Tag Archives: Monsters of the Midway

Beating Vegas: Beardown

Green Bay Packers +5.5 at Chicago Bears

As a die hard Chicago Bears fan, I entered this season with very minimal hopes and realistic expectations.  At the mid-point of this season, all isn’t awful for the Bears, but they sure do have a lot more work to do.  Currently the Bears offense is – predictable, to say the least.  With rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky being handcuffed by play-calling and a lack of options to throw the ball to, the Bears are attacking via the rushing game. Running back Jordan Howard is third in the NFL in total carries (behind Zeke Elliot and LeVeon Bell) and is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (662).  He is the bell cow for this offense and with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for less than 50% of his completions, expect this trend to continue.  The strength of this Bears team lies in their top ten defense.  This is a great thing for fans of the Bears to see as they know the key to any success this franchise has ever had – stems from a strong defense.  This week the Monsters of the Midway face their hated rival, the Green Bay Packers.  Quarterback Brett Hundley has been more underwhelming than Trubisky and although his completion percentage is 1.2 points below sixty-percent – don’t be fooled.  He’s averaging five yards a pass and has a touchdown/interception ratio of 1:4.  Yikes.  Defensively, the Packers are allowing 357 yards a game, which puts them in the bottom twenty-five percent of the NFL.  Both teams will run very vanilla offenses, the Bears may try to open things up more than the Packers actually.  Regardless, this is the first time since 2008 that the Bears are actually favored to win over the Packers.  Five and half points (with the trending arrow moving upwards) is just a weird number, but 38 as the over and under is a good one.  This game will see a lot of three and outs and a lot of kicks.  Bears may pull it off, modestly.

The Pick: The Under 38.5

Houston Texans +11 at Los Angeles Rams

One thing we all can agree on is this:  The Houston Texans are pathetic without Deshaun Watson under center.  The Texans options are quarterback are Tom Savage, who’s awful; Josh Johnson, who we vaguely remember as awful and TJ Yates, who is “eh.” It’s not even about the Texans losing their quarterback, the whole organization seems to have lost any inspiration, and that is not ALL on coach Bill O’ Brien.  O’Brien is in the middle of a firestorm that involves his players not being happy with remarks made by the team’s owner.  This is the total opposite of what’s going on in L.A. with the Rams.  For years, the Rams have pretty much been a door-mat in the NFL.  First year coach Sean McVay has transformed this team into the league’s number one scoring offense, averaging 32.9 points per contest.  Houston’s defense may struggle with the Rams’ aerial attack and their run defense will get their best challenge of the season going up against running back Todd Gurley.  Gurley has the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL with 686.  The total balance on offense will be too much for Houston to keep up with for four quarters especially because the Texans offense will most likely throw up uneventful three-and-out drives and turn over the ball at least twice.

The Pick: Rams -11

New Orleans Saints -3 at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo at home is always a tough sell on the sharpest of betters.  The weather is miserable and visiting teams are bored because there is nothing to do there.  This year’s Bills team is in the middle of the debate of “contenders or pretenders” especially after getting smacked up by the Jets on national television last week.  The Bills don’t run the ball exceptionally well but they also don’t throw the ball exceptionally well – but they force the issue with the run as their 250 attempts, with an average of 3.7 yards a carry, prove.  NFL pundits have been drooling over the defense of the New Orleans Saints, saying that this defense is the reason why they have a record of 6-2.  When you look at the numbers though, you ask yourself: Really?  A defense that gives up 4.7 yards a rush and a completion percentage of 60% sounds pretty average. . .even to some below-average. For the Saints though, it’s all about one defensive stat: Points Per Game.  This defense is only allowing teams to average 19 points per contest which goes really well when you have an offense that is constructed so perfectly.  Head coach Sean Payton has leaned on a two-running-back attack where Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are relied on heavily throughout the game.  The Saints have an offense that is top ten in rushing and passing and going against the Bills defense on the road will be one of their tougher test this year.  A final score of 27-18 is totally believable in the favor of the Saints.

The Pick: Saints -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

Chicago Bears: Mid-Season Report Card

The “Monsters of the Midway” entered the 2017 season knowing it is in the middle of a rebuild.  This isn’t a team that was looking to “tank” though.  The Bears’ rebuild consist of trying to be competitive throughout the season.  It’s a way of “filtering out the excess fat” from their roster.

Quarterback:

Entering the season, the Bears faithful knew they’d be in for some nonsense.  Signing Mike Glennon in free agency and moving up in the first round to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was a recipe for disaster from day one.  Glennon was never going to get a fair shake, as the fans wanted to see the younger player and the media made Glennon’s spot on the team seem useless.  Glennon’s play on the field didn’t help to quiet that noise either.   Mike Glennon had a completion percentage of 66.4% but that was because he seemed to scared to throw it downfield and basically dumped it off to running backs and tight ends all day.   Ultimately his 8 total turnovers did him in and got him benched, which of course led to the starting of rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.  Things didn’t get much better.  Trubisky’s completion percentage is under 50% and in four games he has two touchdown passes and four turnovers.  Glennon and Trubisky don’t have a lot to work with in terms of coaching or talent (keep reading) but in just looking at production from the position a solid D minus even seems generous.

Running Back:

If it wasn’t for Jordan Howard, the Bears wouldn’t have much of an offense this season.  With that being said, it’s not as if he’s putting up “elite-RB” numbers.  His 83 yards a game coupled with his 4.1 yards per average is consistent work at least and you can’t knock him considering he’s being run into the ground.  In the eight games he’s played, he’s already carried the ball for 162 times.  Bears fans fell in love with Tarik Cohen and his 5’6″ frame in week one. Then after that, there hasn’t been much to applaud him for.  He seems to try to do too much when he has the ball now and the Bears just aren’t creative enough on offense to devise schemes for him.  The Bears should look passed Cohen on the depth chart and start handing the ball off to Benny Cunningham more.  Cunningham is more of the traditional back, who can take some of the pounding off of Jordan Howard.  Because of Howard’s toughness alone, and him alone in this backfield, you have to give it a grade of a B.

Wide Receiver/Tight End:

Nothing to see here folks.  Even if Kevin White and Cameron Merdith didn’t suffer season ending injuries, it’s hard to believe it would be a much better group of wide-outs than the one that’s currently presented.  Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if they aren’t getting opportunities because the play calling is so bad, or if they’re just not that good.  The loss of Zach Miller was not only horrific to watch but also took away the most reliable target on the team.  Rookie Adam Shaheen was supposed to be one of those “sleeper picks” in the draft, and so far he has one catch which was a two-yard touchdown reception. . .yay.  Hopefully the acquisition of Dontrelle Inman will help boast this group but it’s pretty pitiful.  Easy grade of an F.

Offensive Line:

Glennon and Trubisky have combined for 19 sacks this season but when watching the tape, the blame isn’t all on the offensive line.  This is a tough group led by Kyle Long and Josh Sitton.  Cody Whitehair slips up once in a while but all in all he’s continuing to be a solid contributor.  The Bears have the third most rushing yards in the league and the backs are averaging a respectable 4.3 yards a carry.  If healthy this is a good offensive line who’s grade is a B.

Defensive Line:

If there is a mid-season MVP for this Bears team, I’d have to go with Akiem Hicks.  Hicks leads the team with 7 sacks, demands attention and is the player on this defensive front who offensive coordinators must plan around.  His All-Pro-Like play has opened up more opportunities for Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman.  The Bears are allowing on 3.9 yards a rush this season and most of it is due to this defensive front that finds itself in the opposition’s back field more times than not. Grade A.

Linebackers/Secondary:

A healthy Danny Trevathan is a welcomed sight to this defense.  He leads the team with 52 total tackles and definitely has added that “aggressive nature” the Bears defense has been lacking in recent history.  Rookie safety Eddie Jackson came out of Alabama with a lot of talent but also a history including injuries so many were wary of him.  He could prove to be the safety the Bears have been needing for years if he keeps playing at the level he’s been playing at.  Even if you take away that game when he had two pick-sixes he’s still been playing like one of the steals of this year’s draft.  His pairing with Adrian Amos can be the building blocks for rebuilding a secondary.  Fans want Kyle Fuller to be “the guy” – but I don’t see it.  Ever.  Regardless, this is a physical group of players from the linebackers to the secondary who will get a grade of B plus.

Coaching:

First the good:

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell both get an A for their efforts this year.  Donatell has really got the young guys in the secondary playing with confidence and as mentioned above they seem to be developing quickly into legit NFL talents.  Fangio has been one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators for years and it’s his defense that has kept the Bears in games, even when the offense is trying to give them away.

Now the bad:

Head coach John Fox, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains all get a D at the midpoint of the 2017 season. The offensive play calling is as predictable as a New Year’s hangover.   “Run, Run, Pass, Punt,” appears to be the offensive call to arms, especially since the team made the switch to Mitchell Trubisky.  Trubiksy has displayed some arm strength and the ability to throw on the run, but the Bears refuse to open the playbook for the struggling rookie.  This all falls on John Fox, and seriously nobody even knows if he’s mentally checked out already or not.  Rumors have been floating around since the draft that he’s a lame duck coach this season and they’ll be looking to change the culture next season.  Bears fans everywhere hope so.

After calculating the grades, the Bears get an overall mid-season grade of a C.  That is both a surprising and “not-so-bad” grade for a team with a 3-5 record who at the beginning of the season was looked at as an NFL “doormat.”  The last 2-3 years saw a Bears team that would quit, especially defensively.  The re-emergence of the Monster of the Midway can give the fan-base hope.  Just imagine if this team had a decent offense what they could look like. . . They’ll be lucky to finish the season with seven wins, but if they keep playing like they are, there is definitely a core here to build on.

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

Forte is Gone. Let Us Rejoice!

As a Bears fan, my loyalty cannot be questioned and it will never waver.  For better or worse, this is where my allegiance lies.  Although my loyalty to the “Monsters of the Midway” will last forever – my opinions are not to be forced.  There haven’t been many great times for this franchise and many will latch on to glimmers of what they see and hold on to it as truth.  Matt Forte, was one of those false ideals held in high regard by many of the Chicago faithful.
“Look at his numbers.”

That’s the argument you’ll get from Matt Forte supporters.

My response has always been “smoke and mirrors.”

I’ve seen every game Forte has played in.  Every single one.  I was sold in his rookie season, over 1700 total yards and 12 touchdowns.  I had to believe.  Bears fans long for the greatness at the running back position – and why shouldn’t we?  We’ve had Walter Payton and Gale Sayers – two of the all time greats at that position.  Since then we had three good years by Neal Anderson before his body gave up on him and Thomas Jones gave us three solid seasons but was never fully appreciated for what he brought to the table.

Forte was great for fantasy football fans.  He would get you the yards, get you the touchdowns – but those yards and touchdowns should’ve been more.  Forte had an innate ability to drop at the first sign of an oncoming tackler.  He was awful in short yardage situations, and although game-announcers would say he was a good pass blocker – I’m sure we’ve seen him miss more blocks than not.

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The Chicago Bears, for all our history and tradition – NFL fans see us as second fiddle to the Packers, and a long shot to win a Conference Championship.  Sure, we’ve popped up and caught the league off guard a few times, but it’s been in spurts – it’s never been consistent.  With that being said, fans around the league will look at numbers and not the actual in-game-performance of Forte and formulate the theory of “The Bears aren’t doing him any favors.”

The Bears did him the favor of not being that good, and making him look better than he was.   The real reason behind his reception and receiving yards:  Bears quarterbacks usually have to ‘check down’ to the backs because the offensive line can’t hold up  or receivers are running the wrong routes.

There is no doubt, Forte will get picked up by some other team and it’ll be worth it to them.  Dallas has an o-line that can cover up Forte’s softness and New England’s system makes everybody on offense look better than they are – these should be two possibilities for Forte and his camp.  He said he’s not about the money, he’s about getting to a championship so let’s see how that works out for him. . .

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Anyhow, in terms of the future of the running back position for the Bears, Jeremy Langford proved in Forte’s absence last year that he is more than capable of being a feature back.   Ka’Deem Carey would be the number two, and one would assume a free agent like the speedy Ronnie Hillman would be someone the Bears and John Fox would take a look at.   The Bears have a lot of work ahead of them but at least the future of the running back position seems good to go.

Getting over Matt Forte will be a lot easier than Bears fans think it will be.  BearDown and BearWitness. . .

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Chicago Bears 2015 Preview

To call last year’s 5-11 finish “disappointing” would be one of the more obvious understatements of the year.  The Bears were supposed to have a high-flying, unique, high-scoring offense led by head coach Marc Trestman.  Instead, the Chicago faithful saw a coach that looked over-whelmed, a team that didn’t look interested in playing and a franchise that became an embarrassment to itself.  Ownership called for the heads of head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery and replaced them with veteran coach John Fox and hired Ryan Pace, who is now the NFL’s youngest general manager.   It is up to Fox and Pace to rebuild a broken franchise and rebuild the trust between the team and it’s fans.

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A lot of people are surprised to see that Jay Cutler is still the quarterback of the Chicago Bears, but the truth is – his price tag is too much to move him or cut him.   Despite all the negativity spewed in Cutler’s direction he still managed to throw for over 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns, while finishing with the best completion percentage of his career at 66%.   Cutler’s eighteen interceptions are a combination of carelessness, poor route running and usually playing from behind last season.  It’s been said before and it will be said again – this is Cutler’s “make it or break it” year.  The organization doesn’t seem to be one-hundred percent behind the gun-slinger QB, so it’s up to Cutler to cut down on his mistakes and surprise some folks.  He still has the arm strength and athletic ability at the quarterback position that many of the league’s so called “elite” do not.

Most see Matt Forte as a hardcore, do it all back.  It’s true – if we’re talking about fantasy football standards.  Forte finished with 1,038 yards rushing and an incredible 808 yards receiving last year but at 3.9 yard a rush, it’s apparent he isn’t the back he once was.  Forte, of late has been average at best as a pass blocker and his ability to break tackles has gotten worse over the years.  There is a lot of wear and tear on Forte so expect coach John Fox to use three backs often.  The new coaching staff seems to like sophomore back Ka’Deem Carey who is more of the bruiser back, while rookie Jeremy Langford out of Michigan State is the speedster back.  Langford ran a forty time of 4.4. and like Forte, doesn’t break many tackles, but unlike Forte – has youthful legs that haven’t been ran into the ground yet.

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The Bears traded Brandon Marshall to the NY Jets, which leaves a void in the Bears wide receiver depth chart.  Physically, Marshall provided a great blocking receiver and one of the more difficult wide outs to cover “one on one.”  Marshall’s attitude and “out spoken” nature made him dispensable to the Bears’ eyes so that leaves it up to Alshon Jeffrey to take over as the number one guy.  Jeffrey locates the ball in the air better than most, but his route running is still a question.  He has a ‘lazy’ approach to football, which will eventually land him in Fox’s doghouse; and without Brandon Marshall on the other side of Jeffrey, who knows how effective he’ll be all season long.  At the present time, it looks like the Bears will be without their first round draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White out of West Virginia.  White has everything it takes to be a top receiver in this league, but because of a shin injury, the Bears will be lucky to see him anytime after week seven (if at all).   Eddie Royal was acquired free agency and was dealing with a hip injury in the pre-season, the hope is, to rekindle the chemistry he had with Cutler back in their Denver Broncos days.  Tight End Martellus Bennett was amazing last year, but his off-season rumblings about the organization and some comments aimed directly at quarterback Jay Cutler show that he isn’t too happy with his current situation.  The Bears patience with Marquess Wilson may be running thin as he was battling a hamstring injury most of pre-season.

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The offensive line is a unit seemingly headed in the right direction but Jordan Mills needs to tighten up at right tackle.  Mills’ head just doesn’t seem to be in the game sometimes and gets beat out by quicker defensive ends pretty quickly.  Most Bears fans expect guard Kyle Long to be moved to tackle one day, but Long is arguably the best player on the roster, so there is no real reason to move him out of the guard position.  Long has two Pro Bowl appearances to match his two years he’s been in the league – there is no reason to doubt his ability to be a pro-bowler for the next 7-8 years.  The Bears drafted Oregon Duck Hroniss Grasu in the third-round of this year’s draft and although it appears he won’t be starting right away, the Bears love his quickness and awareness at the position, so if veteran Will Montgomery slips up, Grasu will be put in with no hesitation.  Jermon Bushrod has been a slight disappointment since his arrival to Chicago but is still a top-ten left tackle in the league.

Defensively the Bears are shifting to a 3-4 scheme, orchestrated by one of the more aggressive defensive coordinators in football Vic Fangio.  While with the 49ers, Fangio 3-4 attack was one of the best in the league, unfortunately for Fangio, he does not have anywhere near the talent on this Bears team as he did in San Fran.  The Bears acquired linebacker Mason Foster in March of 2015 and he did not even make the final 53 man roster in Chicago.  Surprisingly enough, veteran Jared Allen who is converting from defensive lineman to linebacker did as well as Willie Young who is recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered last season.  If Young is able to use his athleticism to his advantage he may be able to get back to racking up another ten sacks as he did last year.  Jon Bostic was the team leader with 127 tackles last season.  The Bears have a lot of depth at linebacker with Pernell McPhee and Lamaar Houston, who is looking to impress after a disappointing season last year.  For some reason Shea McClellin stays on this Bears roster. . .

Rookie Eddie Goldman will man the nose-tackle position in the Bears’ 3-4 attack.  He looks the role of a prototypical nose-tackle and was a good run-stopper while at Florida State.  Last year the Bears drafted Ego Ferguson in the second-round and it looks like they will move him from the tackle spot over to the defensive end spot.  Ferguson is a good athlete but there has to be patience with his learning curve at the position.

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With the departure of long-time Bear and fan-favorite Charles Tillman, the Bears went to free agency to find a veteran to help lead this secondary.  They found one in former New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle.  Rolle has lost a step and isn’t as effective as he once was, but the formal all-pro will bring a much needed voice into this Bears’ locker room.  Rolle’s patience will be tested as there is a lot of youth around him.  Opposite of Rolle is Brock Vereen who struggled a lot last year and if the sophomore struggles early the Bears will plug in former Penn State Lion Adrian Amos.  Amos is a good ball hawking safety but isn’t the best tackler at the position.  The wild card in this Bears secondary is second-year man Kyle Fuller.  In his rookie season Fuller quickly saw how things can turn in this league.  For the first half of the season he looked like a stud out there but then he quickly found himself out of position and even picked on by other teams.  Fuller has the support of the locker room and this organization still feels he can be a top corner in the league.

The Bears are in an up-hill battle.  With a new philosophy on both sides of the ball and new faces just about everywhere, the Bears will be learning as they go.  All eyes will be on Jay Cutler this season – but then again, they always are and it doesn’t seem to bother him either way.  The Bears start out the season in rough fashion against Green Bay, Arizona and then Seattle – things can get ugly quick in Chicago if they start out 0-3.

Predicted Record: 7-9

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Kyle Long, Jay Cutler, Martellus Bennett

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio