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THE WINDY CITY WEEKLY: WILL BEARS GO ALL OUT OR PACK IT IN?
Posted By Kevin Scholla On Jan 2 2011 @ 3:16 am In Chicago | No Comments
Securing a bye week was far from a sure thing a week ago. The Bears needed to beat the Jets, and still it’d be a long shot to wrap up a bye before Week 17, because that would mean the Eagles would have to lose to struggling Minnesota. Well, so much for odds makers. Chicago used a high octane offense to outscore New York and Philadelphia fell on their faces, losing to the Joe Webb and the Vikings on Tuesday night. The win by the two touchdown underdog Vikes served as a belated Christmas present for the Bears. Thanks to the exciting win over the Jets and the Eagles loss, Lovie and company can be no worse than the two seed.
So, the equation for today is simple. If New Orleans and/or Atlanta win today, the Bears are locked into the number two slot before their game at Lambeau even kicks off. If somehow the Saints and Falcons both lose, the Bears can claim the top seed in the NFC if they can beat the Packers. A Packers win and they’re in as a wild card. If Green Bay loses they’re out, unless Tampa Bay and the Giants lose.
What’s not so simple is how the Bears approach today’s contest. Do you go all out? Do you go all out only if you can get the one-seed? Do you rest most of your starters no matter what? History would point to the Bears resting many core players today. Then again, you never know. In 2005 after wrapping up the Northand the two seed, Chicago sat most of their key players. Rex Grossman did not play. Instead, Coach Smith went with a Kyle Orton-Jeff Blake combo at quarterback. The Bears lost. Two weeks later, Steve Smith and the Panthers invaded Soldier Field and walked away with an upset divisional round victory. The following year, the Bears actually wrapped up the topseed with two weeks left. After beating Detroit, the Bears played more starters than expected in their finale against Green Bay. Still, the Bears lost. But, two weeks later they knocked off Seattle and then went on to down the Saints in the NFC title game. So, the answer is…there is no right answer. I believe the most important thing today is to not suffer any injuries. The Bears have been remarkably healthy this year. They’d like to continue that trend going into the postseason.
Of course you’d love to eliminate the Packers today on many levels. They are the Bears’ arch rivals and they could potentially be a dangerous opponent in the playoffs. A win would also give the Bears a sweep of the division. However, if Green Bay does qualify, that may not be the worst thing in the world for Chicago. A Packer win would set up a Green Bay-Eagles match-up in Philadelphia next week. The Pack could absolutely win that game. That could bode well for Chicago because it would keep the dangerous Eagles from coming to Soldier Field. Plus, the Packers would then head to Atlanta, so the Bears wouldn’t have to worry about facing them either, at least not right away.
I expect the Bears to play today with a lot of gusto and play to win. That said, I’d be shocked if many key players like Cutler, Hester, Urlacher, Peppers, and Briggs play for very long. It just wouldn’t be smart.
Last Sunday’s win showed us many things. First the negative: the Bears tackling must improve in the postseason. Perhaps slippery Soldier Field played a part, but Chicago hasn’t tackled consistently for a few games now. Hopefully that will be corrected. If it is the field though, perhaps the two seed is better than the one. Maybe a Bears game in Atlanta favors Chicago, not the Falcons, because of the playing surface. The biggest positives from the Jets win are these: Mike Martz’ offense is really starting to take shape. Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox are starting to show they can be big play guys when Cutler needs them. Most importantly, the win is a sign that the Bears can beat you in many ways. After a plethora of defensive battles this year it was nice (and rare) to see Chicago score 40 and 38 points in back-to-back weeks.
The cancellation of the Eagles-Vikings contest last week was ridiculous. Football should be played in all weather except lightning. There was a major snow storm no doubt. So what? The players for both sides were there and ready to go. The public safety argument is a legitimate one. But, must you attend the game as a fan if your life is at stake? If you feel the conditions are unsafe, stay home and watch it on TV. The game would have been so memorable if it took place as scheduled. People in Philadelphia would have looked back years later and said ‘remember when we had to stay home and huddle around the TV because of that storm?’ and people across the country would have said ’remember that crazy snow game in 2010?’ Instead, the league where you can no longer hit the quarterback or hit anyone in the way we were all taught as children decided to postpone the game due to snow. What kind of a precedent does this set? When do you call NFL games now and who makes the call? Do we play in seven inches of snow but not eight? Kudos to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell for ripping the NFL on this one. Papa Bear Halas would’ve never let this game be moved. The good news for the Bears is, it all worked out in their favor anyway.
Northwestern has dropped eight straight bowl games following a 45-38 loss to Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl.
After a Christmas Day dud against the Knicks, the Bulls are running again. Chicago has posted wins over Detroit, Milwaukee, New Jersey, and Cleveland. Not a championship contender in the bunch, but that’s the point. The Bulls are beating the teams they are supposed to beat this season. They are focusing night-in and night-out. That hasn’t always been the case in recent years. The Bulls are also playing well in Noah’s absence, the same way they did sans Boozer. Imagine when Noah returns. Imagine if Chicago can acquire a shooting guard. A deep playoff run may be on tap.
DePaul is 0-2 in Big East play after losing to Georgetown yesterday. That’s the club’s 15th straight Big East setback. The building process is a long and difficult one. The effort from the Demons is there however, and that is a great sign.
The Blackhawks closed out 2010 with two clunkers, losses to St. Louis and San Jose. But remember, the champs have been beat up. Every time one star returns from injury, another seems to go down. Despite the so-so start to the repeat quest, keep in mind that Chicago currently sitting tied for the nine hole is only five points from the three seed. It’s a long season and there is a lot of hockey to be played.
After being inexplicably snubbed last year, Robbie Alomar is up for the Hall of Fame again on Wednesday. The former White Sox second baseman is one of the greatest to ever play his position and arguably the very best. It is a travesty that he did not qualify last time around. It’s unfortunate that writers are holding grudges and hiding behind their notebooks and failing to realize the accomplishments of one of the best ever.
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