Archive for the ‘NFC North’ Category

Bucky Brooks on crack?

March 14, 2012

Um no Bucky – the Bears offense is not better than the Packers offense because of the Bears addition of malcontent Brandon Marshall. Read here. Is it a better offense than before because of Marshall? Probably. Marshall is a very good player. But is it better than the Packers offense – one of the most potent offenses of the last couple decades? Not even close. And is it now better than the Lions’ offense? No. The Bears most likely will be hard-pressed to end up with the 3rd best offense in the NFC North. And if Christian Ponder or Joe Webb develop at all, it’s possible they could end up 4th in the division again! (Last year, the Bears were the #24 ranked offense in total yards, GB was #3, Detroit was #5 and MN was #18.)

Bucky Brooks is on crack. Nothing else to say really.

NFC North preview from si.com

August 30, 2011

Read here. Not way off, but off. They have Pack going 11-5, Bears 9-7, Detroit 8-8 and Minn 6-10. I agree with the Pack generally (and definitely that the Pack wins the division), and Detroit being around or possibly above .500. But I think the Bears and Vikes need to be flip-flopped. He makes a good point about MN’s beleaguered D-Line and a suspect overall defense, but they will still be tough at home and AP and McNabb will probably end up winning a game or two. (Though I will say a McNabb injury would derail the season quickly – and whatever McNabb’s health, they won’t make the playoffs.) The issues on the Bears line remain. Carimi was a good pick, but for some reason, it sounds like the Bears are moving Carimi to RT and J’Marcus Webb to LT. If I’m not mistaken, I believe both used to play the opposite sides – and I did read that both have had a difficult time adjusting. Doesn’t seem to make sense. I also think they will struggle without Kruetz as center. The Bears will be bad this year.

 

The Charles Martin hit

January 19, 2011

Check out this video from the Charles Martin “hit-list” game Nov, 1986. While I’ve hated the Bears for years, and while the Bears have also been plenty guilty of poor sportsmanship over the years, I have to say this was one of the cheapest cheap shots in sports history. Just an absolutely evil thing that Charles Martin did to QB Jim McMahon – curiously after McMahon helped the Packers by throwing a pick.

For some reason, while I remember being fully aware that it was one of the most egregious penalties I’d ever see – in the moment, I don’t remember feeling as outraged by it then as I do now watching the video.

For those who remember watching this game live – tell me, how did you feel after Martin did this?

The stabilizing presence of Brian Urlacher

January 19, 2011

For a while now, I’ve noticed folks like to argue about whether or not Brian Urlacher is THAT good. I’ve come across a good number of people who believe he’s overrated – the kind of guy with a reputation that no longer fits his talent level. Yet there are plenty of others who believe he still plays at a super high level and is the soul of the Chicago defense. I’m with the latter group. Before this season, I wrote a post about how I thought the Bears’ defense would come back after an off year last year – primarily because Urlacher would be back in the fold. Adding Julius Peppers and Chris Harris helped too, definitely, but Urlacher is the soul of the defense and I believe his healthy presence is the main reason this defense is good again.

As I thought about this though, I felt I needed some numbers to back this up. Knowing that Urlacher’s stats are usually not that impressive, I went searching for the one thing I was pretty sure would separate him from most – the team’s record when he’s not on the field.

  • Since 2004, the team’s regular season record in games Brian Urlacher played was 56-33. That’s a 63% winning percentage.
  • Since 2004, the team’s regular season record in games Urlacher didn’t play was 7-16. That’s a 30% winning percentage.
  • In the year 2004 by itself, Urlacher played in 9 games – the Bears went 5-4 in those 9 games. Their record when he did not play in 2004? 0-7.
  • Since 2004, with Urlacher on the field, the Bears have had a losing record just once – in 2007. (Note: he didn’t play in 2009 when they also had a losing record and in 2004, the Bears were 5-4 when he was on the field…0-7 when he wasn’t.)

These stats may not blow you away but they should adequately highlight the fact that Urlacher’s presence in the lineup is critical to Chicago’s success. He will very much be present in their lineup this weekend and while he may not have the glamor stats like a bunch of picks, forced fumbles, defensive TDs, sacks, he just gets his job done – his job as leader of the defense.

A little more background on James Starks

January 11, 2011

Thanks to reader A-Rodg for pointing out this article about Starks over at National Football Post. Interesting insight – also interesting glimpse into the Bears’ managerial dysfunction.

Why do I get the feeling the Bears will lose to the Lions?

November 29, 2010

Sounds ridiculous after NE destroyed Detroit on Thanksgiving and Chicago ripped apart a quality Eagles’ squad. But there is something, frankly, about Jay Cutler’s mental make-up that makes me feel like a repeat quality performance from Cutler is very unlikely. For my Week 12 weekly picks, I noted that Cutler would have a huge game against the Eagles and finally be the primary reason the Bears would win – and that’s just what happened. It seemed to be a good time for them to play a good team that came to Chicago with tons of hype (almost distraction?) because of Vick. The Bears had just shut out the Dolphins (though a high school team probably could have done that – Tyler Thigpen played one of the worst games I’ve seen a QB play in a long time.) And last week, the Eagle offense was compromised by a tough Giants D and the Bears had the benefit of seeing what the Giants did on film – to slow Vick and co down.

The Bears aren’t bad – I’m not letting my anti-Bears feelings cloud my objectivity here. (In fact, you can go back and read a post from before the season started about why I thought the Bears would be good this year.) And specifically, the Bears’ D and special teams should scare every team they face – hard to argue otherwise. But I’m just not convinced re the Bear offense. And I’m just not sure that this coming week will go the way the extra-confident Bears think it will. The Lions aren’t bad and they’ve proven that over and over this year – despite a crappy record. They have some talented players and their D-Line can be a force. I can see them getting to Cutler and being disruptive, leading Cutler to mental distraction and eventually turnovers. (Detroit is #9 in sacks.) Unless Forte goes nuts, I think the Bears go to Detroit and lose a close one while San Fran comes to Lambeau and gets hammered by an angry Packer team – making it all square atop the NFC North once again.

UPDATE: There is at least a chance that Shaun Hill won’t be playing QB for the Lions this weekend. I think this hurts the Lions’ chances. Drew Stanton isn’t terrible and he’s had some real game experience, but there is a greater chance Shaun Hill can figure out the Bears’ D. If Hill doesn’t play, I’m not sure I’d stick to my prediction that the Bears go down this weekend.

 

Packers/ Vikings Preview

November 21, 2010
  • Lots of thoughts on this game – huge game for both teams.
  • If MN loses, they are done – completely. They are partially done right now, but a loss here and they are totally out of it (no, not quite mathematically, but mentally for sure).
  • Favre and the Vikings will try to downplay the meaning of this game, but the fact is, the Vikes realize this may be the last game they can genuinely get up for this year. They will be ready to go.
  • Favre leads the NFL in turnovers committed at 21. Packer fans know what Favre does when he doesn’t have confidence in his team’s offense (and by extension, in himself): he forces things. That’s exactly what he’s been doing this year and it’s killing the Vikes.
  • The Vikes are a talented team and everyone knows it. But that Vikings’ game a few weeks ago against Arizona got the wrong kind of attention afterward (Favre’s dramatic comeback! Vikes not out of it yet! etc, etc). The focus should have been on this question: what the hell were the Cardinals doing up by 2 TDs with 5 minutes left? The Cardinals are awful this year…awful. The fact that the Vikes couldn’t get it going for 3.5 quarters at home against a weak, weak AZ team was revealing.
  • I expect Peterson and Harvin to be scary this week, per norm. But I can also see, perhaps for the first time, a more public expression of frustration by Peterson if Childress does weird things like take him out for the whole second quarter again. For someone who doesn’t have the patience to drive anywhere near the speed limit (Peterson just got his second speeding ticket in the last year for going way over the speed limit), I can’t believe Peterson has been patient enough to put up with poor coaching for his entire stay in MN. It will boil over at some point.
  • In fact, one key to this game for the Packers is doing something to bring quick frustration to the Vikes’ sideline. It’s no secret Childress has a mutiny on his hands, so just 1 or 2 significant negative situations for the Vikes (turnovers, quick/early TD by the Pack, big 3rd/4th down stops, a few dumb offensive playcalls) and things could unravel pretty fast.
  • I’m starting to get the feeling that TEs, RBs and WRs catching passes uncontested over the middle all day against the Packers may be a thing of the past. There is a different dynamic over the middle when Desmond Bishop is in there. I would characterize both Hawk and Barnett as relatively “non” when it comes to the intimidation factor. Bishop, on the other hand, can be downright scary. It’s a matter of time before he starts hitting folks like Ray Lewis does.
  • Sidney Rice is apparently going to play. He may help them even though he’s injured. That is, until he goes across the middle and runs into Bishop.
  • The Packers now face the additional challenge of keeping up with the Bears. Many poked fun of my preseason post suggesting that the Bears could be good this year. Well, they’re 7-3 and presently hold the tiebreaker over the Pack. And that defense looks very tough. Whether others believe it or not, the Bears think they’re very good now – and that is usually all a team needs to succeed (see the Jets). So a win in this game is crucial for both overall record reasons and tiebreaker reasons (Chicago also has the better division record – thanks to their gift “victory” over the Lions.)
  • I’m eager to see Sam Shields returning kicks. The guy is super fast. I have enjoyed watching him close on guys when making tackles as a DB. On more than one occasion, I’ve thought his tackles have had a weird feel to them – causing weird facial expressions from the guy he’s tackling…as if the guy were saying: “where did this guy come from?”
  • If our O-Line can continue to play together like it has of late, Brandon Jackson could have just enough holes to help keep the pressure off our passing game. And of course, continued good pass blocking may give Rodgers time to pick apart an only OK Vikes’ secondary.
  • It helps that Driver appears to be ready to go again. Even at 90%, Driver adds a savvy veteran element to our offense that could be really useful if Winfield shuts down Jennings (possible…not likely).
  • Rodgers, importantly, has gotten into a bit of a better rhythm in the last few games and this is key. When he’s out of rhythm/lacking his usual keen sense for the game, he quickly becomes more vulnerable to sacks/picks in particular because his ability to determine when to run and when to throw it away is off. McCarthy and Rodgers need to work hard early to make sure Rodgers gets into a good rhythm. Because they both know this, I can see some early, short, 5 yard slants and curls to just build the rhythm.
  • Overall, offensively, expect a heavy dose of short/quick passes, misdirection plays, play action and screens from the Pack Sunday. In the first game, these kinds of plays really threw off the Vikes’ normally active pass rush.
  • Defensively, Capers needs to mix things up and confuse Favre. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some brand new defensive play calls this week. For some reason, I can see a few more corner/safety blitzes than normal – as risky as that can be when AP and Harvin are on the field. Two guys who should probably get more blitz calls are Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Both are so fast that if they can get through cleanly, they can disrupt the play much quicker than pretty much anyone else on the field. (Of course, they can also most easily be knocked off their line to the QB.)
  • I want Mason Crosby to have a big game. This may be my skeptical memory writing here, but I’m not sure he’s ever had a major impact on a very important game. In big games, he always seems to miss at least 1 FG. How about Crosby making all of them in this one!
  • I like that Tim Masthay has now had a huge confidence-boosting game. We’ll need him again Sunday.
  • One scenario seemingly nobody has mentioned leading up to this game, is for the Packers to go in, continue to play well, and tear apart a team that is really and 1-2 mistakes away from caving mentally in any given game. Packers 31, Vikings 24 (only because the Vikes get a late TD).

Does Brad Childress watch film?

November 10, 2010

The following is from here – cbssports rapid reports.

“Coach Brad Childress says former Vikings RB Chester Taylor not being used much by the Bears is less of a reflection on Taylor and has more to do with how well Matt Forte is playing. “Forte is healthy and has the hot hand,” Childress said.”

I wouldn’t consider the #21 ranked running back (in terms of yards) the guy with the “hot hand”. Matt Forte has had 1 good game this year against Carolina – and his 7.5 yards per carry in that game skews the rest of his stats. In 5 of his 8 games he has averaged less that 3 yards per carry – yes, less than 3 yards per carry. He even has a 1.4 in there.

The Vikes dramatic victory may not have been enough…

November 10, 2010

Read here from PFT. Sounds like things remain ugly in MN because of Childress. These are not smart public tatements made by Viking players, though I don’t necessarily blame them (playing for Childress would suck).

The Moss situation

November 2, 2010

Few more thoughts:

  • My initial reaction to this whole thing was that Childress decided to take an extreme action against Moss not only because of his growing disdain for Moss, but also out of frustration for his team’s record, the criticism he gets regularly in general and especially for the criticism he gets for not controlling his team/Favre. Seemed like a classic case of someone who is stressed from multiple issues building up and merging together – which can lead to one huge stress event (in this case, the unilateral decision to jettison Moss). Seemed really stupid and as much as I think Moss behaves like an idiot (it’s hard to force your way out of NE, they usually decide to abruptly cut/trade veterans when THEY are ready…see Richard Seymour), I figured this was mostly just another boneheaded move by Childress.
  • Then I found out a bit more – that Moss had publicly berated a caterer at the Vikings’ facility for the food they brought in – apparently one of those shame moments when you feel so badly/embarrassed for the beratee, if you will, that you want to puke (or just punch the berater, as it were). The accounts of some of his teammates made it sound like he was totally out of control saying rude things. That’s not “Randy just being Randy, hahaha”… -  that’s totally uncalled for and there is no place for that kind of thing anywhere. And I don’t know this for sure but it was implied that Moss did this to someone from a restaurant where players/possibly Childress knew folks. Sounds like it was personal for Childress. Upon reading that, I’ll admit, a part of me thought for a moment: I guess I don’t blame Childress.
  • Then I thought more about the Vikes giving up a 3rd round pick and lots of cash. Then I thought about the fact that even when he doesn’t try, Randy is still valuable because he’s been opening things up nicely for Harvin (who is now injured, by the way). Then I thought about how Childress went solo with this effort, not consulting Wilf – which is a terrible idea. Then I thought about how the Vikes had to know that even though Moss is apparently older now, he had a recent falling out in NE, so he was still at risk for troubling behavior. Then I thought of that line in Airplane: “they knew what they were getting into, I say, let them crash”.
  • Then ultimately, I circled back to my original conclusion: Childress acted hastily here. He should have brought what may have been a fairly solid case against Moss, to Wilf. He could have cited Moss’ post-game comments, his clear lack of effort and his berating of some poor restaurant employee. Wilf probably would have listened and they may have even disciplined Moss (maybe, Moss had a behavior clause in his contract that he violated…if he didn’t have this in his contract…umm, why not?). But I’ll say it again, I think a not-so-small factor in all of this also may have been Childress’ bruised ego. He’s been blasted repeatedly for not standing up to Favre. He’s often criticized generally when things go wrong (because he deserves it and he generally sucks). And there has been a growing feeling all year that he just doesn’t have control of his team. So what does a bad manager/coach do in a situation when cynical defensiveness no longer seems to work? Get offensive and misdirect anger. I think that’s what happened here and it’s the kind of thing that usually gets a guy fired (especially with a future head coach waiting in the wings like Leslie Frazier).

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