee injury suffered by fellow linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa that is expected to sideline him for 2-4 weeks could cripple the Bears defense.
The Bears are considering moving Lance Briggs to Urlacher's middle linebacker spot and signing the best available linebacker on the street. More to come later today. Kap
No timetable has been set for Urlacher's return until after the surgery has been performed. I will have more on this story as soon as it becomes available. Kap
First of all, the defensive line put excellent pressure on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who, according to all of the pregame prognosticators, was supposed to torch the Bears secondary for a huge night. That never happened because guys like Adewale Ogunleye were able to get into the backfield and keep Rodgers from finding his comfort zone.
In addition, the defense kept Packers running back Ryan Grant in check, holding him to just 61 yards on 16 carries. The entire Green Bay running game totaled just 76 yards on 22 carries, an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. That is more than acceptable. That stat, combined with the four sacks and the countless hurries that the Bears racked up against Rodgers, should have been enough for a victory.
However, even with a Pro Bowl QB there are still a lot of questions that have to be answered with a resounding yes for the Bears offense to play at the level of a team with championship aspirations. Is there a #1 receiver on the offense that you feel comfortable calling on with the game on the line? Sure, Devin Hester has tremendous speed but is he a legitimate every down wideout? The receiving corp of Hester, Aromashadu , Knox, Iglesias, Davis, and Bennett all have some skill level but they have just two guys (Hester and Davis) who have ever caught even one pass in an NFL game.
The tight end position is loaded with Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark both capable of making the big catch and blocking very effectively. Together, this duo should help take a lot of pressure off of Cutler and the unproven wide receiver corps. I fully expect Olsen to lead the team in receptions because of the chemistry that he has developed with Cutler.
The running back spot is capably manned by Matt Forte who should have an even better sophomore season than he had as a rookie when he solidified a questionable Bears running game that had struggled with Cedric Benson for the previous couple of seasons. Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson provide depth but an injury to Forte could be devastating to the Bears chances because neither of the backups appear ready to be an every down back.
Add it all up and you have a team that should be vastly improved on the offensive side of the ball but the big question is will they be improved enough to cover for a very questionable defense. If they are then the Bears could be the best team in a rather mediocre NFC. If they are not then it could be a rough season in the NFC North where the Vikings and Packers appear to be very tough to beat with veteran teams and big time quarterbacks.
While there is great enthusiasm surrounding Cutler's arrival, there are also several questions that must be answered in a positive fashion if this team is to contend for a division title and to have a shot at a Super Bowl ring.
First and foremost, the defense must be light years better than it was in 2008 when it applied virtually no pressure on opposing QB's and was ranked near the bottom of the NFL.
A look at the defensive side of the ball shows that Lovie Smith made some changes to his staff that should upgrade the "D". But whether they will take the Bears from mediocrity to the promised land is up for debate.
Rod Marinelli comes in to coach the defensive line and to have a huge amount of input into the weekly game plan. Now I know what you are thinking. Why would I want a coach who just went 0-16 as the head coach of the Detroit Lions getting anywhere near my game plan?
However, Marinelli is highly regarded around the league for his defensive acumen and just because he worked for Matt Millen (who did an awful job building the Lions) doesn't mean he doesn't know his football. Bears players spent training camp raving about his influence on reshaping the defense.
He is very demanding and intense which should raise the entire defensive line's level of play. If that happens it should mean much better pressure on opposing QB's. So let's consider this move a big upgrade.
While I am not Lovie Smith's biggest fan he was not treated fairly in the Sporting News' ranking of NFL Coaches that placed him at #20. Smith has a Super Bowl and two division titles on his resume and he won 9 games last year with a roster that should have been below .500.
Smith isn't and never will be an upper echelon head coach but he has accomplished enough to be ranked ahead of guys like Tony Sparano (Miami), Mike Smith (Atlanta), and Mike Singletary (San Francisco) who have accomplished nothing yet and are in the infant stages of their head coaching careers. Read David Haugh's article in the Tribune and you'll probably agree that Smith was treated with a lack of respect and deserves better.
Now if the Bears don't make the playoffs this season and Jay Cutler struggles Lovie might not even be on the list. He'll be looking for a job.
In case you missed them here is what the former Colts coach said: There has been a lot of discussion over Tony Dungy's comments about Bears QB Jay Cutler.
After making a dozen calls to sources around the league I have come to a few conclusions.
First, the guy has all of the physical tools necessary to play for the Bears at a very high level. That is pretty obvious based on his numbers in Denver. As Dungy said on ESPN Radio yesterday, "he can make all of the throws but that is not all there is to playing quarterback in the NFL." Several NFL scouts that I regularly speak with all told me that they believe that Cutler could struggle in a high pressure media market like Chicago. One executive told me that Cutler could get off to a slow start because of a very questionable receiving corps, unrealistically high expectations from a fan base that has been starving for a star QB, and his immaturity which caused him problems in Denver.
Should he struggle over the first few weeks it could get very ugly and that could make it a pressure packed environment for him to turn it around in. Additionally, several respected sources have told me that Cutler is not very accomodating to the media or the fans and in Chicago you can bet that act will not fly very well.
One interesting story that is making the rounds involves a Hall of Fame announcer who had a meeting with Cutler before calling a Broncos game and he found Cutler so rude, disrespectful, and immature that he said he was one of the worst athletes he had ever dealt with in his long career. You have to wonder what Tony Dungy really knows because a class act like Dungy doesn't usually speak out without know all of the facts.
Here's hoping that Cutler takes full advantage of a clean start in Chicago and changes his reputation and produces big time on the field. Because if he doesn't it could be a very long season at Soldier Field.
"He's a very talented guy who can throw the ball very well, but quarterbacking is so much about leadership and so much about doing things under pressure," Dungy said. "There is going to be a lot of pressure on him in Chicago because he's been viewed as the missing piece of the puzzle to get them back to the Super Bowl. "We'll see about the maturity level. That is what I would question, and some of the things that happened leading to him leaving Denver. That would concern me as a coach."