Friday, October 29, 2010

Cubs will watch another drought end--just not theirs

As a Cubs fan, which would be worse: To see a team that had never before won a postseason series (the Rangers) win it all before the Cubs do? Or to see a team that hasn't won since 1954 when they were 3,000 miles away in New York take the title?

In the last seven years, we've seen the Red Sox end the Curse of the Bambino, the White Sox avenge the scandal of 1919, and the Phillies end a 100-season title drought in the city of Philadelphia. And this year, either the 38-year-old Rangers will get their first ring, or the Giants will get their first since moving across the country in 1957.

Oh well. I'd much rather see this situation than see the Yankees win it again or the suddenly dynastic Phillies take it.

NFL's evil empires start season slow

There's a lot to pay attention to in an NFL season (especially if you have a fantasy football team and pick every game based on the spread), but I am getting immense enjoyment out of the Vikings' and Cowboys' early struggles. The two teams are a combined 3-9. Add the Packers in and the three of them are just 7-12. It's like watching the Cardinals tread water while the Yankees and White Sox fall apart before the All-Star break. It's fantastic. On top of that, Romo is out 6-8 weeks while Brett Favre has a fractured ankle and a texting thumb that is apparently all too healthy. I'm certainly nervous about the team I love and their very tenuous hold on first place, but the flame of my sports-hate is burning brightly this season.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Humor Vault Headlines

Cliff Lee on MLB playoffs' low TV ratings: "That Vikings-Packers game was awesome."

Alex Smith discovers he's a really terrible quarterback by playing as the 49ers in Madden '11

Mike Quade on being named Cubs manager: "Who's Mike Quade?"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bears fall on their faces, into tie for first

The Bears' situation--they look terrible but they find themselves tied for first in the division--brings forth an interesting philosophical sports question: How much evidence do you require in order to have faith in your favorite team? What's your threshold for belief? Can the evidence be limited to fortunate geographic positioning? As in, being in the horrendous NFC North? Or does your personal sports dogma require more? Like, maybe, a certain level of talent, success, and all around good play?

All of this is to say: Are you excited that the Bears are somehow tied for first through Week 7? Or do you think, as Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth do, that it's all a mirage? Do you think it possible for the Bears to take advantage of their fortune moving forward, or has the Bears' pathetic performance the last two weeks left you devoid of faith in your favorite football team?

Me? I'm hanging on by a thread. The NFC's just so damn awful. The Bears get a bye (while the Packers face the Jets on the road) followed by the Bills. There's a decent chance the Bears will be 5-3 and still in first, and I won't be able to give up just yet. I mean, would that sort of be like leading at the halfway point of a marathon against Stephen Hawking, Rosie O'Donnell and my one-year-old niece? Would it be somewhat akin to leading a beauty pageant in which two contestants are revealed to be crossdressing men and another answers the question "If you had a million dollars, how would you use it to make the world a better place?" by coming down off the stage and stabbing one of the judges repeatedly in the heart? Yes, it would be something like those things. But still, first place!

Oh, I just thought of another good philosophical sports question: What the f**k is wrong with Jay Cutler? Seriously, someone tell me what the f**k is wrong with Jay Cutler. He looks like a rookie out there. DeAngelo Hall--who, I would like to remind you, plays for the Redskins--caught more of Cutler's passes than did Greg Olsen, and as many as Earl Bennett. Seeking to diversify his turnover portfolio, Cutler also fumbled at the goal line. It seems pretty clear that, along with the offensive line, the big problem with the Bears offense isn't the play caller (Martz), but the play maker. Or rather, the guy who was brought to the team to make plays but seems to do so mostly for his opponents.

You know who had a higher QB rating than Cutler on Sunday? Ryan Fitzpatrick. And Matt Cassel. And Jason Campbell. And Matt Moore. And Josh Freeman. And Todd Bouman. And Colt McCoy. And keep in mind, that's not a function of the Bears going away from the pass or anything like that. Cutler threw for 281 yards and a touchdown, good for the ol' QB rating. But four picks and a fumble? Not good. Not good at all.

Even the karma the Bears had early in the season (Calvin Johnson' non-TD, the Packers' plethora of penalties) seems to have vanished. A pick six by D.J. Moore was called back due to a delay of game. The Redskins fumbled like 700 times but got all but one of them back. Lovie wasted a challenge on a close play at the goal line which made him reluctant to challenge Cutler's fumble on the very next play. Wait, that last one wasn't karma, that's just Lovie and his staff being morons when it comes to using challenges.

It's amazing the Bears only lost by three. It felt like 30. Bring on the bye.

Let's end it on a positive note again:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interim no more; Quade gets two-year deal

First word that came to mind when Bryan Duling texted me that Mike Quade had been named Cubs manager? Disappointed. (Word that I actually texted in response? "Dammit." My vocabulary doesn't get much of a workout in the texting arena.)

I've said before that managers/coaches are the hardest element to judge in sports. How do you separate a manger from his players? Eric Wedge won AL Manger of the Year in 2007 and was out of a job shortly thereafter. Same for Joe Girardi with the Marlins in 2006. Is Lovie Smith a great coach or a terrible one? Certainly both arguments have been made during his tenure in Chicago. Is Phil Jackson the greatest NBA coach ever or lucky to have had the names "Michael Jordan" and "Kobe Bryant" on his rosters?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know that Ryne Sandberg put in
four good years in the Cubs minor league system, that he's lauded by the players he managed, and that he's managed just 37 fewer major league games than Mike Quade.

Prior to the 2003 season, the Cubs hired Dusty Baker, fresh off a World Series appearance and two years after he won Manager of the Year with the Giants. One word for that? Impressed. Impressed that Hendry lured one of the most respected managers in the game to Chicago after a stretch of no-name managers on the North Side.

Prior to the 2007 season, the Cubs hired Lou Piniella. He had struggled with the woeful Rays but was in the top 20 all-time for wins by a manager and was easily the biggest name out there at the time. One word? Excited. A fiery manager with a winning history and a World Series ring on his finger. Can't do much better than that.

And now, prior to the 2011 season, we have Mike Quade. He has managed 37 major league games. He was a third base coach less than three months ago. And he is not a Hall of Famer and does not have his jersey number flying from the right-field foul pole.

There's my bias sneaking its way in. But that's okay. A lot of Cubs fans wanted Sandberg in part because of his legacy with the team. Of course we would understand if he got passed over for someone who clearly deserved the job more. But Mike Quade? The third base coach?

Sandberg expressed an interest in managing back in 2006. Piniella was a much, much better option. So Hendry told Sandberg to pack his bags and hit the minors if he wanted to work his way up. He did. Then he got promoted. Then he got promoted again. He was over .500 as a minor league manager. He was named PCL Manager of the Year in 2010. In the last two years, he took a Double-A team to the league championship and produced the most victories in a 16-team Triple-A league. He has worked with many Cubs who will be on the 2011 roster.

And yet ... Mike Quade. Not Dusty Baker, not Lou Piniella, not Joe Girardi, not Joe Torre, but Mike Quade. Sandberg accepted Hendry's challenge, put in four successful years in the minors, and Hendry did nothing but open the door for him to leave the organization.

Now, we do have to be fair here. Quade managed the Iowa Cubs for four years. He's managed over 2,000 minor league games in total. It's fair to say that he, too, has paid his dues.

Look, Quade might be the perfect fit. In fact, a "no-name" manager might be just what the team needs. A few of the players endorsed him down the stretch. He led the team to a 24-13 record. He showed guts by benching Starlin Castro when he made a mental mistake. I can't sit here and tell you that Quade definitely won't be a good manager. And I can't tell you that Sandberg definitely would have succeeded with the Cubs.

But ... I'm disappointed. On the Ron Santo Always Getting Rejected by the Veterans Committee Scale, this is about a 5. I am absolutely crushed every other January when Santo fails to get into the Hall of Fame. This doesn't reach that level, but I am definitely disappointed and frustrated that the Cubs have a new manager and it's not Ryno.I'm disappointed that Sandberg likely will never get a chance to manage the Cubs. I'm disappointed that he worked his ass of for the organization for the last four years and got passed over for a third base coach who did well in a 37-game stretch with no pressure and a roster with an average age of about 23.

Which, by the way, is the number on that flag flying on the right-field foul pole. Sandberg was a hero as a Cubs player, but he won't have the chance to play hero from the dugout even though he deserved the job as much as any of the other candidates on Hendry's list.

I'll get over it. I'll root for Quade to have success and frankly, I don't have much reason to believe he won't do just fine. (I mean, you know, except for the 77-win roster he inherits.) I liked Piniella enough, but I'm looking forward to a new era, a new personality, and hopefully a little less confusion and bewilderment from the manager. I'll be excited to see what Quade can do come Opening Day.

But for now, I'm disappointed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bears face third NFC East foe in near must-win game

The Bears are 4-2, so why would they need a win already? Because they still have to head to Lambeau this season. Because with a quick look at their schedule, you'll see teams like the Patriots, Jets and Eagles listed. There are only so many wins left on the docket, and with the Bears currently laying three points in a home game against the beatable Redskins, it's darn close to a must-win game.

Washington has been close to the definition of average so far this year. They stay in virtually every game but don't have the firepower to put away all their opponents. They beat a good Eagles team with strong defense but gave up 30 points to the Rams. They beat Green Bay in overtime but couldn't pull out a win against Indy. A blowout on either side in this Sunday's game seems unlikely--my guess is one team will need to make a big play late in the fourth to win it.

The two teams haven't locked horns since 2007, a 24-16 win for Washington at FedEx Field.


Wrap up. Important in any game, of course, but especially against Donovan McNabb and 218-pound bruiser Ryan Torain at running back. If the Bears get to McNabb, they need to bring him down. And the defense will need to gang tackle Torain and hit him low--he's not a big fan of falling down.

Run the ball. It's becoming painfully clear (literally) that the Bears need more balance on offense. It's one thing to believe (as I do) that balance is key to any successful offense, but the fact is, Cutler's gonna find himself in the ER if the Bears don't start keeping defenses honest. On top of that, you can run the ball on this Redskins team--they allowed Joseph Addai to run for 128 yards last week, his highest total since 2007. If the Colts can run the ball against Washington, the Bears can too.

Chris Cooley and Lance Briggs. Both are hurt, but both will probably play. Cooley is the Skins' second leading receiver while Briggs is key to the Bears' D. If either is significantly less than 100 percent, it's likely to impact the final score.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

NFL Visions, Part 2


San Diego Chargers, 2-4
They really belong in the "down" category, but they're fortunate to be in a s**t division. And this team does have talent, right? How do they keep losing? I don't understand what's going on. That's why they're "blurry"--this team confuses the hell out of me. Is this just their typical slow start before a dominant second half? Or is this team just strangely sucky? If you're inclined to think they're just biding their time as usual, they better be done biding real soon: they face the Patriots, Titans and Texans in their next three.

Minnesota Vikings, 2-3
Lucky bastards got a win in the Craptastic Bowl, which keeps them alive. For now. And in a season where the whole NFC seems sort of poopy, the Vikings are unfortunately not out of it yet if they were to get their s**t together. I hope that does not happen.

Seattle Seahawks, 3-2
I really don't want to talk much about them because I currently hate them and their Bears-beating ways.


Dallas Cowboys, 1-4
Compared to the Bills and the Panthers of the world, they're not actually hideous. But when AMERICA'S TEAM, a team with JERRY JONES as its owner, playing in a season in which THE FREAKIN' SUPER BOWL IS IN DALLAS, is 1-4, you're gonna have some problems. Plus, they're stuck in what seems to be the NFC's only good division. Don't be surprised if some actual, real-life cowboy down in Texas lassoes Tony Romo's ass as he's walking down the street. The Rangers are better than the Cowboys. I repeat, the Rangers are better than the Cowboys. Texans are not going to stand for that, y'all.

AFC West
The whole damn lot of 'em lost last week. All of 'em. And only one of them won the week before, and that's only because the Raiders and Chargers played each other.

The Chiefs are back to Earth after an unexpected 3-0 start. The Chargers continue to suffer head-scratching losses. The Broncos are nothing special. And the Raiders ... well, they're the Raiders.

But here's the real stat you need to know. This is the good stuff. I'm hookin' you up here. Combined, AFC West teams have fewer wins than the NFC West. That's right. The laughable, awful, amateur NFC West has one more win than the AFC West, and the AFC West has actually played one more game!

I'm sort of starting to hate this division. I was already a bit anti-Denver cuz of Orton. San Diego is always a confusing team and ultimately a tease even when they're good. Kansas City has been terrible for years, though I could get behind them this year if it turns out their 3-0 start wasn't a complete mirage. And unless you were born and raised inside the Oakland Coliseum--I mean if you literally spent at least 10 years of your life inside the stadium and were raised by the guy pictured to the right--then you can't like the Raiders. You just can't.

Buffalo Bills, 0-5
Let's see. This week they head to Baltimore. Loss. Then they go to Kansas City, who may not be for real but Arrowhead is a tough place to play. Loss. Then they get the Bears in Toronto after the Bears' bye week. Loss. Then they get the Lions at home. Lo--. Wait, what? The Lions at home? I think the Lions can definitely take down the Bills, but we have to declare this the first potentially winnable game for the Bills. In Week 10. Ouch.

Carolina Panthers, 0-5
They get San Fran, St. Louis and Tampa Bay three of the next four weeks, so they might just snag a win or two in the next month here. Or maybe not. Because they're now going back to Matt Moore, and Steve Smith is still injured.

My fantasy team
Holy Lord. I was under the impression when I joined a fantasy football league that you're supposed to win sometimes and lose sometimes. You know, you win some you lose some. But I'm the 2008 Lions and 1976 Buccaneers rolled up into one. I'm 0-6. I'm the only winless team in the league. I've scored an atrociously small number of points, though I do have two more than Trevor. Luckily, I've already traded a few of my players for draft picks and "keepers" for next year. But nevertheless, my fantasy team is hideous.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NFL Visions, Part 1


New York Jets, 5-1
Apparently LaDanian Tomlinson is not done playing football--he's averaging 5.3 yards per carry and is clearly Running Back Numero Uno in New York. Having lost 10-9 in Week 1 against Baltimore, they're two points away from a 6-0 record.

Philadelphia Eagles, 4-2
It's hard to have a quarterback controversy when one guy (Vick) has a QB rating of 108 and the other guy (Kolb) has thrown for 201, 253 and 326 yards in the last three games. Now comes the tough part: at Tennessee and then home against Indy.

Mercury Morris and the '72 Dolphins got to celebrate extremely early this season, in Week 5. It's the first time since 1970 that no team made it to 4-0 to begin the season. In fact, there are only three one-loss teams remaining through six weeks. If you can tell me right now that you're sure of which teams will face off in the Super Bowl, then I can tell you you're a damned dirty liar. And I don't like to be lied to.

Baltimore Ravens, 4-2
I know they lost to the Patriots this week, but their two losses on the season were by a combined eight points, both of them on the road. They've also defeated the Steelers, the Jets and Broncos. Their defense continues to be strong, and with their offense now coming around, things are looking up. So is their schedule: they get the Bills next week followed by a bye.


Cincinnati Bengals, 2-3
After beating a strong Ravens teams and then defeating the Panthers comfortably, the 2-1 Bengals looked like they might have enough talent to make noise this season. So, naturally, they proceeded to lose to the Browns and the Buccaneers. How about a trip to Atlanta followed by games against Miami, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis to help you get better? No? You'd rather not? By the way, is it just me or have T.O. and Ochocinco been absurdly boring this season? They're actually doing pretty well, but why no crazy touchdown celebrations? Why no infighting? Why haven't either one of them drawn a felony charge yet? ENTERTAIN ME!

NFC North
The Bears sit at a respectable 4-2 after a bad loss, yet they still lead the Packers (3-3) and the Vikings (2-3). And of course the Lions aren't going to do anything to help the division's status. They appear to have eaten some bad cheese up in Green Bay--this team that was supposed to be 13-3 already has three losses? And though the Vikings got a much-needed win on Sunday, their offensive line still looks awful. The two underachieving teams will face off this Sunday night.

Denver Broncos, 2-4
I kind of lose track of the Broncos every week. What are those oxygen-deprived, neck-bearded crazies up to? Usually they're losing. Trying hard, it seems, but losing. But get this: the best teams they'll play between now and Week 16, based on current record, are the Chiefs and Cardinals, who are each 3-2. Seriously. Look at this schedule:

vs. Oakland
@ San Francisco
vs. Kansas City
@ San Diego
vs. St. Louis
@ Kansas City
@ Arizona
@ Oakland

How is that possible? The Broncos haven't looked all that great, but don't give up on them yet with that schedule, in that division.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bears play ugly, let underdog Seahawks escape with win

The Bears were the worst third down team in the NFL heading into the game. They must have addressed this in practice last week because they really committed to continuing this trend of complete suckitude. I mean hey, if you're leading the league in something, you might as well keep it up, right? They were 0-for-12 on Sunday to bring their third down conversion percentage to 17 percent on the season. For comparison's sake, the Falcons have converted on 43 percent of their third downs this season. You should really convert at least one of twelve attempts just by accident. A lucky tip, a QB scramble ... something. But no. The Bears may as well have punted on third down every drive just to ultimately give themselves more time at the end of the game.


One of the reasons I was most excited about the Chester Taylor signing in the offseason is his blocking ability. He was often in the backfield for the Vikings on third-and-long because he can pick up the blitz. But Taylor was rarely in there even on those passing downs against Seattle. Another element Taylor brings to the table is the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Third-and-six? Check it down to Taylor and see if he can pick up the necessary yardage. But no, Taylor caught just one pass the entire game and was targeted only one other time. Why'd they get this guy?


I'm going to sound a bit hypocritical here, but hear me out: The Seahawks shouldn't have been kicking to Devin Hester in the fourth quarter. I said earlier that the praise and fear of him has been overblown since his punt return against the Packers. But if you're up 10 late in the fourth, don't give him a chance to bring the Bears back. Field position didn't matter in that situation--if the Bears end up with 10 more yards because you punt it out of bounds, so what? They still need 10 points in two minutes. But if you punt it to him, THAT might happen. Which was about the only thing that could have really hurt the Seahawks at that juncture.


I don't know if the Bears' playoff chances can survive this offensive line. Heck, I don't know if Jay Cutler can survive this offensive line. The Bears have allowed 27 sacks this season, seven more than any other team, and Cutler has been dropped 14 times in his last two games. The coaching staff has continued to tweak the line as they seek the right combination--Chris Williams was moved from left tackle to left guard last week, for example--but they sure as hell ain't found it yet. That has to improve, or the Bears won't.


Give Cutler this: he spread the ball around. Seven different receivers caught at least one pass. But Cutler spread the ball around so much that most of his passes landed on the turf (after bouncing off a defender's hands, in many cases). It was a pretty horrific performance all-around, which is why his QB rating ended up below 70.


I hope Briggs is back next week. My feeling on this defense is that they're pretty good, but that they need all hands on deck in order to be so. No Urlacher? Done. Missing Briggs? Bad. If Peppers were to miss a game? /Shudder. There's not a real big margin of error here.


On the bright side, there must be some serious panicking going on north of the border after the Packers lost a home game to Miami. A team that was supposed to dominate the NFC, the Packers find themselves just 3-3 and still a game back of the Bears. Let's end this on a high note:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Road trip!

Trevor Sierra, Brian Brennan, Jeffrey Williams and I headed East last Friday for a weekend of awesomeness centered around Michigan's Homecoming game against Iowa. It was awesome.

Just your standard Homecoming decoration: a one-legged football player made out of balloons.

We tailgated.

There was beer.

Not true: We wowed the other tailgaters with our superior football skills.
True: Just after this picture was taken, Jeffrey fumbled the ball while Trevor and Brian tripped over each others' legs and sustained Grade 2 concussions. Later in the day, Trevor would stumble backwards into an elderly woman wearing an Iowa jersey. He did not apologize, but rather yelled "Pass interference!" at her as he got up.

Hey, that looks kinda cool.

I think my favorite thing about the game was that people never seem to get up at college football games. I was right in the middle of a row and literally did not have to stand up once in the first half. This picture was taken in the middle of a timeout, I swear. 112,000 people, all focused on the game throughout. Very cool.

Michigan lost to the Hawkeyes 38-28, though backup QB Tate Forcier did make it close at the end after they trailed 28-7 at one point. So the crowd at the Big House was unable to hail to the victors, but I think I speak for all four of us when I say it was a fantastic experience.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bears Soldier on with first of back-to-back home games

The Bears played a Seneca Wallaced-led Seahawks team in Week 3 last year and escaped with a 25-19 victory. They're facing each other once again because they both finished third in their respective divisions last season. While last year's matchup was played at the very loud Qwest Field, Seattle will come to Chicago this time. The Bears have just one set of back-to-back home games this season, and this is it.

The Seahawks are coming off their bye and will have had plenty of time to prepare. On top of that, Jay Cutler is coming off of his concussion. But while the Bears probably aren't catching Seattle at the right time, they're at least catching them in the right place:

Seattle in home games this season: 2-0, combined score of 58-26
Seattle in road games this season: 0-2, combined score of 51-17


Can Cutler rebound? Concussions are no longer treated like minor scrapes in the NFL, and with good reason. Some believe Cutler got concussed (great word) somewhat early in the Giants game, which is what led to his indecision and all around terrible play. If that's the case, Bears fans need to hope he's fully healed and ready to execute the game plan against Seattle.

Kick returns. Seattle has the best average in the league at 37.8 yards per return (for comparison's sake, Cleveland averages 16.2). Leon Washington also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against Seattle. Danieal Manning is having success, too--his 28.7 average is good for sixth in the NFL. If one team's coverage unit can hold the other team in check, it will go a long way toward winning the field position battle.

Keep the Seahawks one-dimensional. Seattle averages a dismal 79.5 rushing yards per game, a full 20 yards less than the Bears who are themselves just 23rd in the league in that category. That's why they recently traded for Marshawn Lynch. Justin Forsett has been just okay, and guys like Leon Washington and Julius Jones have done next-to-nothing (Jones was shipped out). With receiver Deion Branch (second-most receptions on the team) having just been traded to New England, forcing the Seahawks to rely on the pass should be a winning formula.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This guy next to me clearly doesn't know the words to Take Me Out to the Ball Game

From the Wait 'til this Year Humor Vault

CHICAGO--This douchebag next to me obviously doesn't know the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," so why is he even bothering to pretend? "Buy me some phhh-nuhhh and graaaa-shhhh-eh?" Really? Just sit down, or at least shut up. Your selfish decision to belt out nonsense in order to feel like part of the crowd is really ruining the mojo. Freakin' Milli Vanilli over here wasn't at all prepared for the "one, two, three strikes your out," jumped in on "three" and then proceeded to shout "four" instead of moving on to the next line in the song. What an a**hole. Oh and now he's going to finish by singing "at the old baseball" instead of ball game? Are you kidding me? I wish someone would take this jerk out of the ball park.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hurry back, Jay

Mike Martz is not a big fan of running the football, but he proved on Sunday that he's at least willing to commit to the ground game if he's given no other choice. So Matt Forte can tip his helmet to Martz, but it's Todd Collins he needs to buy dinner for.

Halloween is still a few weeks away, but Collins and the Bears' passing attack were in full holiday mode against the Panthers, putting on a downright scary performance that necessitated a run-first (and second, and third) game plan.

Collins led drive after drive (I use the term "drive" loosely) that were about as fun to watch as the horror movie "House of Wax" starring Paris Hilton, a movie that has very little going for it except that it might be slightly more believable than the concept that Todd Collins is in fact an NFL quarterback. He handed out interceptions like candy corn (four) and had a passer rating lower than the #10 jersey he wears. The Bears scored six points in the last 52 minutes of the game.

But they scored 17 in the first 8 minutes on the strength of two Forte touchdowns. He finished with 166 yards rushing and a stellar 7.5 average, and the Bears had over 200 total rushing yards. Forte or Chester Taylor likely could have had another TD, but Martz couldn't resist calling a pass play on 3rd-and-goal from the one, and Collins promptly threw it to a Panthers lineman.

Fortunately, as much as the passing attack made you want to change the channel or poke your eyes out with a fork, the defense was so good that you were a little happy each time the Bears were forced to punt, which they did six times (and would have done more were it not for the interceptions). They completely dominated Jimmy Clausen and the Panthers, turning what looked and felt like a trick into a nice treat--in the end, the Bears are 4-1 and tied for the best record in the NFL.

The D was once again led by Julius Peppers who returned to his home state with a flourish, batting a pass into the air with his big bear paw, diving to intercept it, and adding three tackles and
several QB rushes on the day. And the Bears didn't just chase Clausen and Matt Moore around, they sacked them five times as well. Add in their three interceptions and you've got one heck of a fantasy performance.

And wait, what's this? A whole Snickers bar at the bottom of my bag? The Bears got an extra treat when the Packers blew a 10-point lead in Washington, dropping them to 3-2. On top of that, some SweetTarts and even some Sour Patch Kids: Aaron Rodgers sustained a concussion and may miss next week's game, and tight end Jermichael Finley will miss several weeks. Linebacker Nick Barnett was lost for the season last week, and of course Ryan Grant is gone as well. The Packers will be mighty banged up heading into a stretch against Miami (coming off a bye), Minnesota and the Jets.

While the Bears were able to snag a win against a hapless team missing a safety and their best receiver, they may not be so lucky against the Seahawks or Redskins if Cutler is unable to go. It seems likely that Chad Hanie (2-for-3, 19 yards) would get the start this Sunday if Cutler is out since he at least looked mildly capable, something that cannot be said of Collins.

I was critical of Cutler last year and still believe the praise should be tempered. He has made a few more bad decisions this season and doesn't have the consistency of the top echelon quarterbacks in the league, at least not yet. But I will say this: after watching Collins for three quarters, you quickly realize that Cutler does have a special set of skills. Getting back to our Halloween/horror movie theme, sometimes you have to come to know the bad guy before you can fully realize how good the good guy is. But let's hope that Sunday was the bad guy's only scene in the movie that is the Bears' 2010 season. Hurry back, Jay.

Monday, October 11, 2010

If I had it my way, Burger King would change their goddamn slogan already

*This post has nothing to do with sports. Weird.

I hate Burger King's slogan: Have It Your Way. It doesn't mean anything. It's asinine. You know where I can have it my way? At every fucking restaurant in America.

Really, Burger King? You'll refrain from putting pickles on my Whopper if I kindly explain to you that this is the way I prefer my burgers? What a refreshing change from those Nazi bastards over at McDonald's. The other day I ordered a Big Mac with no pickles and you know what they did? The employee stepped away from the register, walked to the back, grabbed a handful of pickles, returned to the counter and SHOT ME IN THE KNEECAP. That bitch shot me in the kneecap just because I didn't want any pickles.

But thank God for you, Burger King. You, and only you, care about my needs, my subjective fast food tastes. I was in a Burger King last week and they had a "Have It Your Way" sign that explained that I could take one napkin or two, whichever I wanted, because at Burger King I get to have it my way. You'd really do that? For me?

Me: "Ma'am, is it okay if I grab a napkin from this napkin dispenser?"

BK employee: "Of course."

/takes one

Me, hesitant: "Um, ma'am? What if I wanted to take a second napkin?"

BK employee: "Sure."

/looks around nervously, then grabs one quickly

Me, thinking: This is insane. It's almost like that woman doesn't care how many napkins I take. She didn't care if I took one and now she seems indifferent to the idea of me taking two. Could I take a third? No, no. Don't push it.

I truly don't understand where they're coming from with this. I can get burgers with or without cheese? I can get a small or a large fry? NO FUCKING SHIT. Now, if they want to step this up a notch and really let me have it my way, I could get on board. Can I get my burger inside out with two patties sandwiching a bun? Can I get free refills ... of my fries? "Can I get my Whopper with exactly one onion and a third of a tomato slice, and then the whole thing cut into quarters and then can you refer to my meal as a #6 when you place it on the counter even though it's a #1?" "But why, sir?" "BECAUSE THAT'S MY WAY. That's how I do things. Your sign says I can have it my way and I'll be damned if I'm going to be served a Whopper that isn't cut into quarters."

But what really pisses me off is that this slogan goes all the way back to 1974. They dropped it for about 30 years in between, but they went back to it in 2005. Someone at Burger King came to their senses back in the '70s and said, "Hey, you know what I just realized? This slogan doesn't make any sense. We might as well be saying 'Burger King: We're a restaurant.'" But 30 years later, some asshole dug it out of the slogan landfill where it had been appropriately buried and now it's still here in 2010. Unbelievable.

Also, their fries suck.

The end.

Friday, October 8, 2010

And so begins the "easy" part of the Bears' schedule

I put "easy" in quotes because last season's "easy" stretch of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Arizona and San Francisco took the Bears from 3-2 to 4-5. You just never know. And on top of that, the Bears are only three-point favorites as they head to Carolina.

But a punchless Panthers team that's 27th in the NFL in offense and relies on the run should be a good matchup for the Bears. They lost last time they went to Carolina in 2008 and the time before in 2002, and while they beat the Panthers at home in 2005, they lost in the playoffs that year when Steve Smith had 850 receiving yards.

That's unlikely to happen this Sunday, partly because Jimmy Clausen will get the start. He's completed just 49 percent of his passes in two games, though he did do enough last week to keep his team in the game against the Saints. In reality, Carolina's a rushing team, though their 4.0 yards/carry puts them in the middle of the pack in the NFL. DeAngelo Williams has been decent while Jonathan Stewart has yet to reach his weight in rushing yards (89 total this season). With the Bears still a top ten team in rush defense, they should be able to force the Panthers to rely on Clausen, which should lead to a positive outcome. It's a game the Bears need badly if for no other reason than this is a game they're absolutely supposed to win.


Will Todd Collins be any good? Cutler has been F**K ruled out of the game due to his concussion, which means GOD DAMMIT Todd Collins will get the start. He hasn't SON OF A B**TCH started a game since 2007, and he's started only THIS IS BULLS**T 20 games in his NFL career. Can he be at least moderately OH JESUS OH JESUS effective?

Contain Steve Smith. Heard of Mike Goodson? How about Dante Rosario? Maybe David Gettis? Those three have the second-, third- and fourth-most receptions for the Panthers behind Smith. So, yeah, just stop Steve Smith.

Homecoming king? Julius Peppers is from North Carolina, attended UNC and played his entire career in Carolina before coming to the Bears. Will he make the locals miss him, or will the pressure get to him?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Humor Vault Headlines

Yankees and Rays finally finish thrilling race to see who could make Red Sox feel worse about themselves

New to show nothing but Dick Vitale, Herm Edwards and Chris Berman yelling at each other

Cincinnati Reds players forced to attend three-hour seminar on how playoffs work

Monday, October 4, 2010

The tale of Giants sacks and the three Bears

If you'd have told me before the season started that the Bears would be 3-1 after four games and I'd be extremely concerned, I'd have calmly explained to you the concept of wins and losses and kindly inquired as to your understanding of the meaning of the word "concerned."

But 3-1 is what they are, and concerned is what I am. When will Cutler return from his concussion, and will he remain effective when he does? Can the offensive line block anyone?

One would think the Bears didn't beat the Cowboys and the Packers entirely by accident. This team has talent, and it can't truly be as bad as it looked Sunday night, right? Right?? The unwatchable nature of that game made me worry that this season is kind of like the goldfish you win at the fair as a kid. Look at me, I have a PET! It's a FISH and it's ALIVE and I get to take it home and watch it swim around! I'm the luckiest kid EVER! But three days later it's just an orange floatie-thing at the top of the tank and someone in the family has to flush it down the toilet. That fish did not bring me as much joy as I expected! Worst toy EVER!

How can the Bears have looked so bad so suddenly? What was Cutler doing out there? I haven't seen that many sacks since I attended my local mall's Santa Claus orientation. Why wouldn't he throw the ball? In the first half, Cutler completed eight passes and took nine sacks, and the Bears had nine more all-purpose yards (that includes kick and punt returns) than yards lost in sacks (55). What these numbers add up to is this: many of the Bears' offensive woes could have been solved by Cutler THROWING THE DAMN BALL! The Sunday Night crew did a great job of pointing out some of the instances in which Cutler simply failed to read the blitz and see the open man. It's like the bright lights and all the hits he was taking sent his brain back to 1906, pre-forward pass: "I don't need any of these newfangled 'throws' I've been hearing about on my new synchronous rotary-spark transmitter. We need to cut out this funny business. I mean what's the big idea, anyways?"

So Cutler was just a liiiiiitle too concussed. But enter Todd Collins. No, that won't work--he was just a liiiiiitle too old and washed up. The Bears might as well have had Todd Hollandsworth out there. Caleb Hanie? He was juuuuust awful.

At least Peppers played well.

One final thing: can we please wait until Devin Hester has, say, one more good punt return before we declare that he is the most dangerous man in football and essentially guaranteed to return every punt for a touchdown if you punt to him? It wasn't just Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, it seems like everyone's doing it. The MNF guys last week admonished the Packers for kicking to Hester, asking how a team can possibly kick it to someone who's so explosive. How about because, um, he hadn't returned a punt for a touchdown since Bush was in office? Don't get me wrong, I hope Hester is back with a vengeance and I think it'd be great if teams start kicking away from him and giving the Bears free field position. But the praise for him has been a little much given that he has one return TD in the last three seasons.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Final Week awards: Will Quade still be in the dugout in 2011?

It was another strong week for the Cubs as they finished the season by taking three of four in San Diego followed by two of three against the Astros in Houston. It was the pitching that carried them this week: they allowed just 12 runs in the seven games. The Cubs finished the season 24-13 under Quade, and the strong finish left them just one game shy of fourth place in the Central (so close!).

Did the team's sudden turnaround earn Quade the nod as 2011 Cubs manager? What about Sandberg as manager and Quade as his bench coach? With the season officially in the books, we've got lots of time to discuss Hendry's offseason plans and the future of the franchise. But for now, the final awards of 2010:

Ryno of the Week: Take a look at this line: 14.2 IP, o ER, 2 H, 25 K

That's Carlos Marmol's September. Oh, and he was 13/13 in saves during the month as well. Just to make sure you took that all in: He allowed two hits in September, struck out 25, did not allow a run, and converted 13 straight saves. That's not fair. It ain't right. National League hitters could sue on the grounds that Marmol's pitching is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. He was 4/4 in the season's final week and converted his last 17 straight to finish the season.

Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner, Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt

Goat of the Week: It was a bad year all around and a bad final week for Xavier Nady. He went 6-for-23 last week with seven strikeouts, and batted just .256 (.306 OBP) with six home runs and 33 RBI in 317 AB this season.

Dishonorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome

Friday, October 1, 2010

Are the Giants as bad as they've looked?

Probably not. They actually outgained the Titans significantly despite losing 29-10 on Sunday, and they've got a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. I'm excited because the Bears absolutely have a chance to move to 4-0 (they're just 3.5 point underdogs), but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Bears are coming off a game in which they had to get super pumped up to play on Monday Night Football against a division rival, they have a short week to prepare, and New York is desperate for a win after falling to the bottom of the NFC East. Hopefully the Bears will be ready and rarin' to go in another prime-time matchup.

Last year's Sunday night Bears games:

@ Green Bay, L, 21-15
@ Atlanta, L, 21-14
vs. Philadelphia, L, 24-20

Not awesome.

The Bears last faced the Giants in 2007, losing 21-16 at home after getting outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter.

Also not awesome.

As I've said before, the Bears really needed to be 2-2 at the season's quarter-mark. Instead, they're guaranteed to be at least 3-1. But while I've tried to temper expectations a bit, I'm not against a healthy dose of optimism heading into Sunday night--this season's been a ton of fun so far, so what say we keep it rolling?


Missing centerpiece. The Giants' center has been battling ankle tendinitis and the team has struggled to replace him. Eli Manning has been sacked seven times and the Giants have scored 24 points in their last two games.

Prevent the Mario Manningham deep ball. Though Manning looks for Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks more often (that's one hell of a receiving trio, by the way), Manningham (from? Michigan) is the guy he looks for when he wants to take a shot down field: he averages 17 yards/catch and has already had six receptions of 20 yards or more. As I write this, however (Wednesday), Manningham's status is in doubt due to a concussion.

Try to establish a running game. I know I sound like a broken record, but hear me out: the Giants have allowed just 169 passing yards per game, fourth in the league; but they've allowed 136 rushing yards per game, 26th in the league. I do believe the Bears can have success through the air against almost anyone, but this would be a good week to see if Forte can gain some traction on the ground.