Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, your 8-3 Chicago Bears

Now THAT was fun. Cutler to Hester down the sideline? Delicious. Greg Olsen stealing the ball away from the defender in the end zone? Tasty. Peppers chasing down Vick from behind and getting enough of him to bring him down? Delectable.

It was the Thanksgiving dinner of football games. I'll have seconds of EVERYTHING. All of it. That game filled up my belly, just like the Bears filled up the stat sheet.

It was a game that made you ... well, it made you believe. It made you imagine and have hope and wonder what could be ... If the Bears can win in all three phases of the game against the Eagles, who can't they beat? The Bears are tied for the second-best record in the NFC, trailing only the Falcons who are 9-2. They pulled ahead of the Packers in the NFC North and gained a huge tiebreaker over the Eagles. 8-3 ... 8-3 ... 8-3 ... It's fun to say.

The Bears actually allowed their biggest point total of the season, but 13 of them were junk points at the end of the game and it didn't matter because the Bears also put up their biggest point total of the season on offense. It was FUN.

Here's what amazed me most: the Bears' receivers did their best impression of the Eagles' receivers, looking every bit as fast and athletic. DeSean Jackson? Meet Devin Hester. Jeremy Maclin? Meet Earl Bennett. The Eagles are widely regarded as the fastest team in the NFL, but the Bears one-upped 'em on Sunday. Too much tryptophan for the Eagles I guess.

The speed was evident on the defensive side too. While Vick rushed for a decent 44 yards, his longest run was 11 and he was sacked four times. Peppers was flying around, several others picked up partial or full sacks, and the coverage must have been phenomenal because Vick stood back there several different times and just refused to throw the ball down field. The Bears are FAST.

But Cutler was able to slow the game down, connecting for four touchdowns and refraining from any off-the-back-foot, throw-it-into-triple-coverage passes. Which brings us to today's STAT OF THE DAY! Cutler's QB rating of 146.2 was the highest of his career. Not just his career as a Bear, but his career period. Cutler OWNED the Eagles. Optimistic Bears fans have said all season that with their great defense, this team could be a force if Cutler and the offense could show signs of improvement. Done. And that was today's STAT OF THE DAY!

Martz called more runs than passes AGAIN, and Forte absolutely steamrolled the Eagles with 117 yards and 8.4 yards per carry. The offensive line spent a few plays in Week 4 Mode (when they allowed 10 sacks to the Giants) but ultimately held their own overall and opened up holes left and right in the running game. Maybe, just maybe, the offense needed time to gel under a new offensive coordinator, and maybe, just maybe, we're seeing it start to happen. Could this team be GOOD? I mean actually GOOD?

Ah, what the heck, it was all so much fun, let's just watch a recap:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Top teams prove themselves in final week of regular season

It pains me to say it, but Oregon and Auburn deserve the chance to play in the BCS Championship Game. While I want nothing more than to see TCU get their shot (I even wrote a now-useless blog post about that very topic while Auburn was down 24-0 to Alabama), Auburn and Oregon made rather convincing cases for themselves on Friday. (Side note: Obviously Boise State removed themselves from the conversation with their overtime defeat to Nevada.)

First, Auburn turned Black Friday into a very dark day for Alabama by completing a stunning comeback on the road against a bitter rival who was ranked 11th in the nation. Later, Oregon manhandled #21 Arizona 48-29. It's hard to deny that those two teams have earned the right to play on January 10. (CAVEAT ALERT: If Alabama loses the SEC Championship game against South Carolina or Oregon loses to Oregon State, I'm back aboard the TCU train. Hell, I'll be the conductor of that train.)

It sucks for TCU. After all, they're 35-2 over the last three seasons and, more importantly, they've handled every team on their schedule this season. They beat Oregon State 30-21, Baylor 45-10 and Air Force 38-7, all of whom have been ranked this season. But their signature win came three weeks ago on the road against then-#5 Utah--they absolutely destroyed the Utes 47-7. A win against New Mexico on Saturday put them at 12-0 to finish the season, and they deserve a chance to take the field in Phoenix with the possibility of being crowned national champs.

Problem is, Auburn and Oregon deserve it more. It wasn't always easy for Auburn--Heisman favorite Cam Newton has dealt with rumors of scandal and the Tigers have trailed by 10 or more points four different times this season. And yet, they remain undefeated.

It has been easy for Oregon, however. They've won by 20 or more points eight different times this year and were given a scare really just once when they beat California 15-13. It's clear that the Ducks deserve top billing heading into the bowl season.

Again, each of these teams have a potentially tough game remaining on the schedule, so TCU can maintain hope for at least a few more days. But while it looked for all the world like Alabama would smash the title hopes of their intrastate rivals, it turns out they only put a scare into them as Auburn did to the Tide last year.

The fact is, college football needs a playoff. (Oh, by the way, PLEASE read this phenomenal Sports Illustrated story about the BCS.) But we don't have one yet, and while I desperately want to see TCU get their shot, it's hard to argue against a team that survived the SEC unscathed or a team that continues to overwhelm opponents as if they accidentally signed up for a Pee Wee league. TCU and Boise came very, very close this season, and frankly, I'm holding out hope that Auburn or Oregon will slip up this weekend. But if they don't, it's hard to argue that the Horned Frogs should leapfrog their way into the championship game. If they BCS gods don't smile down upon them next week, here's hoping for next year.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bears will try to ground Vick and the Eagles

Frankly, this will be just the second quality team the Bears have faced all season. And the Eagles have plenty of quality. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the offensive side; Asante Samuel (who may miss the game), Trent Cole, Quintin Mikell and others on the defensive side. They've won five of six overall and have taken over first in the NFC East.

This game could have HUGE implications for the Bears' playoff hopes. If they end up battling for a Wild Card spot with the Eagles, this game will go a long way toward determining which team has a better record and would obviously determine the head-to-head tiebreaker should they finish with the same record. Additionally, should the Bears and Packers split their two games and finish in a tie and with the same divisional record (both of which are very plausible), the next tie-breaker is record against common opponents; the Packers have already beaten the Eagles this season. So with a win on Sunday, the Bears could potentially grab sole possession of first (the Packers have to travel to Atlanta); a loss could knock them behind the Packers and right into the thick of the Wild Card race against teams like the Saints, Bucs and Giants.

The Bears and Eagles matched up on a Sunday night last year and the Eagles pulled out a 24-20 victory.


Urlacher vs. Vick. I doubt the Bears will choose to use Urlacher as a QB spy because I'm not sure any linebacker in the NFL can keep up with him anyway. But Urlacher will usually be the first line of defense AFTER the defensive line when Vick chooses to run, and it should be a fun battle to watch.

Cutler doing his best Vick impression. The Eagles love to blitz, and Cutler will need to continue to show his mobility when the pressure comes. Obviously getting rid of the ball quickly is another way to deal with an aggressive defense, but chances are Cutler will have to make a few plays with his feet.

Try to limit the big play. What scares me about this game is that the Bears are better against the run than the pass, and the Eagles are more than willing to abandon the run if it's not working. With big play threats Jackson and Maclin, along with the solid Jason Avant, the Eagles have had their way with several teams in the passing game. The Bears secondary must try to limit the big play and keep Jackson and Maclin from getting behind the defense.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Things I'm thankful for this year:
  • The Bears are 7-3 and in first in the NFC North. On a side note, I'm two wins away from winning $20 on the bet I placed at the Mirage sports book while in Vegas.
  • The Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals and White Sox did not win the World Series.
  • This summer, I accomplished two golf goals: I broke 90 on 18 holes and broke 40 on 9 holes.
  • It's been a good fall for sports-hate: Favre's farewell has not been a fond one, what with several injuries, a sexting scandal, a 69.5 QB rating, 17 interceptions, a 3-7 record, and two losses to the Packers; the Cowboys have only one more win than coaches this year; the Heat are just 8-7; and Notre Dame is just 6-5 and now mired in scandal. Is it wrong to be thankful that I have so much to hate?
  • Sunday nights in the summer will be much better now that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are out as the announcers of Sunday Night Baseball.
  • The 8-5 Bulls are in first in a weak division and look to have a solid squad. Also, Derrick Rose is third in the NBA in scoring thus far.
  • Illinois and Michigan are bowl eligible, both for the first time since 2007.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rothschild to Yanks

Last week the Yankees poached Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, hiring him to replace Dave Eiland whom they opted not to re-sign. The Cubs say they will keep the search for his replacement in house, with candidates including minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins, Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode, Triple-A pitching coach Mark Mason and Double-A pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn.

Rothschild had been with the Cubs since 2002. In his nine-year tenure, the Cubs led the majors in strikeouts and finished in the top five in the NL in ERA five times.

I've never had a real strong feeling about Rothschild either way, and it may as well be a time for change what with a new manager and bench coach coming in as well. I guess the first thing that comes to mind with regard to whoever replaces Rothschild would be: good luck with Big-Z.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bears defense as good as Gould

Week 11: Bears 16, Dolphins 0

Man, am I sick of Martz and his pass-happy play calling. He could have learned a thing or two from the Dolphins, the way they committed to the run game and just pounded it down the Bears' throats. If I've said it once, I've ...

Wait, what's that? That was the Bears who kept running the ball? The Dolphins' running backs only ran it seven times? Mike Martz called more runs than passes for the second straight game while the Dolphins were over reliant on the arm of their third-string quarterback? Wow. I thought I read somewhere that dolphins were smart. Apparently they have cool sonar abilities but also a tendency to develop ass backward game plans for football games. The "dolphin" Wikipedia page needs to be updated.

But game plan aside, the Bears defense was determined to make sure Miami's offense remained beached. They racked up six sacks and an interception and allowed just 39 yards on the ground. They also allowed just one third down conversion all game. Perhaps most impressively of all, the Dolphins never once made it into the red zone and only made it as far as the Bears' 35 yard line. It all added up to just the second shutout in the NFL this season (the Bucs added a third on Sunday).

Which brings us to today's STAT OF THE DAY! The Bears are allowing just 14.6 points per game, best in the NFL. That's right--by the most important measure, the Bears have the best defense in the league. And that was today's STAT OF THE DAY!

Julius Peppers finally got a chance to pad his stats, piling up three sacks lined up against an injured Jake Long. Having Urlacher back after he missed last season has clearly improved the D, and you have to give some credit to defensive coordinator Rod Marinellli who seems to have the defense clicking much more consistently than last year when Lovie ran the show.

While the offense managed just one touchdown, they had a different assignment on Thursday and accomplished it exceedingly well: keep the ball. The way the Bears defense was playing, it became clear early on that if the Bears could simply maintain possession, the Dolphins wouldn't have enough time for their banged up offense to catch up. By going 10-for-18 on third downs, Cutler and the Bears were able to nearly double up the Dolphins--they had the ball for 37 minutes.

The Bears were able to build an early lead on the strength of two Robbie Gould field goals, and he added another in the third quarter. Forte's touchdown scamper--which was nice to see on a third down from inside the five yard line--essentially put the game away late in the third. Cutler didn't do a whole lot, but he didn't have to; he was successful on third downs and helped the Bears control the ball. As usual, he made one bad mistake when he threw off his back foot right to a Dolphins defender. I don't know what it is with Cutler, but he really loves to throw off his back foot. It's like he has a constant inner ear infection that throws his equilibrium off and makes him lean backwards at all times. But oh well. One mistake in 60 minutes of action on three days' rest isn't too shabby.

So with back-to-back wins as an underdog, the Bears have recouped the two losses they had as favorites against Seattle and Washington. They're a solid 7-3 and remain tied with the Packers for the division lead. With only six games left on the schedule, things are becoming at least a tad bit more clear. Wins against the Vikings and Lions would get the Bears to nine wins, and a victory in Week 17 against the Packers would get them to 10. The Packers also have the Vikings and Lions on their remaining schedule, along with the 49ers. On the bright side, they have to play the Falcons, Patriots and Giants as well.

It should be a fun finish to the season, and that Week 17 game could loom incredibly large. For now, the Bears get some extra rest and then host the red-hot Eagles.

Hey Davone Bess, I think Danieal Manning would like to say hello:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Humor Vault Headlines

In ill-conceived Rookie of the Year sequel, Henry Rowengartner struggles mightily, gets cut from team, falls into downward spiral of drugs and alcohol

Chad Ochocinco actually just a really normal guy, say teammates while Chad Ochocinco is within earshot

Redskins give Rex Grossman 10-year, $150 million deal

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are you ready for some football?! No, not really. It's only Thursday.

Most teams would be completely screwed if they had to start their third string quarterback. The Dolphins, however, have a couple advantages over most teams:

1) Their third stringer is Tyler Thigpen. In 2008 with a bad Chiefs team, he threw for 2,600 yards and 18 TDs. He also has the ability to take off and run with the ball.

2) The Dolphins are a run-first team anyways. With both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, plus a tendency to utilize the Wildcat, the Dolphins don't rely on their QB nearly as much as most teams.

In fact, the last time the two teams matched up, in 2006, Brown ran for 157 yards as the Dolphins handed a 7-0 Bears team its first loss.

There's no doubt the Bears have caught a huge break by drawing Thigpen instead of Henne or Pennington, but the game is no gimme. Another odd advantage the Bears have is that they've managed a 3-1 record on the road this season while Miami is just 1-3 at home.


1st quarter sloppiness? Many of these Thursday night games have featured sloppy first halves. After all, teams are used to having six days to prepare for a game, but the Bears and Dolphins had just three. If the Bears can avoid playing ugly football, it could give them a leg up.

Force them to pass. Again, Tyler Thigpen is not necessarily awful, but he's still a third-stringer for a reason. And since the Bears have the second-best run defense in the league, they need to focus on slowing down Brown and Williams, forcing Miami to put the ball in Thigpen's hands.

Jake Long vs. Julius Peppers. Offensive tackle Jake Long is awesome. In fact, he went first overall in the 2008 draft. But he has a labral tear, and some are saying he's risking serious long-term damage if he plays through it tonight. Chances are he will in fact play, but hopefully Peppers can exploit his injury and have a good game.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not very Favre-fetched to think that was Brett's last meaningful game

Week 10: Bears 27, Vikings 13

Let us rejoice over the fact that Brett Favre's season--and essentially his career--came to an end on Sunday. With the Bears handing the Vikings their sixth loss, they essentially put the inscription on Minnesota's tombstone, and probably put the final nail in the coffin when it comes to Brett Favre's career as well. At 3-6 and basically out of the playoff race, there's actually very little reason for him to continue playing. I realize it's tough to bench a $16 million future Hall of Famer, but the Vikings would be better off seeing whether they have a future with Tarvaris Jackson. As he has done several times this year, Favre contributed significantly to his team's loss, throwing three picks and losing a fumble. He had just 170 yards on the day.

Minnesota found themselves in a position nearly identical to the one they were in last week--down 14 with about four minutes to go. But whereas the Arizona Cardinals allowed Favre and Peterson to snag an overtime victory, the Bears defense stayed strong and secured the win.

It was the best the Bears have looked all year. They played well against the Cowboys in
Week 2, but then we learned that the Cowboys are a bunch of turds. The Bears outgained the Vikings, forced more turnovers, won the time of possession battle and kept the Vikings from scoring a touchdown on any of their three chances in the red zone.

There were a couple phases where the Bears struggled--they had way too many penalties (11 for 116 yards), and Cutler made one inexcusable decision to throw into traffic in the end zone when throwing it away would have resulted in three points.

But I wanted to get the bad stuff out of the way early--there are a lot of positives to get to.

Cutler looked like an entirely different quarterback. He was consistently able to avoid the rush, moving around in the backfield and buying himself time. He was as mobile as an iPhone. (Sorry, that was bad.) He completed passes to nine different guys and threw three touchdowns. When I was in Denver this week, the rental car shuttle driver was pining for the days when the Broncos had Cutler. I told him that Cutler has not exactly exceeded expectations in Chicago, but he was adamant that Cutler went to a Pro Bowl for a reason and that with a good offensive line, Bears fans would absolutely love him. I definitely loved him on Sunday.

But it wasn't all Cutler. Martz actually called more running plays than passing plays, and the Bears had 130 yards on the ground. The offensive balance was a nice thing to see.

**We interrupt this game recap to bring you the STAT OF THE DAY! Third downs often tell the story in an NFL game, and that was the case on Sunday. While the Bears have struggled mightily in that area this season, they were a very successful 11-for-19 against Minnesota. On the other hand, the Bears defense held the Vikings to 1-for-9. And that was today's STAT OF THE DAY!

The Bears' special teams didn't miss out on the fun either. Rashied Davis and Devin Hester each had a nice kick return and Hester had a sweet punt return down the sideline as well. Hester added a touchdown reception in what turned out to be a big day for him with 185 all-purpose yards.

In pretty much any sport, it's always crucial to win within your division. After Sunday's win, the Bears have now beaten every NFC North team (and if you think about it, they beat themselves when they played the Redskins, so they've literally beaten every NFC North team). The win brought them into a tie with the Packers, though the Bears are technically in first by virtue of their head-to-head win over them.

There was more good news for the Bears on Sunday as well: both Chad Henne and Chad Pennington suffered injuries, meaning the Bears' opponent this Thursday night might be forced to start Tyler Thigpen who has played all of 18 NFL games in his life. The Dolphins are still no pushover, though. They beat the Titans on Sunday, they throw a lot of different things at you, including the Wildcat, and Thigpen actually had a decent season back in 2008 with the Chiefs.

In other action, God smiled upon us on Sunday by allowing Gus Johnson to go all Gus Johnson on the best play in the NFL this season. Please pay special attention to the famous Gus Johnson Laugh which comes at the :28 mark. The stupid NFL won't let YouTube show it, so here's the link.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting hitched without a hitch

It was a phenomenal and memorable weekend, and not just because the Bears beat the Vikings and Brett Favre had four turnovers. On Saturday, Trevor Sierra and Becky Krause tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony on Illinois Wesleyan's campus. The happy couple appeared to be, well, very happy! The reception was a blast, a great night was had by all, and there was one hell of a best man speech. Also, I gave a speech. And Trevor fell off the stage, which was hilarious.

Congratulations to Becky and Trevor, and I wish them all the best! They probably won't see this for at least a week as they are currently in the beautiful confines of the 50th state (Hawaii).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bears will try to put Vikings out of their misery

Down 14 with under four minutes to play on Sunday, the Vikings kept their season alive with a stunning comeback capped by an overtime field goal. They're now 3-5, two games behind the second-place Bears. But with a win Sunday and a win next week against Green Bay, they could pull to within one game of first.

On the other hand, a Bears victory would give the Vikes their sixth loss and put them on the brink of elimination (for all intents and purposes). There's a good chance it would also cost Brad Childress his job, what with fans demanding his ouster last Sunday and several Vikings players denouncing him in the Sun-Times this week.

So the Bears could continue to tread water and give the Vikings a lifeline this Sunday, or they could pull into a tie for first and write the Vikings' obituary. Suffice to say, it's a big game.


What can Sidney Rice do? Rice, who had over 1,300 receiving yards and eight TDs last season, has not played this year due to a hip injury. Word is he may return in a limited role against the Bears. There's almost no way he can play the entire game, and one would think he'll be a bit rusty in his return.

Stop A.P. Adrian Peterson has been kept out of the end zone just twice this year, and the Vikings lost both times. The Bears just might be able to slow him down--they have the third-best run defense in the league. And I'm calling it: Peterson will fumble on Sunday; after fumbling at least four times in each of his first three seasons, he has yet to put it on the ground this season.

Cutler's accuracy. The Vikings have just 12 sacks and six interceptions on the season. While nearly every team gets at least a little pressure on Cutler, he should have some time to look down field and find the open man. If he can do that successfully most of the time, the Bears can put up some points--the Vikings have allowed at least 20 points in five straight games.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NFL Visions, Part 2


Miami Dolphins, 4-4
Until their loss in Baltimore on Sunday, they were 4-0 on the road and 0-3 at home this season. If they could create any kind of home field advantage, they'd be in great shape right now. But so far, they've been the epitome of mediocrity: 13th in defense, 16th in offense. Their passing game has improved, but it's not a good sign that Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have combined for three rushing touchdowns on the year.

San Diego Chargers, 4-5
All of a sudden, narrow victories over the Titans and Texans have them showing signs of life. Plus they've reached their bye week and get the lowly Broncos at home in Week 11. On the other hand, they're still a game under .500, trail both the Raiders and Chiefs in their division, and have just the 12th-best record in a strong AFC.


Dallas Cowboys, 1-7
I don't even have to say anything at this point. And that's awesome.


But I can't help it. Seriously, how are they so bad? They've allowed at least 35 points in each of their last three games! Aaron Rodgers was 27-for-34 with three scores. David Garrard lit 'em up for four touchdowns, as did Eli Manning. They're terrible at everything. Just awful. Usually I'm pissed that Detroit's on TV every Thanksgiving, but this year it's Dallas I have no interest in watching. BAD.

San Francisco 49ers, 2-6
They've won as many games in England as they have in America.

Aging veterans who will potentially be in the Hall of Fame one day
-Brett Favre's impressive comeback on Sunday notwithstanding, he has the 27th-best QB rating in the NFL this season and he seems on the verge of death every week. It ain't over yet, but it seems like he may have retired one year too late (assuming he even retires after this season).

-Randy Moss is on his third team and has fewer receiving yards than Jahvid Best, who's a running back. For the Lions. Moss isn't even the best Moss in the NFL this season--Santana Moss has easily outperformed him.

-Donovan McNabb has looked old at times despite being brought to the Redskins to inject some life into a subpar team. Despite not having been pronounced dead or at least horrifically injured, he was replaced in favor of Rex Grossman at the end of a winnable game against Detroit. If getting benched for Rex Grossman doesn't say "You're not having a great season," I don't know what does.

Buffalo Bills, 0-8 and Carolina Panthers, 1-7
Um ... what to say ... At least you're not the Cowboys!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NFL Visions, Part 1


Oakland Raiders, 5-4
I thought they'd have a turnaround season heading into the year, then gave up on them quickly after losses to Arizona and San Fran left them at 2-4. But then they curbstomped the Broncos and Seahawks and pulled out an overtime victory over KC to pull to within a half-game of the Chiefs. Maybe Al Davis isn't crazy after all? ... No, Al Davis is crazy.

Cleveland Browns, 3-5
I'm not saying they're great, I'm just saying things are looking up. With their top two quarterbacks hurt, they turned to rookie Colt McCoy and he's led them to wins over the Saints and Patriots. And the games weren't even close. How crazy is that? Plus they get Jacksonville and Carolina after a match-up with the Jets.

-Jahvid Best has slowed of late, but he's been solid for the Lions and had 88 all-purpose yar
ds against a good Jets defense on Sunday.

-Ndamukong Suh has 6.5 sacks and was the October Rookie of the Month.

-Dez Bryant has a lot of competition at the receiver position on the Cowboys, but he h
as over 400 yards and four touchdowns.

-Mike Williams has done even better for the Bucs with over 500 yards and five TDs.

-As noted above, Colt McCoy has defeated the Saints and Patriots in back-to-back games.

-Sam Bradford has had a relatively incredible first eight games, at least when you consi
der that he's a rookie QB. He's on pace for over 3,200 yards and 22 TDs, the latter being more t
han Schaub, Sanchez, Favre, Henne, McNabb, Cutler ... the list goes on. Matt Ryan's rookie season is considered one of the best ever, and he threw 16 TDs that year. Bradford has also shown incredible poise for a rookie--he has a 101.1 QB rating and zero interceptions on third down.

New York Giants, 6-2
All of a sudden they can't be stopped: they've reeled off five straight wins and are tied (with five other teams) for the best record in the NFL. They've scored at least 28 points in each of their last four games.


Houston Texans, 4-4
If you want a quick score, you're better off playing the Texans than dating Kim Kardashian. (Burned!) But seriously, only three teams give up more points than they do, and their horrendous defense suddenly has them at .500 and tied for last in the AFC South. Okay, granted, they're only a game behind the Colts and Titans, but the Texans' porous secondary has the arrow pointing down in Houston.

Minnesota Vikings, 3-5
Favre finally broke into his bag of magic tricks on Sunday, leading his team back from 14 points down to beat the Cardinals. However, they still find themselves at 3-5, 2.5 back of the Pack. Their next two weeks should go a long way toward determining the final trajectory of their season--they visit the Bears and then have their second match-up against the Packers.

Seattle Seahawks, 4-4
Like the Texans, they're still at least treading water. But they've been outscored 74-10 the last two weeks and suffered their worst home loss since 2002 on Sunday. Suffice to say, things are not looking up. In fact, they kind of look like what you'd find in a diaper.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Week 9: A win is a win is a win

Bears 22, Bills 19

The final result of a football game doesn't always tell the whole story. After all, the Bills went to overtime against the Ravens and Chiefs in their last two games. They fought hard, showed grit. Sports radio callers probably had a few positive things to say after each loss.

But ultimately, football--and every other sport, for that matter--is about winning. Grit also had the Bills up 19-14 in the fourth quarter Sunday, but through nine weeks it's gotten them to an 0-8 record. No wins. Zero. And that's all that matters in the end.

On the other hand, an appropriate simile for the Bears' performance on Sunday would not be, say, that it looked like a beautiful work by Picasso, or that it was exquisite like a delicious meal at a fine steakhouse. But the Bears did just enough to win. It wasn't exactly a game you want to keep on your TiVo and re-watch later in the week, but they put up a "W" and that's the bottom line. Knowing they won by three doesn't tell you the whole story, but it does tell you all you really need to know--that the story has a happy ending.

Cutler at least had moments in which he looked like a decent quarterback. He was able to evade the pass rush a number of times, and in fact was sacked just once. He also used his feet to gain yardage, running for three different first downs after the pocket collapsed. Overall, he was a modest 17-for-30 for 188 yards and two TDs, further decreasing the Bears' rather paltry average of 202 passing yards per game. But the most important number on his line is the zero below the letters "I-N-T." He did fumble once, but at least he never gave Buffalo the ball through the air.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two picks, including one to seal the game, but carved up the Bears secondary for much of the game. He's been doing that to a lot of teams ever since he replaced Trent Edwards in Week 3. Against the Bears, he finished one yard shy of 300 on 51 pass attempts.

It's great that we can be happy about the Bears' fifth win of the season, because otherwise we could complain about the fact that they rushed for just over half the yardage Buffalo gives up on average, and the fact that they couldn't get just one tiny yard late in the fourth when it mattered most. Nope, don't have to complain about those things.

The Packers pasted the Cowboys, not surprisingly, keeping them atop the NFC North by a half-game over the Bears. Though when it comes to that game, I think everyone in America lost--the Packers have found a way to make it excusable for their fans to yell "COOOON" (their running back is named Kuhn) at the top of their lungs throughout the game. I hope you're proud of yourselves, Packers fans.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a 307-pound man missing an extra point. Narrated by Gus Johnson.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bears will try to keep Bills from getting their first win

I'm scared. So scared.

I'm scared because the Bears are playing the only remaining winless team in the NFL ... and I can't say I'm 100 percent sure they're going to win. The Bills took the Chiefs to overtime last week and the Ravens to OT the week before that. They put a scare into New England on the road and lost to Miami by five.

Meanwhile, the Bears offense has been in a downward spiral ever since Week 3. Plus, the Bills' most glaring weakness--their run defense--matches up with the Bears' biggest weakness--their ability to run the ball--so we'll have to wait and see if the Bears can take advantage in that area.

It goes without saying that this is a must-win. The Bears' schedule is backloaded worse than a Jim Hendry contract offer. This is one of the few "definitely could win it" games left on the schedule, and Lovie's squad absolutely has to leave Toronto at 5-3, or they can forget aboot the playoffs.


Commit to running the ball. Seriously. It's not even a question. The Bills give up 188 rushing yards per game. Next-worst in the league is Denver ... at 154. It's comical how bad the Bills' run defense is. If Martz puts the ball in Cutler's hands the entire game, he should be fired.

Don't let QB Fitzpatrick beat you with his feet. Despite not starting the first two games of the season, Fitzpatrick has the third-most rushing yards among quarterbacks. He doesn't quite require a QB spy, but the defense needs to keep containment on him whenever a play breaks down.

Maybe Cutler actually has a chance. Why do I say that? Because the Bills have just one interception all season. One. Every other team has at least four. Please, Jay, please keep this trend alive.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lincecum leads San Fran to giant World Series victory

A few random thoughts on the Giants' first World Series championship since 1954, when they were the New York Giants:

1) There's something pleasant about the fact that the Giants never won it all with Barry Bonds, but won it three years after he retired.

2) Part of me wishes the Rangers had won just so Cliff Lee would have been more inclined to re-sign with them. Anything to keep him away from the Yankees.

3) An important lesson learned: Having a manager on coke can get you to the World Series, but that's it.

4) Has there ever been a World Series victory that brought this many castoffs redemption? Cody Ross was cut from the Marlins this year; Aubrey Huff was placed on waivers by the Orioles and went unsigned by the Tigers last year; Pat Burrell was released by the Rays and subsequently signed to a minor league contract by the Giants; the White Sox let Juan Uribe walk; and the Padres let manager Bruce Bochy head north to a division rival. Congrats to them as well as all the non-misfits on the San Francisco roster.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Humor Vault Headlines

In game played in London, Broncos and Niners called for a shitload of hand balls

Robot from Fox's NFL telecasts escapes, kills seven

Fearful of a fine or suspension, Brian Urlacher uses bye week to practice new gentle, more tender form of tackling

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bye week in review

There's no on-field Bears action to review this week, but let's take a look at how the other NFL games affected da Bears.

The biggest downer was the Packers beating the Jets in what turned out to be the first shutout in the NFL this season. The win moves them to 5-3 and a half-game ahead of the Bears in the NFC North. Rex Ryan had a bye week to prepare for this game, and while he got his defense ready, he couldn't get his offense ready to do anything against a team that had allowed more than 20 points to the Vikings and Dolphins, respectively, in its last two games.

Staying in the division, the Vikings went to New England and took one on the chin--literally. Favre needed stitches in his chin and was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson after getting carted off the field in what appeared to be either a comatose state or a deep sleep. It's quite possible that he died. Minnesota is now 2-5, including 0-4 on the road, and they're tied with the Lions at the south end of the NFC North.

Looking at the bigger playoff picture, it was a mixed bag for the Bears (like Halloween!). The surprising Bucs dropped 38 on the Cardinals to go to 5-2 and into a tie for first with the Falcons. If the season ended today (it doesn't), the Buccaneers would go to the playoffs. The Rams won as well and have climbed to .500, and the Saints got a big win over the Steelers last night to become the fifth NFC team with five wins.

Good for the Bears: the Cowboys' season essentially ending with a drubbing at the hands of the Jaguars; the Redskins laying another egg on the road and falling to 4-4; and the Seahawks falling back to 4-3.

Next week the Bears head to Toronto to face the Bills in a must-win game while the Packers get a home game against the embarrassingly bad Cowboys.