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Sunday's NFL Picks Against the Spread - November 7th

A very good week picking games last Sunday as I went 4-1 only losing on the Dallas Cowboys who were awful in a loss to Jacksonville. This week is an interesting one as the Bears come off of their bye week and play the 0-7 Buffalo Bills who were beaten in overtime each of the last two weeks on the road by Baltimore and Kansas City.

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
Dallas +8
Baltimore -5

Best Bet
Chicago Bears on the money line (I am not comfortable laying the 3 points)

Lovie Smith Must Go

While I am on vacation with my wife, I decided to bring my laptop out to watch the Bears game while catching some sun. Through the awesome invention known as a Slingbox I was able to have my NFL Sunday Ticket right on the beach with me and I sat down hoping to watch the Bears harass Kurt Warner into another turnover filled day like he had a week ago against Carolina.

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.
Bill Cowher Celebrates.jpg

Bill Cowher would be a great choice as the Bears next coach.


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 

A Look at the Bears 30-6 Win Over the Browns

Let's start with the Bears, who pounded an awful Cleveland Browns team 30-6 this afternoon at Soldier Field, improving their record to 4-3. First of all, there are no "bad" wins in the NFL. Every win is important. And while today's game didn't go a long way to answering the questions that continue to linger about the offense, it did show that the Bears can find ways to win even when Jay Cutler isn't at his best.

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:

Quarterback
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.
Grade: B

Running Game

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.
Grade: B+

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.
Grade: C+

Defensive Line
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.
Grade: C

Linebackers
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.
Grade: B+

Secondary
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.
Grade: A

Special Teams
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.
Grade: B

Coaching
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.
Grade B-

Chicago Sports Needs Some Personalities

While I consider Rick Morrissey a colleague and a friend, we usually disagree on most of the topics we discuss in the sports world. However, his column this morning in the Chicago Tribune was outstanding. For a world class city with the best sports fans in the world, we sure don't have much in the way of colorful personalities who are compelling enough for even the casual fan to pay attention. How big would Chad Ochocinco be on the national stage if he played in Chicago or New York? He would be a mega star.

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

Ozzie Guillen

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.
 
Lou Piniella

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.
 
Lovie Smith

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.

Joel Quenneville


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.
Continue reading...

Sunday's NFL Picks

I had a 2-2 record on Saturday because I decided not to post three other games that I liked. I looked at Michigan State -3 over Michigan (MSU covered -3). I also liked Nevada over in state rival UNLV (Nevada won big 63-28 to easily cover -4) and after broadcasting Idaho's win at NIU last week I really liked Idaho + 4 1/2  at home against Colorado State (Idaho wins outright 31-29). However, I didn't have access to a computer yesterday afternoon as I was doing the play by play on the NIU win over Western Michigan so I couldn't get them to you.

Now, let's turn our attention to the NFL. There are some intriguing match-ups including the awesome defense of the Baltimore Ravens against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Jets and the Saints will also be a tremendous game to watch as the Jets defense is improving under new head coach Rex Ryan and the Saints offense is the best in the NFL. Plus, our Bears have a date with the Lions at Soldier Field.

**As always these selections are for entertainment purposes only**

Best Bet

New Orleans -6.5 over New York Jets

The Saints have a tremendously explosive offense and at home they are very tough to slow down. They looked great in winning at Philadelphia last week and while the Jets are improved over last year I don't see rookie QB Mark Sanchez being able to engineer enough scoring to keep up with New Orleans in the Crescent City.

Best Bet #2

Lions/Bears over 40 1/2

The Lions defense is banged up and we know all about the Bears LB's who are missing Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa. The Bears could also be without MLB Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lance Briggs was in a walking boot earlier in the week. Look for a Bears win with the game going over the total.

Best Bet #3

New York Giants -9 at Kansas City

The Giants are a solid football team with a legit shot at winning another Super Bowl. On the other side of the line you have the Chiefs who have a new coach, a new philosophy, and an uphill climb to win this football game. A cardinal rule in Las Vegas is to never play a team in its third straight road game. This is just that situation for New York but they are the better team today by a wide margin so I will go against that theory and see if the G-Men can get it done. The Chiefs are getting better and they will have their day but it won't be today.

Other Plays

Dallas -3 at Denver
Houston -9 over Oakland
Tennessee -3 at Jacksonville

I will have a write-up on the Green Bay at Minnesota game on Monday afternoon.

Enjoy your Sunday! Kap 

Brian Urlacher Out For The Season

The news is just hitting the street that star linebacker Brian Urlacher is out for the season after suffering a wrist injury in Sunday night's loss to the Green Bay Packers. Urlacher dislocated his right wrist in the first quarter of the game and did not return.

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

 

Urlacher Headed for Surgery

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is headed for surgery Monday morning on his dislocated wrist. The injury occurred in the first quarter of the Bears 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Urlacher injured wrist.jpg

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher with a brace on his injured wrist suffered in the Bears 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. Urlacher will have surgery on Monday morning in Chicago.


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

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