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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Holy Shit! We've Been Doing This For Two Years!



As you can see from the number of fingers Kyle's holding up in celebration on his right hand (the one chucking it's way to a 90.2 rating, however inflated by Brandon Stokely that may be), Start Kyle Orton is officially two years old today. If you choose to look it up, September 30th, 2007 was the first ever start for Brian Griese as a Chicago Bear. There were many reasons I was against Brian Griese from the beginning. I found him erratic and mistake prone as a Bronco, and I felt his weak arm and constant, unnecessary checkdowns were hardly an improvement over Rex Grossman. Hell, as far as I was concerned they were hardly an improvement over Chris Chandler.

In Kyle Orton, the Bears had a guy with solid potential, one who had gotten a great deal of experience as a rookie, and had a chance to sit and learn his second year. He had a stronger arm and better mobility than Griese, and his facial hair was second to none. I had finally been convinced of the rationality that Rex Grossman was no longer going to pan out. I had a brief hope, later in the year, when Rex got back in and played effectively, that maybe he could be the guy, but throughout my hope was that the Bears would at least settle on Orton, and not Griese, as the right alternative. During the last three games of the 2007 season, Kyle was given his chance, and went 2-1, making him the only one of the three starters that year to have a winning record (Griese was 3-3, Rex was 2-5). Before the 2008 season, Kyle won the job at starting quarterback, and he gave us hope during the first half that he was finally the answer. Then came his ankle injury and a second half slump that contributed to the Bears missing the playoffs. The year left us with a sick feeling in our stomachs.

I needn't really recount what has transpired since the April trade that took our hero away from us. Those people expecting us to put our love of the Neckbearded One above our love of the team (and thus preventing us from realizing that Jay Cutler is much, much better) were disappointed. But even though Jay Cutler is now our quarterback, Kyle Orton remains as important to us as ever. He's a friend, a companion, a spiritual guide if you will. He encourages us to be merry and drink to our heart's content, but to avoid mistakes and never push things too far, be it by trying to down the entire bottle or attempting to complete a pass downfield. He teaches us that patience is a virtue, even when the two guys taking the job you desperately want are a midget who spends most of his time pissing on himself and an old guy who seems to forget that 3rd and 5 means you should throw the ball at least five yards if you'd like to pick up a first down. Most of all, he teaches us love. For football, for life, and for whiskey.

So in conclusion, it's been a fun two years full of rants, raves, and a roller coaster ride with the career of our patron saint. We promise to keep it coming, and hope you'll all keep reading. Here's to two more years, at least.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 5 NCAA picks

The records after one week are:

Code Red: 5-5

Iggins!: 6-4

I take the victory last week based on my homer pick of Iowa over PSU and the incredibly strange reverse pick of TCU over Clemson. On to week two!


#4 LSU @ #18 Georgia

Iggins!: LSU has struggled against some lesser competition, and Georgia has played four top level teams so far, beating three of them, and only losing barely to a very good OK State team. LSU is ranked this high based on prestige, goodbye to another top 5 team. Georgia wins.

Code Red: LSU has a defense, something Georgia is lacking. Also, Joe Cox just isn’t a good quarterback, even though AJ Green consistently saves his ass. LSU wins.

#22 Michigan @ Michigan State

Code Red: I had deluded myself into thinking that maybe Michigan would be down for a few years under Rich Rod, but alas, it is not so. Michigan.

Iggins!: This is tough. Michigan is showing off their flaws. They have a subpar defense and can be easily gameplanned for, which means lesser competition can make games closer than they should be. But I have no faith in Michigan State winning a close game. Michigan wins.

Washington @ Notre Dame

Iggins!: Notre Dame may not be a BCS worthy team any OTHER year, but with the mess going on right now I bet they’re good enough to get one. Notre Dame wins. (and they’ll beat USC too).

Code Red: The BCS? Nay, I say. But they’ll beat Washington, although my West Coast Tebow, Jake Locker, will have a good game. Notre Dame wins.

Florida State @ Boston College

Code Red: Guh. Why the hell does this game deserve the Gameday Crew? Couldn’t have anything to do with ESPN having an affinity for Boston, could it? Florida State will win, but damned if I give a fuck about it.

Iggins!: Did you just suggest that ESPN sends College Gameday only to places that upper management at ESPN has a vested interest in?! Shocking! FSU is wildly inconsistent, and BC sucks wildly. So I choose FSU for the win.

Oregon State @ AZ State

Iggins!: Oregon State happily made Iowa’s win over Arizona look better last week. It’s impossible to tell if either of these teams is good yet… but I don’t see OSU going 2-3. Oregon State wins.

Code Red: Hmm…hard to say here. Flipping coin- Oregon State wins.

#25 Georgia Tech @ Mississippi State

Code Red: Mississippi State nearly upset LSU, but it will not upset the wishbone! Georgia Tech wins.

Iggins!: Your love of that stupid formation will be your downfall, my friend, for this ACC team is ranked, and because this is the way it is, they must lose. Mississippi State wins.

#7 USC @ #24 California

Iggins!: Here is my basic theory: College football this year has one really good team (Florida) and the next 35 teams are a clusterfuck. Both Cal AND USC are overrated, but USC is somehow still ranked #7, whereas Cal has fallen to a ranking that fits them. Cal will put ‘em in their rightful place. Cal wins.

Code Red: Meh. USC should probably roll off another 10-11 win season from here out. USC wins.

#8 Oklahoma @ #17 Miami FL

Code Red: This one’s tough. I really liked Miami before their loss to VT (even though I picked VT), and I still think they are a talented team with a great young quarterback. Oklahoma has rallied under back up quarterback Landry Jones, and they may even have Chad Bradford back. I just think they’re too talented to lose this game. Oklahoma wins.

Iggins!: Home field advantage is huge here. No way Miami loses. Miami wins.

Washington State @ #16 Oregon

Iggins!: The rest of these games are hard to pick so I figured me and Red needed an easy one. Oregon wins.

Code Red: Oregon.

Wisconsin @ Minnesota

Code Red: Christ, the Big Ten sucks. Wisconsin?

Iggins!: Wisconsin is another team that needs to get a loss, and Minnesota is on their level. Plus, this is a rivalry and Minnesota has a new stadium. Minnesota wins.

How My Top 25 Fared in Week 4 Plus Week 5 Rankings

I'm not gonna recap game by game, especially for the games that weren't surprises, so here's just a brief recap of the ones that did surprise-

Iowa 21, #4 Penn State 10
Iowa's defense is very good. Penn State was incompetent and hurt their own cause repeatedly, but Iowa's constant pressure contributed to that. This was just a terrible performance by PSU in every way.

Oregon 42, #5 Cal 3
What the hell, Cal? The Oregon team that seemed dead in the water against Boise State and barely survived Utah somehow thumps the team that I had as Pac 10 favorite? To hell with thee! Does this just make Boise State's defense really, really good?

South Carolina 16, #6 Ole Miss 10
This one's far less surprising than the other two, as Ole Miss has been a shaky team this season and South Carolina's defense is pretty solid, and South Carolina was at home. Jevan Snead looked absolutely lost under the beating he and his offensive line took. We'll have to see if Ole Miss can rebound through the rest of the SEC schedule, or if this sinks them into mediocrity.#11

#11 Virginia Tech 31, #15 Miami 7
As you'll know if you read this site, I felt the AP was far too quick to rank Miami in the top ten, and I picked VT to win this game. I was a bit surprised at how dominant a performance this was by VT. I expected a better effort by Miami. Oh well.

#17 Georgia Tech 24, #16 North Carolina 7
The wishbone Rebounds, as ACC mediocrity once again Abounds.

South Florida 17, #21 Florida State 7
Good, I can finally get them out of this damn poll. God damn I hate Bobby Bowden.

The new rankings-

#1 Florida (-) They have a bye this week, which will give him time to recover, but I really hope Tim Tebow isn't going to push it and play against LSU if he's not 100%. This is just football, and a concussion of that magnitude isn't something to trifle with (believe me, I would know. Thank you, hit and run driver who left me in a ditch to die!)

#2 Texas (-) They're like, really really good.

#3 Alabama (-) And so are they. Damn you, Nick Saban.

#4 Boise State (+3) That win over Oregon now looks pretty damn legitimate.

#5 Oklahoma (+3) They didn't play, but Sam Bradford's near a return and they're still stacked.

#6 Ohio State (+3) Illinois couldn't even muster up one lousy damn point.

#7 LSU (+3) Every SEC team gets upset (or nearly so) by Miss. State at some point.

#8 Virginia Tech (+3) They look as solid as any of Beamer's best teams right now.

#9 USC (+5) I didn't really want to put them back in the top ten, but look around and ask if anyone else is really that good, either.

#10 Oklahoma State (+3). They're finally getting that offense cranked up.

#11 Cincinnati (+1). I don't want to put them in the top ten yet because I don't trust the Big East.

#12 Penn State (-8). They're better than they played Saturday. How much? I don't know. I'm not sure they'll stay here long.

#13 Ole Miss (-7). I have a bad feeling they're about to sink to a 7-5 mediocrity, but right now I'll hold up on the panic button.

#14 TCU (+5). I really don't know anything about this year's incarnation of the Horned Frogs, but Gary Patterson's teams are consistently good, and they deserve this spot as much as anyone else.

#15 Iowa (NR). I hate ranking them below Penn State, because they manhandled them, but proper poll etiquette dictates that jumping Iowa higher than the top 15 despite being unranked the week before is just wrong, no matter what the AP (#13) says. They'll work their way up, though.

#16 Georgia Tech (+1). The triple option/flexbone/wishbone shall not be stopped!

#17 Georgia (+1). They have great wide receiver who has singlehandedly kept their red headed quarterback from being dreadful and has kept them in games. That's it.

#18 Oregon (NR). Jeremiah Masoli is working his way back into the beast I thought he would be.

#19 Kansas (+1). The Mangino is pleased to be in the top twenty.

#20 Nebraska (+3). It's looking like a very interesting three way battle between Kansas, Mizzou, and Nebraska for the Big 12 North title.

#21 Michigan (+1). The defense looks sketchy (33 points allowed to Indiana?), but the offense keeps rolling.

#22 Houston (+3). They legitimized their win over Oklahoma State with a close win over Texas Tech.

#23 Missouri (+1). They're 4-0 and Blaine Gabbert looks like a damn good quarterback. They beat Illinois as soundly as they should have, this is a pretty decent team.

#24 Miami (-9). They'll rebound, but they aren't BCS bound yet.

#25 Cal (-20). Holy shit, that was an ass whuppin. We'll see how long they can even hang onto this.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bears vs. Seahawks Breakdown


There's plenty to be excited about and concerned about regarding yesterday's performance by the Bears. Given that this was a win, we'll start with the good:

1. The wide receivers. From Earl Bennetts 4 catch, 80 yd performance, to Hester's game winning td catch, to the fact that they were both in single coverage all day because Johnny Knox was drawing double coverage (and he punished them the one time they left him open with 7 yard td catch), this group of wideouts continues to progress every game. As of right now, and of course its early, Hester is on pace for a 997 yd, 10 td season, Bennett is on pace for 896 yards, and Knox is on pace for 848. Throw in Greg Olsen, who's become almost an afterthought after Hester's big game and Knox's earlier performances, and once again I have to state that this team has some serious weapons.

2. Jay Cutler. This guy, of course, is the offense's greatest weapon. For the second straight game he had a passer rating over a 100 (it was a whopping 126.4, actually). For the third straight game he drove the team down the field to put them ahead late. Sadly, thanks to Vasher, he was only rewarded for two of those. As much hand wringing as there was over his opening debut, is there any doubt now that Jay Cutler are who we thought he were?

3. Lance Briggs. This guy is holding the defense together right now and has finally emerged from Urlacher's shadow (well, at least to the point that it's getting noticed outside the organization. Most people who've watched the Bears closely would say Briggs has been the man since the 2007 season). His diving interception was a fantastic play and it came right at a time when the team desparately needed it.

4. Nick Roach. When Hunter Hillenmeyer went down I wondered how much worse things could get for the Bears at linebacker, and yet Roach stepped up and played a solid second half. He read and reacted perfectly to help break up that last pass by Seneca Wallace.

5. The defensive line. Yeah, Seneca Wallace did a good job of making plays on the run, but the defensive line still registered at least 2 sacks (they had 3 today, for 9 on the season) for the third straight game and there's no doubt several Wallace incompletions and the Briggs interception came from poor throws he made while flushed out of the pocket. Marinelli is paying off better than even Lovie predicted this offseason.

The Bad-

1. The secondary. Wallace didn't have the greatest of games, and I understand it's hard for corners and safeties to avoid breakdowns when a quarterback can scramble and buy as much time as Wallace did. The catches Nate Burleson made (9 catches for 109 yds) were just inexcusable. The tackling by the secondary was also poor, which sadly is unsurprising at this point. The Julius Jones touchdown reception was just brutal, especially when he got past Tillman, who swatted for the ball and tried to get a takeaway rather than just wrapping up and finishing the play.

2. The offensive line. The run blocking is just pathetic right now. The pass blocking has been somewhere around decent (though they did give up 2 sacks) since the Green Bay game, but not exceptional, but the run blocking has just been atrocious. They are not re-establishing the line of scrimmage at all, and the backfield penetration is concerning. Lovie is adamant that Pace and Omiyale are not likely to be benched any time soon, so any hope of Beekman and Shaffer helping out needs to put away for now. Its up to the guys that are out there to play better, and that includes the venerable Olin Kreutz. How many times do different Bears quarterbacks have to fumble the snap before someone, anyone, points out that the common denominator is Kreutz? I don't hold him blameless. This unit just needs to get its head of its collective ass and start pushing people back.

3. Jim Mora, Jr. This has nothing to do with the Bears, and he certainly helped them yesterday just by being out there, but I really just don't like that guy.

I realize a lot of people are mildly upset because they expected the Bears to beat up on a team that was missing some starters and was awful last year, but they need to realize that nothing is going to come all of that easy for these Bears. The offense is slowly getting there, but it's still a work in progress (you know, scoring points before half time would be progress), and this defense has actually performed admirably without Urlacher and with a patchwork secondary. As long as Cutler is back there under center and the defense continues to just hang in there, they'll have a chance at winning every ball game they play from here on out. They won't, of course, but I still think at the end of this regular season they'll have been on the right side enough times to get them into the playoffs.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ahem...

Will this man...


This man...


This man...


And this man...


Please report to the Start Kyle Orton headquarters for shirtless man hugs.

Go Bears. (Breakdown to come tomorrow, celebrate tonight.)

Ahem.

Iowa beats Penn State AGAIN

Well that was fun. To recap:

-Darryl Clark is not good.
-Evan Royster is not good
-Iowa's defense IS good
-Iowa's freshman RBs ARE good
-Ricky Stanzi can throw a mean checkdown to his RBs.

Here are the facts: Iowa is good, yes. Beating Penn State in their
own house at night is a big accomplishment no matter how you do it.
But, if you look at the stats, the fact is this team is weak for the exact
same reason that PSU is weak. Their defense is incredible but the
play of quarterback Ricky Stanzi is inconsistent at best. Iowa has
an RB tandem with a red shirt freshman and a true freshman. Iowa's
best wide receiver was recruited as a quarterback. And remember,
they almost lost to Northern Iowa!
...
...
...
But fuck the stats.
Here are facts:

-The game last night was played in a rainy mess. The reason Stanzi's
line looked so bad is because 1) His wide receivers couldn't catch the
ball in the rain, 2) His two interceptions were both tipped balls off of
easily completable passes, and 3) He, unlike Darryl, played according
to the conditions, throwing checkdowns and swing passes instead of
risky long passes in a monsoon.

-Robinson and Wegher are both very good RBs. They may be young
but the tandem of the bruising Robinson and the slippery Wegher is
potent. Why the hell did Paki start this season as the number 1 back?

-The pass catching talent is deeper than just wide receivers. Tony
Moeaki and Wegher can both catch very well. Marvin McNutt is
having a great season aside from dropping a few last night in the rain.
DJK and Trey Stross are viable options, though certainly not great
wideouts.

-The offensive line is always good. It's Iowa. And we've all seen how
good the entire defense is.

Now am I saying Iowa will go undefeated? GOD NO. They have a
great team and a great gameplan: for the NFL. The sad truth is that
in college football defense doesn't win championships, and even
though Iowa's offense is underrated, it isn't in the top 20 in the nation.
Even if they go undefeated they WILL lose to Texas or Florida or
Alabama, and odds are they'll lose to Ohio State or Michigan before
that. But they do deserve respect: more respect than they have been
given (Ranked #22 to start the year... and they win their first 3 games...
but drop out of the top 25 not to return until after they beat #5?). The
rest of the Big Ten season should be interesting.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Start Kyle Orton Roundtable- Week 3 NFL Picks

Yesterday we gave our picks for College, today it's every NFL game.

Washington @ Detroit

Iggins!:God this game will suck. I think the lions will take this chance to finally get a win, but who cares? Lions Win.

Code Red: I’d love for this to be Detroit’s chance at a win. I really would. But Washington’s defense is actually good and so far Stafford has yet to note that a linebacker is Not an offensive player. Washington wins, but Detroit will get theirs in week 8 against the Rams, or week 11 against the Browns. Or both. Skins.

Green Bay @ St. Louis

Code Red: Green Bay. St. Louis remains remarkably shitty. It’s already race between them and Cleveland for the #1 overall pick.

Iggins!: Wow the Packer’s offensive line is terrible. I’m going to assume losing to the Bungals was due to the Bengals being much better. For now. Green Bay wins.

San Francisco @ Minnesota

Iggins!: The Vikings have shown two things: 1) They were down at halftime to the two worst teams in the NFL and 2) Adrian Peterson is their only form of offense. Samurai Mike won’t let the Vikings beat them with that kind of predictable bullshit. 49ers win.

Code Red: The 49ers will actually force Brett Favre to throw more than 5 yards downfield, and that will lead to bad things. The Fightin’ Singletary’s will take it.

Atlanta @ New England

Code Red: Falcons. And man will I savor the 1-2 Patriots.

Iggins!: Wow New England should be 0-2 LEODIS MCKELVIN I’M TALKING TO YOU. They look bad and Atlanta looks great. Atlanta wins.

Tennessee @ NY Jets

Iggins!: I believe in the NY Jets and Rex Ryan. The Titans both scare AND confuse me. Easy choice. NY Jets win.

Code Red: I like the Jets and Rex Ryan, but their bound to suffer a drop off in intensity after the circus of the New England game. Tennessee is too good to start 0-3. Titans win.

Kansas City @ Philly

Code Red: Philly. I don’t care if McNabb is still out, the Chiefs suck and I hate Matt Cassell, aka, Scott Mitchell the Deuce.

Iggins!: I don’t think the Chiefs are this bad. I can’t believe that yet. They played the Ravens hard and for some reason the Raiders are keeping it close in every game despite having nothing that anyone could call an offense. But Philly is just too good. Philly Wins.

NY Giants @ Tampa Bay

Iggins!: This really isn’t so much about the Giants being good as it is about the Bucs being really, really bad. NY Giants win.

Code Red: What he said. Giants.

Cleveland @ Baltimore

Code Red: Baltimore. Holy shit, Baltimore. The Browns are awful. So awful. Brady Quinn is utterly incapable of throwing a deep ball. Jeff Garcia mocks his temerity.

Iggins!: The Ravens could win this game with their 2nd string. Baltimore wins.

Jacksonville @ Houston
Iggins!: You know people were picking Jacksonville to contend for the division title? You know those people have now been put into mental institutions? Houston wins.

Code Red: I don’t remember people picking Jacksonville for a division title. They blow. Houston.

Chicago @ Seattle

Iggins!: SENECA WALLACE YOU WILL PAY. Bears win.

Code Red: Perhaps a story is necessary. For those of you who aren’t Hawkeye fans, Seneca Wallace led the Cyclones to hand Iowa its only regular season defeat during the 2002 season. Iggins! has never recovered from this. He’s totally right though. The Bears will finally run the ball, and Cutler will have a chance to use the play action pass to set up the deep ball. Bears, 28-14.

Miami @ San Diego

Code Red: Miami held the ball for 3 full quarters against the Colts and still lost. Despite his great season last year, Chad Pennington’s arm strength is already leading the Dolphins to discuss starting Chad Henne. The Chargers will look to bounce back after the Ravens loss. San Diego will stop the wildcat, and Miami will have no offense. Chargers.

Iggins!: Sigh. I really don’t want to put Miami down to go 0-3… But I don’t think they have a chance. Chargers win.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati

Iggins!: This is very spicy. The Bengals might be having a mini-resurgence. Benson (the bastard) is running really well and the passing game is deadly. Couple that with the loss of Polamalu and, well… I think I convinced myself. Bengals win.

Code Red: You are bold, my friend. But are you daring? I agree that the Bengals look much improved, but they aren’t at that point yet. Steelers.

Denver @ Oakland

Code Red: It’s really sad. I should be ecstatic that some nice plays by Brandon Stokely have allowed KO to post some decent numbers, even if he’s looked shaky most of the time. I should be happy that Denver fans might stop hating him. Except I’m so god damn tired of jackasses like Peter King saying “here’s an interesting stat, Kyle Orton 1-0, Jay Cutler 0-1” without considering the fact that the Broncos have won on the flukiest fluke play in the history of fluke, and the other win was also hardly convincing. Broncos fans are ecstatic that their defense held the Browns without a touchdown, ignoring the fact that the Browns have scored exactly one touchdown against the entire league since last November. With that said, Oakland’s defense is legit, and they’ll be able to run the ball against Denver. Oakland wins a close one. Sorry, Kyle.

Iggins!: How has Oakland managed to have two close games with perhaps the worst QB ever at the helm? Hell they aren’t even running the ball well! I don’t get it. So the Broncos win and then promptly lose their next 5 games in a row.

Indy @ Arizona

Code Red: Indy’s defense looked like shit against the Dolphins. This game should be a fun one to watch, but the Cardinals will win the shootout.

Iggins!: I don’t believe you, Indianapolis. Arizona wins.

Carolina @ Dallas

Code Red: Romo vs. Delhomme. Which one will throw more mind-numbingly stupid picks? I say Delhomme. Cowboys win.

Iggins!: Both of these teams seem to get every major sports outlet to jump on their cocks every season. Which is why I enjoy watching both of them lose, and is also why this game is so hard for me. Cowboys win, I guess.

Statistics revisited

In response to my post yesterday Code Red (who loves his advanced metrics) pointed me to footballoutsiders.com, a website that attempts to satisfy my need for better statistics in football. It's not a bad website for statistics, and the DVOA and DYAR are good parameters for running backs. The defensive and offensive line statistics are relatively sound too, but there is still the all-encompassing problem of separating line play and running back play from one another. I think the running back statistics are pretty well formed. The aforementioned Frank Gore sits at the right spot.

However, the statistics at that website don't work for wide receivers and only semi-work for quarterbacks. To me, a quarterback makes a wide receiver look good. You can have Randy Moss and Andre Johnson on your team, but if Jonathan Quinn is your starting QB their stats are going to reflect that. Because of this, wide receiver statistics are consistently misleading. Even on footballoutsiders they make note that their catch rate statistic only involves the percentage of catches made when that receiver has been thrown to, and does not only include drops. So essentially, If Cutler throws a pass over Johnny Knox's head, that counts against him, which to me makes their wide receiver statistics largely irrelevant.

Knox
I use the example of Johnny Knox because his catch rate is currently a 63%, even though I only remember him dropping one pass. It also doesn't factor in wide receivers who aren't given many opportunities. Another Chicago example would be Devin Hester. He's made some truly great catches this year and has done everything very well, but he hasn't had many opportunities to show off his abilities yet, making it difficult to rank him compared to other receivers. Also, if dropped passes aren't factored in, I can't truly get a number on how poorly Greg Olsen has been playing.

Also, there should be a way to account for the "one bad game". Cutler had a terrible game against Green Bay, but let's say that was the exception, not the rule (so I can keep my sanity). How do we account for that? If by the end of the year that was his one bad game, should those statistics be weighted less?

This is just food for thought. Honestly I think football is too complicated a game to get very many true statistical measures. Basically, I encourage people to watch the football games and then make an assessment of a player based on what you saw. Statistics can often be hollow and misleading in the great sport of football.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Johnny Knox Should Not Be Above Devin Hester


Slot, X, Z- it doesn't really matter if you're just faster than the other guy.

After Johnny Knox's hot start to the season, I've heard several fans talk about how he already seems to be a better wide receiver than Devin Hester and how he should be the number one wideout. This ignores some pretty fundamental issues that are the very reasons Why Knox has done so well so far.

1. He's the slot receiver. Slot receivers are typically matched up against the nickelback or even a safety. With his blazing speed Knox is a mismatch for nearly any safety, and he's obviously a better mactch up in coverage with a team's third best corner than their number one.

2. He's Only a slot receiver. Multiple times over the course of training camp the Bears mentioned that they were limiting Knox's practice reps to the slot position, as Earl Bennett last year had trouble digesting the playbook while learning the X, Z, and slot positions. By placing Knox primarily in the slot and only as the X in certain packages, they limit the playbook for the rookie and help him to get on the field early.

3. The slot receiver is the hot read. Cutler isn't necessarily looking for Knox first on many plays because he prefers him to Hester or Bennett, he's doing it because Green Bay and Pittsburgh have been bringing the kitchen sink and the hot route on most plays in a three wide set is the slot receiver. Given Knox's speed, he's the perfect receiver to hit on the quick slant against man coverage (assuming he doesn't just stop mid route and let Cutler get picked off).

I love Johnny Knox. The kid's speed and his ability to make plays despite coming out of FCS (1-AA) Abilene Christian as an unknown are impressive. However, if the Bears were to flip flop Hester and Knox in the lineup, Hester would get the targets Knox has been getting as long as team's choose to blitz the Bears on every passing down.

What this really means, is that despite Morrissey and countless others' gloom and doom, the Bears actually have legitimate talent at wide receiver. Lost in the panic over Cutler's four interceptions was the fact that Bennett (7 for 66), Hester (4 for 90, TD), and Knox (2 for 82) all had the best receiving games of their young careers against a team widely regarded as having one of the best secondaries in football, with corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson and safeties Atari Bigby and Nick Collins. During the game against Green Bay the Bears had a total of five pass plays that went for over 20 yards, easily the highest total the team has had in years.

What's likely is that the Bears will cut back slightly on the two tight end sets they ran most of the time last year and work in more three wide receiver sets. Similar to the base offense of the New England Patriots, the Bears could pull Jason McKie out of the game and use Greg Olsen as more an H-Back than a tight end, a player used to either block out of the backfield or motion to the line of scrimmage as a tight end. They could also, as we've seen, motion Olsen out wide and run a four wide, or even a five wide with Matt Forte also lining up in scrimmage. They experimented with this a bit last week, as they used a three wide receiver set far more than they did in almost any game last year (believe it or not, they just weren't that eager to make sure they got Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd, or Rashied Davis on the field that often).

If the Bears can run the ball effectively against Seattle (and I think they will), they can set up the play action pass, which is the most effective component of Ron Turner's offense when it's at its best. This will open up both Hester and Knox downfield for even more deep balls. Really, when you consider the mismatches that a healthy Bears receiving corps featuring the speed of Hester and Knox, the hands of Bennett, the power of the Clark/Olsen (or even Kellen Davis for that matter) duo, and the ability of Matt Forte to release out of the backfield, it's a wonder anyone was really all that worried at all about Cutler having enough targets.

The problem with football statistics.

On last week's FOX NFL Sunday pregame show Howie Long happened to say that statistics were for baseball fans. Initially my response was something like, "What an old school meathead" but then I started to think. Every time I get into an argument with Red about a player there always seems to be an argument about how "Good" a player's game actually was. For example:

Frank Gore
Frank Gore rushed for a little over 200 yards on Sunday, which is an astronomical game when you simply look at that number. Even the more respected statistic Yards Per Carry is incredibly high at something like 12 ypc. But almost all his yards came on two runs of 80 yards each. Can we factor out those two long runs? Or is that just part of the game and doesn't diminish his incredible stats? We can't really answer that question, which is the problem with stats in football: there are too many factors to consider.

Baseball statistics are successful in grading a player because of the linearity of the game. A player either gets a hit, walks, or is out. He is either caught stealing or steals a base. Even errors are easily factored in. In football too many things can happen to "screw up" somebody's stats.

For quarterbacks stats get screwed up because of dropped passes, tipped balls, interceptions that weren't their fault, and freak occurrences. Not to mention they can be screwed up in good ways for the QB; a receiver catches a 2 yard pass and runs 70 yards, a pass is almost intercepted but is tipped and caught by a receiver for a TD, etc. For running backs like Gore it's even more difficult to find a relevant statistic. Is it the RB or is it his offensive line doing the work? Should we count it against them if they have a terrible line?

Baseball statistics have matured with newer stats like OBP, WHIP, and Slugging pct. The "relevant" football statistics haven't changed for years. Simply measuring a football player by how many yards they gain, tackles they make, and touchdowns they score will not prove whether or not they are great. I'm not saying I can, because if I could I would have, but football needs new kinds of relevant statistics. Football stats are moving in the right direction by measuring things that aren't readily obvious, like YAC (yards after contact) and "bags" (holding calls that a defensive player forces), but I'd like to see more combined statistics.

As it stands, football statistics simply create argument about their legitimacy. I'd much rather be able to argue about whether Forte is better than Frank Gore using legitimate statistics than having to argue about whether or not Gore's stats are a fluke.

Start Kyle Orton Roundtable- Week 4 College Picks.


Darryll, go shut this Iggins! kid up.

The co-founder of this site, Iggins! has graciously agreed to return weekly for a round of predictions and smack talking. We've picked some of the top college football games at random and then every NFL game, and we shall see who comes out on top. Without further ado, let it begin:

#4 Ole Miss vs. South Carolina

Iggins!: I really, REALLY think Ole Miss is overrated, and this is an in conference game against an above average opponent away from home, but... well Spurrier has let me down in these situations with SC too many times. Ole Miss wins.

Code Red: I’m one of the ones overrating Ole Miss, but I love the Rex Grossmanish flair of Jevan Snead. Spurrier can appreciate the gun slinging. Ole Miss Wins.

Fresno State @ #14 Cincinnati

Iggins!: Hey look! It's two teams Illinois inexplicably scheduled this year (evil laugh). If Cincinnati goes undefeated through the Big East do they get into the title game? Does anybody care? Cinci wins.

Code Red: God damn you, Ron Guenther. Why must you schedule three potential bowl teams as your non conference slate? Cincy wins.

USF @ #18 Florida State

Iggins!: Popular pick for an upset, but I think they'll win just so they can let FSU fans down later. FSU wins.

Code Red: I’d have taken USF had they not just lost quarterback Matt Grothe for the season. And he is a beast from da Big East. FSU Wins. God damn I hate Bobby Bowden

#22 UNC @ Ga Tech

Iggins!: Georgia Tech will win because the ACC is a cesspool of mediocrity and UNC isn’t good. GT wins.

Code Red: Georgia Tech will rebound with the upset. Because I love the wishbone and I shall use the force of my will to bring them back into the rankings. Also, did you know John Shoop is UNC’s offensive coordinator? He has to find a way to fuck this up.GT wins.


#6 Cal @ Oregon

Iggins!: Jahvid Best is a scary bastard and Oregon confuses me with their shittiness. Cal Wins.

Code Red: Jahvid Best vs. Legerroute Blount, two great runn—oh wait, I forgot Blount is off the team for a weak ass sucker punch. CAL.

#9 Miami FL @ #11 Va Tech

Iggins!: Normally I’d hate to pick Miami, on the road against conference rivals… but wow Va Tech is boring. Miami can’t be held under 21 points and I don’t think Va Tech can score 21 against them so I’m saying Miami wins.

Code Red: This is interesting. Miami is legit, and Jacory Harris is beyond terrifying. But they’re not quite top ten yet. I really think VA Tech is. So I’m taking Beamer and defense over Jacory’s afro of power. Va Tech wins.

Illinois @ #13 OSU

Iggins!:This is difficult because Illinois is so unpredictable and OSU is so incredibly predictable. OSU played better than USC for the entire game and somehow lost. It could happen again, but I’m taking the safe bet and assuming Ron Zook will fuck up. OSU wins.

Code Red: Sigh. Ohio State.

#15 TCU @ Clemson

Iggins!: I love Clemson for no reason. But I also know they love blowing close games, and I think this’ll be another instant classic in a bad way. TCU wins.

Code Red: TCU is a solid program that makes very few mistakes. Clemson is its typical inconsistent train wreck. No one would favor Clemson here, which is while they’ll do the crazy ass Clemson thing and win. Clemson wins.

#24 Wazu @ Stanford
Iggins!: Washington isn’t good. USC is just not good too. Harbaugh ftw and the letdown! Stanford wins.

Code Red: I completely agree. I love Jake Locker, my tiny west coast Tebow, and while I’d like to see him keep Washington on a roll, its time for Harbaugh to make his move. Stanford wins.

Iowa @ #5 Penn State

Iggins!: I expect to be berated for this pick, mainly because I attend the University of Iowa, but hear me out. Darryll Clark is not a good quarterback. Royster is an okay running back. Iowa’s defense is good enough to shut them down. That being said, PSU’s defense is good enough to shut Iowa down too. This game will be incredibly boring, but Iowa will win because Clark does something stupid. Iowa Wins.

Code Red: Time for the berating. I’ll actually agree that Darryll Clark isn’t as good as he seems, but he’s still better than Ricky Stanzi. Evan Royster is a fantastic tailback, and my illustrious comrade is a whore. PSU will win because in a tight defensive battle, Stanzi is far more likely to do something stupid (3.6 career interception %) than Darryll Clark (1.9%), no matter what my friend convinces himself. Iowa’s defense is certainly a match for PSU’s, but Penn State’s offense is just that tad bit better, and the game is in Happy Valley. Penn State wins.

I'll post the NFL picks later today or tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

College Football Rankings

I missed these last week so I'm not going to recap how my Top 25 did, since they would have changed quite a bit between week 2 and 3 anyways, so instead I'll just say how the AP Top 25 did before putting up my new rankings.

#1 Florida 23, Tennessee 13. For some reason people are making a big deal out of the low scoring total for Florida, which is odd, since Tennessee has always had a great defense, and even last year's meeting between the two was a low scoring affair. The important thing is that Florida won.

#2 Texas 34, Texas Tech 24. Most people that know me know of my undying love for the brilliansanity of Mike Leach, so I'm optimistic Texas Tech will have reloaded by next year.

#3 USC 13, Washington 16. Haha. You know, I always felt that Washington under Ty Willingham was wasting the considerable talents of Jake Locker, who is very similar in skill set to Tim Tebow. With some actual coaching from new head coach (and former USC OC) Steve Sarkisian, Locker's averaging 288.0 total yards per game, with 7 total tds, 1 interception, and a 138.7 rating. Oh, and he just beat USC, who have now lost at least one game in which they were favored by double digits each year since 2006.

#4 Alabama 53, North Texas 7. Damn you, Nick Saban.

#5 Ole Miss 52, SE Louisiana 6. As much as I liked them before the season, and I realize they're 2-0, Ole Miss concerns me. They haven't played shit for competition (their opener was against Memphis), and yet Jevan Snead has looked slightly suspect to me so far. Hopefully that's just an illusion.

#6 Penn State 31, Temple 6. Still wondering if I should really be exicted about the Illini-Penn State tickets I have.

#7 BYU 28, Florida State 54 . Ouch. Holy shit I did not see this coming. Way to fuck that one up, BYU.

#8 Cal 35, Minnesota 21. Cal scored five touchdowns. Jahvid Best had 5 of those.

#9 LSU 31, LA Lafayette 3. Charles Tillman must be crushed.

#10 Boise State 51, Fresno State 34. There's that offense I've been waiting for.

#11 Ohio State 38, Toledo 0. Fantastic.

#12 Oklahoma 45, Tulsa 0. The Sam Bradford injury is really killing them, other than the part where his replacement threw 6 fucking td passes.

#13 Virginia Tech 16, #19 Nebraska 15. This was actually a pretty well decent game to watch.

#14 Georgia Tech 17, #20 Miami 33. This one hurts, as I had GT all the way up to my top ten. Miami is looking scary now that they have a real quarterback again.

#15 TCU 56, Texas State 21. Fine job, Horned Frogs. I didn't even know there was a Texas State.

#16 Oklahoma State 41, Rice 24. Good to see Zac Robinson and company get that offense on track.

#17 Cincinnati 28, Oregon State 18. So happy Ron Guenther scheduled Cinci as an Illini non-conference game. Tears of joy happy.

#18 Utah 24, Oregon 31. Good. I didn't really like Utah that much anyway.

#21 Houston- Idle.

#22 Kansas 44, Duke 16. The Mangino is pleased with this effort.

#23 Georgia 52, Arkansas 41. Maybe Joe Cox can throw the ball. But probably not. At least Bobby Petrino lost.

#24 UNC 31, East Carolina 17. This is a bigger win than it seems, as East Carolina can occasionally be a trap game. Just ask West Virginia.

#25 Michigan 45, Eastern Michigan 17. Damnit. They'd better fall apart during the conference schedule.

My new rankings-

#1 Florida- They'll be back to a scoring behemoth next week.
#2 Texas- The Big 12 is theirs.
#3 Alabama- Damnit, Nick Saban.
#4 Penn State- Even with Michigan's resurgence, they look to easily be the class of the Big Ten.
#5 Cal- They will win the Pac 10. Book it.
#6 Ole Miss- I'm terrified they're going to fuck up and make me look like a moran.
#7 Boise State- The rest of their schedule is easy as pie.
#8 Oklahoma- They've bounced back from the shock of the Bradford injury pretty well.
#9 Ohio State- As long as they've got more talent on the field than the other team, they win.
#10 LSU- They're climbing.
#11 Virginia Tech- Beamerball at it's best.
#12 Cincinnati- Can't wait for that road trip.
#13 Oklahoma State- They've got a few more easy games against Grambling and Texas A&M to help them tune up before hitting the meat of the Big 12 schedule.
#14 USC- Ha. Ha.
#15 Miami- Frightening, I say.
#16 UNC- Shoop is their offensive coordinator. I still marvel that he has a job, and isn't actually god awful at it at the college level.
#17 Georgia Tech- Get it fixed, guys. You mustn't let the wishbone fail!
#18 Georgia- They still need a real quarterback.
#19 TCU- Solid as always.
#20 Kansas- The Mangino is not pleased with this ranking. I tremble in fear.
#21 Florida State- They'll drop out after an inexplicable loss to South Florida or something. Sweet mother of God I hate Bobby Bowden.
#22 Michigan- I must begin to resign myself to the fact that they're going to be good from here on out.
#23 Nebraska- I still like how far they've come under Pellini. They'll shake off the loss to VT.
#24 Missouri- Blaine Gabbert is a fine looking quarterback.
#25 Houston- Meh. This spot's a freebie anyways.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bears-Steelers Breakdown


Tillman thanks Cutler for bailing his ass out.

I swear, one of these days I'll be an objective blogger, one who can actually write analysis when I'm all ANGER'd up after a loss, rather than just write after wins. But not today. Today it's time to break down the game through the rosy eyes of victory-

Good-

Jay Cutler- Jay was as good this week as he was awful last week, and that's saying something. Ever since half time of last Sunday he's put it together and managed to get this team in gear despite the complete lack of a run game. Today he had just one pass that was ill-advised, and fortunately the defender was too far away to make a play. The important thing is that he kept his head and stayed in the pocket this week, and only rolled out on called bootlegs. He set his feet on nearly every throw and the results (71 % comp., 104.7 rating) were good. He overcame at least 6 dropped passes by my count and never got rattled. I'll just go ahead and assume that we won't be seeing last week's first half Cutler for a long time, if ever again.

Johnny Knox- I said before the season that the Aromashadu/Rashied Davis argument would be a moot point once Knox was ready to move into the slot. I didn't realize that would be so soon. After two games he leads the team with a 152 receiving yards. He's a dangerous match up in the slot. He brings Devin Hester's speed against the defense's third best cornerback, and that's going to play in the Bears favor on nearly every play. Once team's start paying more attention to him that's only going to lead to more opportunities for Bennett, Olsen, and Hester. This receiving corps might be alright, Morrissey, given that Cutler's averaging 256.6 ypg and the Hester/Bennett/Knox trio are averaging 175 of those yards. Granted, there's plenty of room for improvement, considering the drops and the mistakes that led to a few Cutler interceptions last week, but the long term potential here should make everyone happy.

Offensive Line (pass blocking)- The offensive line did a much better job giving Cutler time to throw this week, and he was only sacked once, and that was after a scramble.

Defensive Line- I'll give them more of a B- this week than the A they managed last week, but after they allowed Roethlisberger a decade to throw during the first half they improved in the second, racking up 2 sacks and a couple TFL's in the second half.

The defense as a whole put in a great effort, although Tillman struggled to cover Holmes all day.

Bad-

Offensive Line (run blocking)- Forte hasn't had a god damn inch of day light in either game. Part of this I blame on Ron Turner for his continued insistence on trying to beat a 3-4 defense to the outside, as well as his delayed handoffs. Hopefully this team will match up better against the 4-3 of the Seahawks next week, and Forte can finally make the offense two dimensional. If the play action pass can become a factor this offense will be scary.

Charles Tillman- Outside of one easy interception that came off of an Alex Brown hit on Roethlisberger he was frequently beat by Holmes.

And I'll leave it at that, since I'm soaking up the happy. I fully expect Rick Morrissey to come out praising Cutler's leadership and abilities, since he tore him to pieces earlier this week. Nevermind. I confused Rick with someone with integrity or actual ability.

Go Bears.

Atta Boy, Jay


Nice job. That effort was grittier than David Eckstein making love to Ryan Theriot while covered in sandpaper.

17-14 Bears.

Go Bears.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

From Here on Out...

No more predictions. No more "woo, SI, Football Outsiders, etc. picked the Bears to go to the Superbowl!" The regular season started and a lot of things went very, very wrong. Pisa's out for a month. Urlacher's gone for the year. Cutler....uggh. I'm not going to bemoan that it "looks like we've been fooled again!" because we haven't. Jay Cutler's going to be the best damn quarterback that's ever put on a Bears uniform. It may take more time than the optimist in me projected, but he'll get there. Hell, the transformation between his first half and second half on Sunday was night and day. He will play better against Pittsburgh, I guarantee it. I won't make excuses for him. The offensive line was bad and Knox's stopping had more to do with that last interception than Jay did, but that happened to Rex and Kyle often enough and I'm just done with it. Jay's the guy, he's going to be the guy, and by the end of this season that game will be the distant memory its supposed to be. Hell, hopefully by Sunday night it's the distant memory its supposed to be.

As for the defense, well, I could rain doom upon them too, but there's reason to hope. The performance they put up on Sunday was outstanding beyond one blown coverage by Nathan Vasher (and who didn't see that coming with the way he'd tread on thin ice all night?), and there's every reason to believe that once Bowman's 100%, he's out there instead of Vasher. Even after Urlacher and Tinoisamoa were long gone, the defense was pretty stout. The best news is that the defensive line is perfectly intact and they looked bloodthirsty. If this team holds out long enough for Pisa to return, and Hillenmeyer performs adequately in the middle (which he will do given that it's his natural position), and the defensive line can give that kind of performance week in and week out, they'll keep this team in ball games. Would I be more confident with Urlacher back there? Hell yes, and if you don't agree, and I know some people who won't, you probably need to stop watching football. Urlacher's lost a step, no doubt, but any team in the NFL that doesn't have Ray Lewis, Antonio Pierce, Patrick Willis, or Lofa Tatapu would probably kill to have him in the lineup.

On Sunday, Pittsburgh comes to town, running a 3-4 defense just like Green Bay, and the approach needs to be different. The inside run needs to be featured prominently, rather than the idiocy of running sweeps to the outside and expecting Roberto Garza or Frank Omiyale to pull and consistently beat a linebacker or a safety to the point of attack. That can work, occasionally, if you catch the defense off guard. Not if it's your only running play. The run needs to work so the play action pass can keep Cutler upright and in the pocket without a blitzer in his face every damn down. The defensive line needs to take advantage of Pittsburgh's weak o-line and Ben Roethlisberger's tendency to hold the ball like he's Gollum and its his "Precious." Finally, and it goes mostly without saying, Cutler needs to not chuck it up like he's playing 500. If they make those adjustments, they'll win that ball game.

And I know right now the Morrissey's of the world are having a field day. The Cutler they hoped would flop, did...for one game. But I'll tell you one thing, I'll tell you one fuckin' thing, I hope they get fuckin' hotter than shit, just to stuff it up them 50 fuckin' journalists that show up every fuckin' day, because if they're the real Chicago fuckin' media, they can kiss my fuckin' ass right downtown and PRINT IT.

I tell you, it'll take more than a 0 and 1 or 1 and 2 start to destroy the makeup of this club. I guarantee you that. There's some fuckin' pros out there that wanna win. But you're stuck in a fuckin' stigma of the fuckin' Patriots and the Colts and the Giants and all that cheap shit. It's unbelievable. It really is. It's a disheartening fuckin' situation that we're in right now. Anybody who was associated with the Bear organization the last two decades that came back and sees the multitude of progress that's been made will understand that if they're football people, that 0 and 1 doesn't negate all that work. We got 15 fuckin' games left.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Well That F*&king Sucked.

What part was your favorite? The fact that Jay Cutler's worst career game came in his first start as a Bear? How about an outstanding defensive performance erased by the fact that Nathan Vasher's corpse still can't cover a damn thing? How about the fact that Brian Urlacher is out for the season?

God Damn. I'm too frustrated (and sick, thank you, sinus infection) to deal with this right now. See ya later this week.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunday Is the First Day of the Rest of Our Lives



Sunday night, around 7:00 o'clock pm central time, the 2009 Chicago Bears will take the field against the Green Bay Packers. The moment I've waited my entire Bears-fandom for, through all of the PT Willis's, Will Furrers, Steve Stenstroms, Rick Mirers, Cade McNowns, and Jonathan Quinns, will arrive when Jay Cutler, NFL quarterback takes the field for the first time in a regular season game with an orange C stuck on his helmet. Rick Morrissey would have you believe that I'm salivating over my mistaken belief that the Bears will win the Superbowl this year. What I'm salivating over is that they have a chance. This year, and next year. And every year that Jay Cutler takes the snaps for this team.

I'm not a huge fan of Chris Collinsworth (no matter how hilarious the comment about Cutler, Olsen, and Olsen's wife being a threesome was), but I have to agree with what he said during the Denver game, when he said "There are a lot of ways to win games in the NFL. You can win with defense, running games, field position, but the easiest way to win is with the quarterback." I hate Brett Favre more than any athlete currently playing (Bonds is involuntarily retired, so Brett wins), but I saw him take plenty of Packers teams that had less than stellar talent on offense and defense to the playoffs damn near every year. Granted, once he got there he usually was the reason they lost, but fuck that, I'm making a point. Name me one franchise quarterback who didn't make his team vastly better. Hell, Carson Palmer willed the Bengals to 11-5 once. It's time to put the Bears in that category. No more "if Rex Grossman can just play smart football and not lose games...", no more "if Kyle Orton can just manage the game and make a few plays...", no more "If Cade McNown would just fall off a cliff and die...". None of that. It's in the past. From now on its "The Bears may have some issues _____, but with Jay Cutler under center they can never be discounted."

I've got more faith in this year's defense than most, but I also think that even if they struggle, this team's still in the playoffs, or at least playing for a playoff spot the last week of the season. Since the day I was born this team has been 164-171. Considering the first thing I really remember is Wannstedt's first season, they've been 120-136. Say goodbye to that.

I realize some people are screaming that Cutler is 17-20 as a starter and obviously a quarterback isn't the Only thing you need, to which I wonder what record any previous Bears quarterback would have managed with the 29th ranked defense in the NFL. 8-8 is an outstanding accomplishment at that point. There will be down years with Cutler at quarterback. But an 8-8 "down year" is acceptable. Just knowing every year that they may only need to add one or two players to be right back in Superbowl contention feels good. Knowing that those one or two players won't include a quarterback is priceless.

But beyond Cutler, let's focus on some important things about this game-

-The defensive line- Everybody's healthy. Including Tommie Harris. If that, and all of Marinelli's work, doesn't result in a pass rush, nothing will. They'll get Rodgers on the run.

-The secondary- The Bears are playing it coy with Tillman's injury, but Lovie may have accidentally hinted at Peanut lining up at corner on Sunday. With that said, this is still beyond the scariest part of the team. If the defensive line doesn't get a rush, then hope that Cutler's experience with shootouts will come in handy.

-The linebackers- Everyone's claiming that Urlacher looks healthy again, which I'll buy when I see that. Pisa Tinoisamoa is a huge upgrade over the Hunter Hillenmeyer/Nick Roach combo used at that position last year. Lance Briggs is as good as it gets. They're going to be called upon to do a lot in coverage on Saturday. Still, if there's any part of the defense you can feel good about, it's these guys.

-The offensive line- The Packer's first round pick, defensive tackle BJ Raji, is doubtful with an injured ankle. This should hopefully bode well for the Bears run game. If Forte can get on track early, the rest of the offense will flow through him and Jay Cutler will make one hell of a first impression.

Honestly, this has been the longest offseason of my life. The loss against Houston wrapped up a disappointing season that left this team with far more questions than answers. No one knew where the hell this thing was going. Then April 2nd rolled around and Jerry Angelo told the team that it was time to win. On Sunday they get their first crack at it, and its about damn time.

Go Bears.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Morrissey! Why am I not Surprised, you Piece of Shit!

That line, of course, is one of Sean Connery's best in what's possibly the single greatest film of all time, The Rock*. But anyways, our friend Rick is back, and you of course shouldn't be surprised that the whole point is to crap on the Bears. Without further ado, he's in italics:

Sports Illustrated has the Bears going to the Super Bowl this season, raising the obvious question: Where does Lovie Smith find the time to coach an NFL team and write for a major publication?

Yeah, how dare those professional journalists taking an objective look at the Bears determine that with a legitimate offense, a hopefully improved defense, and the league's weakest schedule, they might be a competitor in a wide open NFC.

The magazine's prediction might be bold -- might even be meandering toward insane -- but on the other hand, what the heck. If you can't dream big before the regular season begins, when can you? Autumn and Jay Cutler passes are in the air, and lots of true believers in town already are feeling sorry for the '72 Dolphins.

Who? Who is feeling sorry for the '72 Dolphins. Other than the fact that they're the biggest group of asshats in the football world, who in Chicago is actually predicting this? Is he addressing the meatheads? Because that's DEFINITELY a worthwhile endeavor. David Haugh picked the Vikings. NFL Network picked the Packers. Hell, Mike Ditka picked the Packers. Nobody is buying Cutler=Superbowl. Morrissey just wants them to so that he can say "I told you so!" if the Bears fail to win a Superbowl this year.

Fervor almost always reaches critical mass in Chicago this time of year, but with the reviled Packers first on the schedule and Cutler at quarterback, it might be too much for some of the more excitable Bears fans, the ones with pre-existing heart conditions and/or heat-packing spouses who are tired of being asked to scout next week's opponent.

So he Is talking to the meatheads.

When has there been this much buzz surrounding the Bears? Even their most recent Super Bowl season, 2006, didn't produce the kind of anticipation we're seeing as the team readies for its Sunday night opener in Green Bay. Yes, the defense was exceptional in '06, but the quarterback was Rex Grossman.

Actually I was far more confident going into that season. The division was much weaker, the defense much more stout, and I WAS convinced Rex was the answer.

Might we have to go back to that most holy of holy years, 1985, to find similar levels of excitement? I don't mean to put these Bears on that level because they're not even close in terms of overall talent. But when has a blanket of enthusiasm covered the land like this?

That time I thought I saw Rick Morrissey dead on the street? Turns out it was just a hobo.

Is the galloping optimism warranted? No, but never underestimate the ardor of fans who have been deprived of a newfangled thing called "the forward pass." And here comes Cutler, with an arm like a deranged pitching machine.

I can imagine Rick trying to come up with that sentence. It just made the final cut over "The only passing most Bears fans are involved with involves their own gas!"

Can a quarterback make that big a difference?

Yes. Holy shit, yes. Are you fucking kidding me?

Maybe the better question is, Can a quarterback with Cutler's skills make an average Bears team that much better?

Yes.

First off, the guy is not a miracle worker, though there were off-season reports he could change water into beer. If he can keep his head on straight and if just one wide receiver starts playing like an NFL wide receiver, Cutler is worth one more victory this season and perhaps a wild-card berth for a team that went 9-7 last year.

Oh look, a shot at Cutler for drinking this spring. It's not like he's a single 26 year old with millions of dollars in disposable income and didn't have to work for another two to three months after the fact. Actually, Football Outsiders project the Bears to have the best record in the NFC. Not that I agree, but they use actual metrics rather than a pessimistic desire to tear down Cutler becuase they advocated the team would be better without him.

I know that's disappointing to those of you who wept joyfully and unapologetically after reading the SI prediction. But the defensive backfield remains a big question mark. The good news is that, perception-wise, Charles Tillman has turned into a Pro Bowl cornerback while he recovers from back surgery. If he stays off the field much longer, he can start writing his Hall of Fame induction speech.

Or he's just a solid cornerback with experience on a secondary lacking it. A secondary that every Bears fan, and every expert, I know or have read labels as the team's biggest problem.

And whoever Tommie Harris is these days, he's not Tommie Harris, circa 2005. He's closer to the Miller High Life delivery guy.

The guy had 5 sacks and 37 tackles in a "down" year. He looked good and got into the backfield repeatedly against Denver. He's healthy. He'll be starting week one. The rest of the defensive line has really taken to Marinelli's coaching and also look improved. And Miller High Life sucks, and those commercials should have died out two years ago. The champagne of beers, my ass.

To sum up, hope for a Super Bowl appearance centers on two things not involving psychedelics: Cutler being as good as hyped, which might be impossible even if he were Joe Montana in his prime, and the defense being above average, which is a huge challenge for a unit that talks the talk but walks with a limp.

Cutler hype has become Morrissey's straw man. No one that knows a damn thing about football is predicting him to singlehandedly carry them to a Superbowl. Morrissey's just saying they are so that even when he has a solid 3500 yd, 20+ td effort and the Bears make the playoffs, he can either say "yeah, but he wasn't even in the top 5 in____ and they didn't win the Superbowl! Guess I was right after all!" Meanwhile everyone else will go back to enjoying the fact that the Bears have an NFL quarterback and the hilarity that is Morrissey defending to the grave his statement that the Bears would be better off without him.

Oh, and the Bears are hoping running back Matt Forte doesn't go all Geovany Soto on them in his second year

Statistically most runningbacks improve from their first to second season. Hell, the three names I hear most often compared to Matt Forte are LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, and Marshall Faulk. Tell me if any of those three "regressed" in their second year.

OK, now the good news. Going by the NFL's strength of schedule formula, the Bears have the easiest schedule in the league, with their opponents' combined 2008 winning percentage at .414. When the Bears went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, they had the NFL's easiest schedule, as well, with opponents' winning percentage from the season before at .445.

I'm so damn tired of hearing that. You know who else gets to play the Lions twice this year? The Packers and the Vikings. Stop acting like Chicago is the only team that get's to benefit from a shot at Matt Millen's Mistakes.

I'm no mathematician, but the fact that they play 0-16 Detroit twice this season might be a factor in the easiest-schedule discussion. The word "easiest" comes with warning labels: the Bears face six opponents that made the playoffs last season: the Steelers, Ravens, Vikings, Cardinals, Falcons and Eagles.

The Steelers will be tough, as will the game in Baltimore, but they went 1-1 against the Vikings last year, the Cardinals are playing in Chicago in what will probably be cold weather (and their pass defense is, shall we say, sketchy?), they would have beaten the Falcons last year were it not for one retarded decision to squib kick, and they Did beat the Eagles last yar. I'll take it.

Mike Ditka, the buzz killer, says the Packers are going to win the NFC North. There are three possibilities here: A) he's right, B) he's very, very distracted after becoming a part owner in the Lingerie Football League or C) a combination of A and B. He's correct that the Bears won't win the division, but he has the wrong team in first. That would be the Vikings with Brett Favre.

Mike Ditka is a self parody at this point. Hell, he has been since about 1986. He's an obnoxious homer most of the time and I've yet to hear him offer one legitimate piece of football analysis outside of "______ is tough!" and "I'm gonna trade every fucking thing I have to pick up Ricky Williams! That'll work!" I'll survive his betrayal.

We're about to find out if a talented Bears quarterback can carve a passing game out of two tight ends and a running back. What better place to do it than Green Bay and what better team to do it against than the Packers?

Sigh. Back to the receivers again. Why does this seem familiar... let's go back....

From August 11th (the second time I ripped into Morrissey):

"Like I pointed out in my Cutler article, there are plenty of precedents for team's that can make the playoffs without great wide receivers, so long as there are options like tight ends or runningbacks."

And That was already a copy and paste from the First time I ripped into Morrissey, back on July 27th.

Also, here's an interesting piece from Football Outsiders on how Ron Turner has used, and can use, that same offense to create constant mismatches and help Cutler "carve out a passing game."

Come to think of it, Detroit and the Lions wouldn't have been such a bad option.

No shit.

Go to hell, Rick Morrissey

*-The Rock may not be the greatest movie of all time. But it is beyond awesome. If you haven't seen it, or worse, have seen it and didn't like it, you should just cut off your testicles right now, because you clearly don't need them. Since you aren't a man.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bears Final Roster


Congrats, Devin.

Quarterbacks - Jay Cutler, Caleb Hanie

Runningbacks- Matt Forte, Garrett Wolfe, Adrian Peterson

Tight Ends- Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark, Kellen Davis, Michael Gaines

Wide Receivers- Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Devin Aromashadu, Rashied Davis, Johnny Knox, Juaquin Iglesias

Offensive Linemen- Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Chris Williams, Kevin Shaffer, Lance Louis, Josh Beekman

Defensive Lineman- Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown, Tommie Harris, Anthony Adams, Marcus Harrison, Israel Idonijie, Jarron Gilbert, Mark Anderson, Matt Toeiana

Linebackers- Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Jamar Williams, Nick Roach

Cornerbacks- Zack Bowman, Charles Tillman, Corey Graham, Nathan Vasher, Trumaine McBride, DJ Moore

Safeties- Danieal Manning, Kevin Payne, Al Afalava, Josh Bullocks, Craig Steltz

Specialists- Robbie Gould, Brad Maynard, Patrick Mannelly.

Notes- I think they made the right choice on the wideouts. Aromashadu is a more polished and talented receiver than Rideau, and Rashied Davis' solid work as a gunner makes him worth keeping, so long as Aromashadu holds down the slot until Johnny Knox is ready to take it from him. I'm a little surprised they cut Rod Hood and kept Trumaine McBride. All that tells me is that I need to sacrifice even more to C'thulu to ensure that Tillman is healthy enough to go on Sunday.

Not many other surprises other than the Bears actually making the smart move of cutting Brett Basanez and only going with two quarterbacks. Basanez made the practice squad, so he should be there if something should happen. Granted, if anything Does happen to Cutler this year I'll be so far gone from the booze I'll drink to numb the pain every Sunday that I won't even notice Basanez's weak arm out there. Another smart move was stashing Henry Melton on the IR for the year. He's a prospect worth taking another look at next year.

The injury to Kevin Jones hurts as Garrett Wolfe will need to be effective (something he hasn't done at all in his career), lest this team subjects Forte to the kind of abuse he took last year (which would have long term effects, trust me).

Also, Rex Grossman is now officially the back up quarterback for the Houston Texans, and Matt Schaub's already dealing with an injury, so raise your Sexy Rexy Alert to Elevated and keep your eyes on the heart of Texas.

How My Top 25 Fared This Weekend, Plus Another Ron Zook Rant

Sorry I've waited until Tuesday to react to this weekend's events (my breakdown of the Bears roster plus mild moping over Kevin Jones' injury to come later today), I was, however, turning 21 years of age and celebrating all that that entails, so f*&k you, you don't own me, and I'm not sorry at all.

Anywho, how my top 25 fared this weekend-

#1 Florida 62, Charleston Southern 3. That was to be expected.

#2 Texas 59, Louisiana Monroe 20. Mildly concerned about allowing 20 points? Not really.

#3 Oklahoma 13, BYU 14. This one's a shocker in many ways. The saddest thing about this game is what may have happened to the future of Sam Bradford. He's elected Not to have surgery on his injured shoulder, and he's currently expected to be out for 2-4 weeks. If he's off his game when he returns, not only will Oklahoma's season be dead in the water, his nearly sure-fire status as the #1 pick in the draft will be kaput. For his sake I hope he comes back strong. Great showing by the BYU defense, though, even without Bradford.

#4 USC 56, San Jose State 3. Well that's nice. They reload with a true freshman quarterback and come out looking like the same leviathan of doom as always. Obviously the game against Ohio State this week will be the true indicator of whether or not this team will be successful, but I have no problem going out on that limb and saying that Ohio State's getting its ass kicked.

#5 Ole Miss 45, Memphis 14. Well, for at least one week my confidence in them (the AP had them at #8) is rewarded.

#6 Ohio State 31, Navy 27. I'm really not going to act shocked that Navy played them so well, or act like anyone should be concerned for Ohio State. Navy's a well coached, hard fighting ball club that runs a difficult triple option offense that few know how to defend well. They'll be alright. They're still getting their asses kicked on Saturday, but they should run the table after that.

#7 Virginia Tech 24, #8 Alabama 34. Shit. I said in my preview that Alabama had too many questions on offense for me to rank them at #5 like the AP did. And I predicted that VT would knock them off. Fail one for me. Alabama looks dangerous if they can score as consistently as they did against a typically stout Frank Beamer defense.

#9 Penn State 31, Akron 7. I have tickets to the Illinois-Penn State game on October 3rd. I was optimistic that Illinois could take them in Champaign. That optimism is dying. Fast.

#10 Oklahoma State 24, #13 Georgia 10. I wasn't quite expecting the low score in this game, but I'm more than confident Zac Robinson will straighten the kinks out of his game on offense, and I'm impressed (but not too impressed with Georgia's offense being a work in progress) with the Cowboys' defense. I'm sure they were all salivating as their potential for making a BCS bowl shot straight up as Sam Bradford was crumpled to the turf.

#11 Oregon 8, #12 Boise State 19. There are meltdowns, and then there are the Britney Spears shaving herself bald style meltdowns similar to what Oregon experienced on opening night. Their biggest concern going into the season was how well their new offensive line would play, and the pants shitting was epic. They couldn't block a damn thing all night, and Boise State made them look like they were moving in slow motion. They lost their star tailback for the season after he lost his cool and cold cocked a Boise State player after the game. They're screwed. Boise State's defense looked pretty solid, though. So they'll be rising.

#14 Cal 52, Maryland 14. Wow. I did not expect Cal to issue a thumping of this magnitude on opening night. The battle for the Pac 10 just got very interesting, even with Oregon looking completely inept.

#15 Georgia Tech 37, Jacksonville State 17. 'Cuz I'm a rambling man from Georgia and A HELL OF AN ENGINEER!

#16 Nebraska 49, Florida Atlantic 3. My biggest reach of the Top 25 (AP- #24), so far they look as good as I expected. I see big things for Pelini's crew in year two. (Big things= soft Big 12 North schedule+ass raping at the hands of Texas in Big 12 title game).

#17 LSU 31, Washington 23. I understand Washington has a new staff and a healthy Jake Locker back to make them a much improved team from last year's winles squad, but LSU should have looked better. We'll see.

#18 Cincinnati 47, Rutgers 15. My Big East favorite comes out looking strong. Rutgers is still struggling in the post-Ray Rice era.

#19 North Carolina 40, Citadel 6. Not really much to say here.

#20 NC State 3, South Carolina 7. Uggh. Dana Bible (NC State's Offensive Coordinator) really sucks at his job. They're gone.

#21 Utah 35, Utah State 17. Solid effort for the Utes.

#22 Iowa 17, Northern Iowa 16. I was listening to this game on the radio in Des Moines, trying to will UNI to victory. They came damn close, having their 40 yard GW field goal attempt blocked....twice. For Iowa, this is extremely concerning. They've already lost their starting runningback for the year and failed to run the ball effectively, and they struggled defensively when UNI spread it out. I've had a hunch for a while that they could have trouble in Aimes against an Iowa State team with a new spread offense and the very mobile Austin Arnaud at quarterback, and it's only getting stronger.

#23 Notre Dame 35, Nevada 0. The 35 points on offense aren't surprising, and maybe even a little low against a weak WAC defense, but the shut out is really surprising against a Nevada offense lead by returning quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I hate to say it, but ND could be making a BCS run this year. (They'll still get their asses handed to them when they get there).

#24 Oregon State 34, Portland State 7. Fair enough.

#25 Illinois 9, Missouri 37. Fuck. FUCK. My homer pick for #25 was supposed to be grounded in some optimism, with so many returning starters on offense, a new offensive coordinator, and adding a second target for Juice in Florida transfer Jarred Fayson, things were looking good for the Illini. Beat Missouri and Illinois State, tread water against Ohio State and Penn State and start 2-2 at worst, then hit a softer conference schedule. Instead this team came out and just shat the bed against Mizzou. They lost their top two runningbacks (one before the game), and arguably the nation's best receiver in the first quarter. They were sloppy and shot themselves in the foot over and over again (Juice's interception which went straight through his receivers hands was typical).

This team, once again, wins and loses solely on talent alone, as the mistakes are always plentiful. I wish I could act like it was just first game jitters and that Zook will clamp down on those mistakes, but he's shown no inclination in any of the previous four seasons to do that. I won't deny his incredible talent for recruiting, and I don't blame him one bit for his 4-19 start at Illinois after how utterly barren Ron Turner left the program, but the only thing that kept Illinois from a bowl game last year was itself. Hell, lost in the euphoria of 2007's Rose Bowl run was the fact that penalties, turnovers, and other easily avoided mental mistakes cost that team wins against Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri.

Ignoring Penn State and Ohio State, this team has four games left that it Should win (Illinois State, at Indiana, at Purdue, Michigan). It has at least five others where they should at least go 2-3 (Michigan State, at Minnesota, Northwestern, at Cincinnati, Fresno State). Even if they lose both to OSU and PSU (and they probably will), that should make them 6-6 and bowl eligible. If that doesn't happen, Zook's ass had better at least be on the hot seat. They can't make the mistake of hanging onto a coach for too long based on one lucky BCS run, like they did with Turner.

My new Top 25-
#1 (-) Florida
#2 (-) Texas
#3 (+1)USC
#4 (+1) Ole Miss
#5 (+3) Alabama
#6 (-) Ohio State
#7 (+2) Penn State
#8 (+2) Oklahoma State
#9 (+5) Cal
#10 (+2) Boise State
#11 (+4) Georgia Tech
#12 (-5) Virginia Tech
#13 (-10) Oklahoma
#14 (+2) Nebraska
#15 (+2) LSU
#16 (+2) Cincinnati
#17 (+2) North Carolina
#18 (+5) Notre Dame
#19 (+2) Utah
#20 (+4) Oregon State
#21 (-8) Georgia
#22 (NR) BYU
#23 (NR) Miami
#24 (NR) Michigan State
#25 (NR) Missouri

Dropped out- Oregon (11), NC State (20), Iowa (22), Illinois (25)

Some Notes- Yes, Oklahoma is ranked over BYU even though BYU beat them. They'll be better with a week to prepare for not having Sam Bradford, and when he comes back they'll be a threat in the Big 12 again, although their national title hopes are probably shot. Iowa won, but their poor showing drops them out (as well as the fact that they will lose to Iowa State. I HAVE SPOKEN). Illinois falls out because they suck. BYU and Miami get in for impressive showings against what were AP ranked teams. Michigan State gets in because they probably should have been there already. Missouri gets in because their defense looks improved and Blaine Gabbert actually looks like he may be an improvement over Chase Daniel with his stronger arm.

Bears update to come later today. I swear.