Football

TAG TEAM, BACK AGAIN!

The gridiron guru Tony and I are back after yesterday’s Bears draft chat to breakdown how the rest of the North drafted and I swear to science if the Packers just unearthed another 10+ year starter at QB I’m committing hara-kiri and calling it an NFL fandom career…

Wes French: Tony, lets get right to it…are the Packers stupid like a fox or just plain stupid?

Tony Martin: Wes, my friend, you are truly the gift that keeps on giving. Here I am, thinking I have to go back to watching that shitty Waco show on Netflix and you slide back into my inbox to talk more football? Miraculous.

As for the cheese heads, I think they really fucked up taking Jordan Love. I love that they have a notoriously fickle QB who wants at least one more run at the title and they instead did something that does not help the team at all and alienates their biggest star. I’ve said for the last week that the Packers are a handful of players away from a championship, and they actively hurt their chances with their pick. It’s rare for a pick to hurt a team in April, but the Pack managed to pull that one off. I went to Green Bay’s website and looked at their articles about the draft which are so hilariously full of spin you’d think it was a Trump presser. There’s a bit in an article by Mike Spofford where they say that Green Bay didn’t feel like there were any receivers available at the end of the 1st that could take a starting job over Devin Funchess, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, which might be the take of the century. Then to draft a RB in the second in an already crowded backfield? Pure schadenfreude, my friend. I feel like Brian Gutekunst watched Jerry Krause in the first episodes of “The Last Dance”, turned to his family, said “Hold my Spotted Cow”, and traded up to alienate his talent.

Is taking the heir apparent a few years early a decent move anymore? The current trend in the NFL is to try to win that championship during a QBs first contract to maneuver around the salary cap, so Love sitting for one year makes sense but not 2, 3 or 4 years. I think the Packers are trying too hard to eventually become San Francisco, with a run first offense to be run by a game manager, so as Green Bay slowly dismantles it’s current core, expect them to refocus on the defense in the attempt to do what the 49ers have done. I think this is the first sign of a slow, painful rebuild, and it couldn’t have happened to a more obnoxious organization.

WF: My Packer fan pals are in the mega-spin zone right now trying to justify it. One keeps saying “14-4, they’re gonna be fine. It’s a new brain trust, let it play out”; a few others are trying to talk themselves into Funchess like receivers on their third team in as many years are the reliable type; and one special friend of mine is slowly losing his shit more and more by the day.

I really do think you can back up and justify the Love pick if you kinda squirm to the side and squint real hard. The part that makes it tough is what you mentioned about the new path being to use the window of QBs on rookie deals and splash cash on whatever you need most. Rodgers is well known to have a contract that kills them with dead money if he’s moved the next two years and there’s also the part where he’s a fucking all-time great at the position. I get the injury coverage concern, but shit how many times is their solution going to involves drafting a QB as Aaron’s State Farm on the field instead of bolstering his weapons/protection?

Could you imagine if instead of moves for mediocre/shit backup QBs they’d been using most draft capital/literal capital to give him more help? And then they back it all up with a fucking RUNNING BACK in the 2nd Round, one that can’t catch to boot? I don’t give a shit what the rest of the draft looks like, to me these moves mean a white flag on the Rodgers era and getting a head start on what’s coming after. They can say they have a team in place to contend, and if (when) it goes south they can use the line about this window closing and trying to retool on the fly and you can bet they find a way to move Rodgers next year.

TM: The Packers might have screwed the pooch, but I’d have to say I like both Minnesota and Detroit’s drafts more than Chicago’s. I love the Lions draft, to be candid. Okudah is a stud, their 3rd round pick of Julian Okwara was a solid add on who will bring serious juice off the edge, and I like D’Andre Swift a lot. I think there’s a chance they found three starters and assuming they all don’t retire to get away from Matt Patricia, they have built a pretty solid core for life post-Stafford. Luckily for the Bears, the Lions should be shitty next year but not shitty enough to get Trevor Lawrence or even Justin Fields at the top of the 2021 draft. The Lions are the Chicago Bulls of football, stuck in the worst kind of purgatory. I think Swift takes over lead RB duties early on in the season, Okudah will be put to the test with a murderers row of top tier WRs on the Lions schedule, and Okwara will be starting week 1.

WF: I feel like the Lions could only have messed up their top two selections is if they were the Raiders. The only real problem I have with Detroit’s draft is not moving back a few spots to take Okudah (or taking Isiah Simmons over him) but I think Miami and San Diego both knew they were the teams taking QBs, no one from the 5-6 spots immediately behind them was putting any pressure on them to move and they each got their man staying put. You’d also like to pair Okudah with a guy like Darius Slay…but Okudah was a huge need because they alienated and traded Slay. I do love Okwara and I think going two guards in the middle rounds is solid, but the early 2nd selection of Swift was sort of confusing. Detroit needs defensive help BADLY. There were several guys they passed on to go RB and I feel like in today’s NFL that’s a WHAMMY!

TM: The Vikings drafted 15 dudes this year. 15 dudes! That’s an entire basketball team! Sure, a lot of those guys might not make the team, but I think they struck gold late with Kenny Willekes from Michigan State in the 7th round, and I expect him to not only make the team but be someone the Bears have trouble blocking a couple years from now. I estimated the Lions nabbed at least three starters this year, but I think the Vikings could see up to 5 immediate starters from this class. Justin Jefferson snatches ankles after the catch and is a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. I think Cameron Dantzler is going to be a project but he’s a future stud at CB- pair that with their first round corner Jeff Gladney and that defensive backfield can straight up wreck shit for the next 4 years. I personally look forward to them destroying Jordan Love while the Bears and Nick Foles are busy winning their third straight Super Bowl.

WF: I’m not sure how the Vikings fit 15 guys in, but theirs is the type of draft that can plug a lot of gaps on the cheap. I think the most impressive thing about the 2020 Draft in Minnesota is that they came in with 12 picks, left with 15 players AND added a 4th (from Chicago for Gipson) and two 5ths in 2021. Rick Spielman deserves a ton of credit for adding so much draft capital and value to his team. I think Justin Jefferson is fantastic and the type of receiver the Packers probably should’ve been moving up further for. I’m also a big fan of the Gladney/Dantzler picks and feel like they shored up the CB position in one draft. Not easy. OL Ezra Cleveland and S Josh Metellus are guys I heard discussed for the Bears, too, and now we get to hope they’re busts because the damn Vikings took them. Fuck that horn.

TM: Honestly what it’s all going to come down to is coaching. Our current global condition is changing how teams are interacting with their new prospects and it’s the teams that adapt best to these new circumstances that will get the most out of their picks.

Also, while we’re speaking of uncertain futures – I have a question for you: do you think this is the year where the supplemental draft is huge? If the prospect of a severely shortened NCAA/NFL season is on the horizon, do players forgo that extra season and declare? Could we see a massive second wave of players picked in July? If that is the case, would the NFL allow those players to petition for the supplemental draft en masse?

WF: I lean YES, I think the supplemental draft could see a few teams spend future pick capital on guys that decide “you know what? fuck this sitting around not playing football this Fall, I’m going” and the value for it is there. Depending on how things unfold regarding the Pandemic™ I wonder if the NFL goes even further and expands rosters/practice squads and uses them as more of a taxi squad for teams to pluck from as the world tries to find a way to 1) not kill or infect too many millions more while 2) NOT GIVING UP THEIR NFL SUNDAYz!

TM: Okay before this gets buried, I LOVE the idea of a taxi squad in the NFL. It’s a brilliant idea, and maybe they could expand it to 2 taxi squads, one of veteran players and one of prospects. Holy shit I’m so into that idea.

WF: It makes way too much sense, so it’ll never happen. But if it does YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST,,,,FOLKS!

Football

Welcome back to another installment of On the Clock, where I scour mock drafts and pretend that I watched any college football last year (which I did not- fuck the NCAA).

Previously, I made the argument that the Bears need to stay at 43 and 50 and not trade back, instead looking to solidify two areas of need with rookie starters. We looked at the consensus top two interior linemen, and 4 potential second-tier receivers that could be game breakers. However, with two major holes in the defensive backfield, an instant starter (or two) in the secondary could pay bigger dividends than a lineman or wideout. One consensus between all the mocks I’ve seen is that the Bears most likely wait until the later rounds to find depth for both the linebacker corps and defensive line rotation, so we will spend this entire section looking at the secondary.

 

What the Bears need: 

The Bears need a Safety and a Cornerback immediately. Deon Bush is a great depth piece, but he is not a starting safety (look back at last year’s opening week Packers game for an understanding of how easily Bush can look too hard in the backfield and get beat deep; also his inability to make plays on the ball in the red zone). Similarly, Kevin Tolliver, Artie Burns, and Tre Roberson are either career backups or unknowns. If Roberson plays in the NFL the way he did that made him the CFL’s premiere defensive free agent, that eliminates the need for a top pick on a CB, but as of now he’s still an unproven commodity. Since most mocks have the Bears looking Safety or Cornerback in the second round, let’s take a look at some of the prospects.

Xavier McKinney- Alabama
Xavier McKinney is a game-changer on defense and there’s no debate about it. In Chuck Pagano’s defense, he would have the ability to be a matchup nightmare. He lined up all over the field last year, as a sort of hybrid defender who can do it all. He’s got tremendous ball skills and watching his tape shows someone who is an instinctual blitzer. Pagano would be able to be super creative with a talent like this. He’s a playmaker, forcing turnovers at ease and always being around the ball. I’ve seen him mocked as early as pick 20, but if he falls it would be difficult to see the Bears pass on him.

Antoine Winfield Jr- Minnesota
How interested you are in the Bears taking Winfield sort of depends on what you want the safety opposite of Eddie Jackson to be: should he be an inside the box safety, someone who can play the deep middle to free up Jackson to read the QB, or a hybrid? Watching Winfield’s tape, it’s clear he plays a very similar game to Eddie Jackson. He is an absolute ballhawk and when he gets the chance, he’s a threat to take a fumble recovery or interception to the house every time. He picked off seven (!) passes last year. He has a long injury history, so there is risk to the pick, but if healthy, he and Eddie Jackson as a 1-2 Safety combo would be an absolute nightmare.

Jeremy Chinn- Southern Illinois
Aching for a return to the Bears defense of 2018? Jeremy Chinn’s pro comp is Adrian Amos, so if that holds true you should be rooting for the Bears to pick Chinn in the second round. Chinn has been talked about as everything from the first Safety off the board to someone that can be available for teams with a pick in the 60s, so if the Bears trade one of their first two picks to fall back in the second round, Chinn could be available as a value pick. I’ve also heard him talked about like a lighter version of Isaiah Simmons and could be asked to bulk up and play the roaming defender role in some defenses, which presents some interesting pairings with who the Bears already have. Let’s hope if the Bears take Chinn he can beat up on NFL teams like he did your Youngstown States (Youngstowns State?).*

Trevon Diggs- Alabama
Diggs is another Alabama DB that the Bears could be looking at to fill their other outside CB spot. He’s a bit more of a raw athlete than a polished defensive back at this point in his career, but the mocks that link him to the Bears indicate a belief that the talent around him can help him build those skills and make him a top-tier corner. He won’t play the run as well as it was played last year, but he has the ability to close off one side of the field. In short, Diggs is a stud that got ethered on prime time television last year by LSU, so there’s naturally going to be some question about how well he can hold up against top competition.

Bryce Hall- Virginia
Hall, like Diggs, is a big, physical CB (both are over 6’ and 200lbs) with injury histories. Neither of them are the ideal run stopping CBs, but the Bears secondary doesn’t necessarily rely on outside defenders to stop the run (save for Kyle Fuller’s game winning tackle against the Lions last year). Hall is effective close to the line on bubble screens, corner blitzes, and quick slants. He limited opposing QBs to passer ratings around 50 the last two seasons and led the nation in pass breakups two years ago. Hall is more of a zone CB, so it would be interesting to see if that scheme fit would work in Chicago. I’ve also seen him mocked to Denver in multiple places, where he would also make a lot of sense.

Kyle Dugger- Lenoir-Rhyne
The Ringer really must have Ryan Pace figured out, tabbing Dugger to be the Bears pick at 50. It all makes sense, a D-2 player that was absolutely dominant? That’s absolutely on-brand for Pace and Dugger’s tape is pretty ruthless. Not only is he an outstanding returner with tremendous ball skills, he honestly looked like a grown ass man playing against little kids, because he was. I mean it’s D-2 so like you’ve got this dude that runs a 4.49 and put up 17 reps of 225 at the combine, and he’s going against the pud from your high school who went to Middle Tennessee Grand Canyon Valley Technical Institute A&M and Dugger is hitting dudes so hard they quit on the spot and go back to their hometowns to sell life insurance with their dads. Of all the prospects he’s the oldest (24) and with the level of his college competition he’s probably the biggest question mark, but I am seeing Dugger mocked to a lot of teams in the second round, so he’s doing something right. He could be another Bears player to come from D-2, or the Bears could instead choose to invest in a more proven commodity.

 

With all the garbage presented to us fans as “The 2019 Chicago Bears Offense”, it might be tempting to focus on that side of the ball with the first two picks in the second round. However, the holes in the defensive backfield are huge and glaring and if the Bears go out and take a defender with one of these first two picks, I think the potential for the Bears D to return to form in 2020 is much higher, ESPECIALLY if Tre Roberson is as good as advertised. Just imagine a Bears secondary of Roberson, Fuller, Skrine, Jackson and Antoine Winfield Jr., and you can hear the crowd after the Bears hold Green Bay to their 9th straight 3 and out chanting “Holy Shit” like Braun Strowman just sidewalk slammed some cruiserweight into the shadow realm.

 

*While looking for a good cover photo for this article I stumbled upon the one of Jeremy Chinn that I ended up using because the size of that man’s arms literally turned me into Vince McMahon: WOULD YOU JUST LOOK AT HIM? THAT’S SUCH GOOD SHIT!

 

Tomorrow will be Part 4 of On The Clock: The Leftovers!

Football

Back to .500, Mitch had a decent game and actually bailed out the defense a bit, game against a rocky Dallas team at home…any reason for optimism now?

Tony Martin: I think there’s a little bit of room for optimism, but only that they’ll finish the season looking somewhat competent. There is no chance at the postseason in my mind, but looking back at some of the games the Bears could’ve won earlier in the year is a heartbreaker, because this team could be in the thick of it. They won’t win out, but with a break or two here or there they wouldn’t have had to.

The offense looked good and the defense wasn’t perfect but it’s still incredible to reflect on how badly they’ve played on offense all season and how close all their games were. This team still has a championship window next year, and I’m hoping the rest of the schedule gives the Bears something to build on, assuming nobody misses a field goal in these last few games and Nagy obsesses over it for another offseason.

I think Dallas sees the Bears game as a get right game, but this one could go either way.

Brian Schmitz: As poorly as this team has played pretty much over the course of the entire season, it’s crazy to think they are in a position to actually make the playoffs. But this week represents a far more capable opponent that the Bears have seen over the past month or more. The Cowboys are struggling, but they are certainly better than the Lions, Giants, and Chargers. I’m concerned the Bears May provide a “get right” week for the Cowboys, much like the Lions defense was a “get right” game for Mitch. 

Wes Frenh: There’s a case to be made for optimism, but not one I’d subscribe to. We’ve been waiting for this team to rise up and put away the dregs of the NFC the last few weeks, and each game has been anything but smooth. Seeing some potential for improvement from Mitch was nice this week, but it really does just make me irrationally angry at Nagy for trying to force his offense to do things it clearly wasn’t capable of/ready to do early in the season. 

Dallas presents a difficult matchup on Thursday night, mostly in that the fire is cranked up under Jason Garrett’s seat. The Cowboys are still in the best position to represent the NFC East in the playoffs and they’re going to try to do all they can to fix their own running game and likely build some defensive confidence. I think the biggest thing going for the Bears in this game is getting to play at home, and that the weather on Thursday night (low in the 20s) could make things difficult for all involved.

 

Obviously it’s only the Lions. And Matt Patricia was dumb enough to keep playing man coverage. But why does Mitch look so much better when not seeing zone coverage? This comes after he pretty much told the coaching staff through the press what he wanted to do after the Giants game? Are they actually listening?

Brian: The reason why Mitch looks like a serviceable NFL QB against man coverage is fairly simple to see. During man reads, you see what your target is doing and if he’s open you throw the ball to him. Against Cover 1, 2, 3 or any man up or man over coverages, your target may look open, but you can’t see who else is defending their area. For an offense, Man reads are simply personnel reactions – if your guy is better than theirs, you are going to be successful. But when you are going against zone reads, it’s up to your system and scheme to get guys open, it’s not all on the players.

Tony: This Dallas game is like performing a litmus test when acid is already eating away at your legs, but shit we might as well try to put the strip on the festering remains of this Bears season so that next year will keep the fire out of the dumpster.

Football

It’s Clear That Bill Belichick Does Everything

People just have to stop hiring from the Belichick coaching tree, because it’s a great way to back up your franchise into a universal depression. Maybe Bill O’Brien is the exception (although the next time the Texans do anything meaningful please call me), but we’ve seen enough of Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, Charlie Weis and Matt Patricia on their own to know that they clearly never did anything in New England. At least we got one in the division though.

The Lions were actually around the playoff picture, and sometimes in it, before Matt Patricia the obese rapist showed up. And even the most beef-stuffed Bears fan who thinks the forward pass should be outlawed can tell you that Mitch Trubisky sucks to high heaven against zone coverage. Fuck, it’s what Belichick figured out about Jared Goff in three minutes, another system-produced QB who had to be told exactly where to throw the ball. Any kind of disguise, and neither can figure out where the ball should go and goes into convulsions that end with the ball in the other team’s hands.

But if you simply keep playing man, then everything is exactly as it looks and Mitch can actually pick-and-stick throws. Which he did pretty much all of Thursday afternoon, and the Lions are now basically the only team that Mitch has authored genuine, NFL adult drives against. On a short week when everything is supposed to be ragged, and the Bears defense kind of was, the Lions made Mitch look real. That’s not easy to do.

It’s obvious that Belichick plans everything, does everything, and then lets his assistants wear a headset and talk even though they’re probably not hooked up to anything. They get to play NFL Coordinator. They’re Gary Coleman talking to the president from his desk in that Christmas episode of the Simpsons. When McDaniels takes over the Pats after Belichick has four simultaneous strokes, they will immediately go 2-45. And then every Pats fan will be screaming for Trot Nixon to take over as coach. Just watch.

The Lions Are A Thanksgiving Tradition We Can All Enjoy

I’ve seen a lot of suggestion that the Lions should be removed from Turkey Day, and NBC getting a night game now is something of an admission that Detroit and Dallas shouldn’t be the only hosts. But there’s something about the Lions on that special Thursday that I wouldn’t want to lose.

Maybe it’s because they’ve always played in a stadium that gave off the feeling of a garage or airplane hangar. There’s always been something underground about either the Silverdome or now Ford Field. Like they whole place has been sequestered from society. It’s not always like that. You can tell the Superdome is in the middle of New Orleans just by watching a game there. But not in Detroit. It’s quiet and dark and weird. It’s a tradition we can’t figure out how to get rid of, so here it is from some holding pen we built. It doesn’t even feel part of the same country. Or world. It’s almost a lab experiment on some oil rig/ship in international waters.

And think about that time of day on the holiday. The game starts before any cooking or really anything is going on, or just about. So it’s a nice gathering point. And then after about five minutes of watching these dopes, you have no problem getting the day’s festivities started because you realize you’re not missing anything. Unless it’s your team playing the Lions, and then it’s just a nice boost to the day.

I think I’d be lost without it.

Despite Their Best Efforts, The Bears Almost Always Will Talk You Into It

Deep down, you knew you’d be here. As bad as the Bears looked for most of this season, as infuriating as the losses have been, you could never fully convince yourself you wouldn’t care come December. It’s funny, because before last year started, most of us would have accepted the Bears merely playing meaningful games in December, no matter how they turned out. They just got it reversed.

Maybe it’s the full week in between, when you have time to talk yourself into anything, twist the evidence however you want, before the actual game makes whatever statement that you can then twist to fit your own narrative the six days following that. But here we are, and here I am saying, “Well you can’t trust the Cowboys on the road in December, and then Hicks will be back and even though he won’t be full-strength he certainly helps and they should have beaten the Packers last time, and maybe they’re finally distilling the offense down to what Mitch can do somewhat well and really they’d only have to miracle a win against the Chiefs at home before needing only to club Kirk Cousins again to make the playoffs and that’s easy enough….”

But hey, it’s better than just running out the clock. Have you seen the Hawks and Bulls lately?

Football

Well, the Bears won. Somehow. Just barely. The local boys escaped Ford Field victorious and are now the least convincing .500 team in the league at 6-6. Are we going to spend another week and a half pretending this win is symbolic of a team finally putting it all together? The offense looked better than it did almost all season, save a handful of stupid penalties. Anthony Miller feasted on a pisspoor Lions defense, Allen Robinson looked good, and Mitch made a handful of great throws. The gameplan was solid, but once again it’s hard to differentiate between a mediocre team looking good because they planned well and a team who just happened to beat a far inferior team. Mitch went 29/38 for 338, finishing his line with 3 TDs and 1 INT, but still made a handful of head-scratching plays. That 3rd down in the red zone where he decided to run laterally instead of get the almost assured key first down? Great QBs don’t do that unless their name is Lamar Jackson.

The Bears came out making David Blough look like the next great Jeff Driskel-esque QB, but after the first 14 points that Detroit put up in the first quarter, they managed 6 the rest of the way. The Bears bent but didn’t break, and it was nice to see them bring pressure in key moments. It’ll be interesting to see if Prince Amukamara comes back healthy, because any serious winning streak will require a healthy defensive backfield since Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota are the teams left on the schedule.

The Good: Mitch looked great, the wide receivers played outstandingly (even Javon Wims put up good numbers), and David Montgomery runs HARD. If the Bears invest heavily in the offensive line this offseason he could put up some incredible numbers next year. Nick Kwiatkoski looked great again, and it makes me wonder if this is indeed the last season Danny Trevathan will be playing for the Bears. Kyle Fuller saved the game with a key third down tackle inside the 5 yard line, holding Detroit to a field goal. He played great all game. Eddie Jackson is back in the stat column and everything feels right.

The Bad: The Bears were determined to lose this one in the 4th, didn’t it seem? Bad penalties plagued the last Detroit drive before Roquan and Eddie teamed up to end the game, and though the Bears committed only one more penalty for four more yards than the Lions, it sure seemed like they came at the worst times. Once again the line play was uneven, and the Bears couldn’t bring consistent pressure with the front four once again.

The Ugly: I had to watch this game with my family who I love but also my mom’s friend who was pretty much yelling “OMG SPORTSBALL DID WE WIN” for the entire second half. I need a fucking nap.

If this team wins 10 games, they deserve to make the playoffs because the changes they’d need to make to get there would signify a serious righting of the ship and who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Football

 vs

Bears (5-6) at Lions (3-7-1)

Kickoff: 11:30 am

TV: Fox 32

Radio: WBBM 780

 

If this all feels oddly familiar, it is. The Bears and Lions will meet for the second time in three weeks, playing the early Thanksgiving game in Detroit, all for the second straight year of this exact same format.

In 2018, the Bears won a pair of sort of ugly games over Detroit, first with one of Mitchell Trubisky‘s best games of his career with a 23/30, 355, 4 TD (1 rushing) performance in blowout at home. Trubs would pick up a shoulder injury the following week, though, and Chase Daniel would manage the Bears to a slim win on Thanksgiving 2018 with a massive performance (on the field and with celebrations) after some very timely turnovers.

The 2019 version of this possibly never changing schedule quirk is sort of sticking to the script: the Bears win a few weeks ago in Chicago featured A 3 TD performance from Trubisky, albeit without the big yardage and convincing offensive performance. The Lions are in a bit of a different space, though, as they again won’t have Matthew Stafford (and possibly Jeff Driskel) and his broken back. Driskel kept things interesting in Chicago as Stafford missed his first game of what had become a career season prior, and Detroit could be without both on Thanksgiving as Driskel is trying to overcome a hamstring injury.

Enter, uh….David Blough? David Blough. So yea, the Lions head into this one in a pretty bad spot. The thing you have to watch most with Driskel is his ability to extend plays or beat you on the ground by moving around, and even if he starts he mostly likely won’t be able to get out of the pocket. The Bears defense will look to build some confidence against the Lions unsure/struggling offense, hopefully capped off by some new endzone celebrations.

On the offensive side, Mitch and Nagy will hopefully be on the same page for this one and keep adding plays that Mitch is more comfortable with – play-action and bootlegs should be used early and often. Maybe it’ll even open up some holes for David Montgomery and the rushing attack, as they’ll be able to try and sharpen their own shortcomings in run blocking against a Detroit unit ranked 23rd against the run. This will be the second week in a row against a 23rd ranked rush defense, and the Bears helped the Giants to improve two places in a week…so don’t hold your breath on some rampant rushing attack four days later.

This game will be a strong opportunity for the Bears offense to take advantage through the air, something they did pretty well two weeks ago and got a little better last week. If they can take another step and put together a solid plan around the run fake and moving Mitch around, maybe they can start to make you believe. Believe they can get in a rhythm and at least make things hard on Minnesota and Seattle down the stretch – two teams that play each other on Monday Night Football to wrap up the week.

They’ll do so without Taylor Gabriel and Ben Braunecker, but against the 30th ranked pass defense Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller could be in line for huge days. We might even see some Tarik Cohen in the slot or some creative uses of the runnings backs in the passing game.

The opportunity is there for the Bears to give everyone a reason to be thankful, helping to ease us all into the post-meal drunken stupor as we take in the chaos that’s potentially there for Bills-Cowboys. Watching that with a smile instead of a scowl is good enough at this point.

Happy Thanksgiving (drinking), everyone.

Football
Tony: I’m thankful for you, King. You have bestowed upon me the right to not have to talk about the Bears for one more day, and that alone is the gravy on the turkey of my heart.
The Detroit Lions aren’t much more fun to talk about, but they have plenty to be thankful for, primarily the incredibly low bar their fans have for them. I have a friend who is a Lions fan (bless his heart), and when asked to describe the 2019 Lions, he simply said: “Every single aspect of the team has *at best* underperformed except for Matthew Stafford who through 8 games was having a career year… then he broke his back. He tried carrying this team on his back but those sacks of shit were too heavy.”
Shout out to John, who also made music back in the early aughts under the pseudonym Major Applewhite which is probably the best solo act name I’ve ever heard.
As if losing Stafford with broken bones in his back wasn’t enough, apparently Jeff Driskel is also on this week’s injury report. The Lions tried to sign Josh Johnson since he played for them in the preseason (his 13th NFL team!), and were blocked by the XFL.
Once more for emphasis: VINCE MCMAHON IS SCREWING THE DETROIT LIONS. Bret Hart must work for them or something. That’s so fucking sad I’m just gonna stop talking about it.
As it goes, I’d like to compare the Lions to a side dish that you’ll be munching on while digesting terrible football on Thursday: Green Bean Casserole. I fuck with casserole, and I think GBC is a prime one. I’ve seen a lot of people on my social media feeds ripping on GBC, and I gotta say: fuck them.
Cream of mushroom soup- decent (the Lions run defense, in theory)
Green Beans- decent (Darius Slay)
French Fried Onions- dope (your Matthews Stafford)
The Green Bean Casserole is literally more than the sum of it’s parts, a hodgepodge of shit thrown together that tastes amazing.
Fun fact: Green Bean Casserole was invented by Campbell’s in 1955.
Additional fun fact: the last Lions NFL Championship was in 1957.
One of those things sucks, and the other doesn’t.
Wes: Tony, You’re the real King for coming up with and reminding me to do these tandem matchup posts all season. I’m thankful for our weekly banter in this lost shit storm of a Bears season.
The fans around Chicago aren’t thankful for much regarding their football team, but the Bears themselves are thankful for individual stand outs and a very convoluted and confusing path to the postseason, but still a path nonetheless. Take a trip with me on that path, will you?
  • Bears win out, finishing the season with six straight victories for a 10-6 record
  • Rams, Eagles and Panthers all finish 9-7 or worse
  • Packers win the NFC North
  • Minnesota loses at least three of their remaining games, finishing 10-6 and losing the tie-breaker to the Bears on H2H wins OR Seattle loses their final five games and finishes 9-7
Phew, that’s a lot. There’s actually a way the Bears could get in at 9-7, but there are so many more specific weekly win/lose arrangements in that scenario that you’re all going to be thankful for me NOT sharing it. Just know it’s all moot if the Bears can’t string together the wins on their own, and that starts with a big statement road win in Detroilet on American turkey booze day.
The Bears also need to be thankful for a handful of stand out performers on this underachieving nightmare squad. Allen Robinson is top five at the WR position but most casual fans would probably fight you on that because he’s stuck in a poorly run offense with a struggling young QB. I shudder to consider what this all might look like without ARob in 2019.  Khalil Mack may have been absent from the stat sheet coinciding with the losing streak, but without his first few games and performance against the Giants last week (all without his pal Akiem Hicks) we’re probably talking about silver linings instead of faint playoff hopes.
Role players like Nick Kwiatkoski, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tarik Cohen (who should probably be more than a “role player”…) have helped in a big way via Special Teams, plugged holes and played the next man up role perfectly to keep things from going horrible to catastrophic. So thanks to underappreciated few.
To me, the Bears individual standouts combined with the rest of team most closely resemble Thanksgiving Stuffing (or dressing if you wanna be a weirdo about it). Stuffing always, ALWAYS, has great components within. Bread? Sausage? Celery? Sage? That’ll do it. But no two Stuffing recipes are alike, and sometimes you get dried fruit in there. Or random vegetables. Or your aunt goes wild on the seasoning. Or your lazy ass uncle bought bags of croutons that are salty as hell. Some jerks even refuse to cook at least a portion INSIDE the bird. Idiots.
The 2019 Bears are Stuffing, because for every tantalizing ingredient like Arob and Mack, there’s too much salt or someone over thought it and added raisins and cranberries and three kinds of mushrooms without considering to just build a solid base first.
Here’s to hoping your Stuffing this year goes back to basics and just makes sure it’s a delicious, not looking to do more than it needs to. I can only assume Matt Nagy’s Stuffing takes 10 hours to prep and includes no less than 70 different ingredients.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Football

Welcome back to another edition of THE VAULT, a weekly segment where I leave our global consciousness behind and ascend to an alternate reality where Curtis Conway is a first ballot Hall of Famer and all of our dads quit drinking in the early 90s.

Two weeks ago I did a Bears/Lions preview and to be honest I’m fucking sick of the Lions, and this space is where I get to talk all my shit, so let’s talk shit. Instead of bringing back some historical Bears game, I’d rather use this space to help prime you for watching a Bears game with your in-laws who range from “casuals” to someone who hasn’t watched a football game since the AFL/NFL merger but says they stopped watching when players started taking a knee during the anthem. This guide is for you, so that when they add you on Facebook and post their hot political takes/Minion memes/Ben Shapiro quotes, you’ll be able to safely unfriend or block knowing you did all you could to help them understand football.

Yes, you read that right: the only thing I have to offer as it pertains to how I can improve the lives of strangers is trying to teach them the finer points of the RPO.

Your in-laws and your extended family suck at watching football. Mostly, they’ll be on their phones or loudly talking over the broadcast if you live in one of those homes where people say “let’s turn off our phones this holiday” or you actually like your family. Luckily, the Bears play the early game of the day’s slate, so hopefully the game is damn near over before your uncle gets hammered and says something racist about some player being “one of the good ones”.

You’ll have to talk Trubisky with people who have no idea exactly what’s going on with his pisspoor mechanics or fragile mental state. Just tell them they’re right in their analysis and you read on Twitter the Bears are considering bringing in Colin Kaepernick for the rest of the year.

“What’s the deal with that Nagy guy? He only runs short passes or runs up the middle!” Yeah, you’re actually spot on with that analysis there, Uncle Kev. That said, you could try to explain the intricacies of the total oblivion that is the Bears offense, but he’s just gonna forget and then compliment your new romantic partner on their body. Tread lightly.

Your family is gonna be spewing takes straight out of Skip Bayless’ wet dreams, and it’s up to you to pick your battles. I wouldn’t try to defend the offensive side of the ball, save explaining anything about this team when the defense gives up a field goal after a turnover and your cousin talks about how shitty they look this year even though as far as being athletic is concerned, the only running that cousin has done in the last year is from child support.

My advice for you is to either get to the place hosting your Thanksgiving dinner after the Bears game, or get there early and hope nobody shows up until the Dallas/Buffalo game. That one’s the easy one, since everyone’s non-football fan family members remember Dallas and will probably root for them, and you can play bingo trying to keep track of how many of them compliment Cole Beasley for being “gritty” or “sneaky fast”.

The Saints/Falcons will be a great nightcap, and for once you can use your fantasy football team to get out of those post-dinner conversations. I’ve spent the end of multiple Thanksgivings in my car, blasting one-hitters while listening to the Westwood One broadcast of the late game; those late nights are some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I guess that makes it sound like I hate my family, but that’s not true. I just have a lot of reverence for this stupid game we all love and if I can use it to get away from the hot takes that my in-laws spew over the holidays, I’ll take it.

Football is a great way to ignore the politics of Thanksgiving, and this year we are lucky enough to watch our beloved Bears shit the bed on national tv again!

Football

vs.

RECORDS: Lions 3-4-1   Bears 3-5

Kickoff: 12pm

TV: CBS 2

THAT DORK LOOKS LIKE JAM: Pride Of Detroit

Do you get the impression the Bears would rather play on the road these days? A home date with the Lions should be a joyous occasion, and it usually has been in the past, but considering the air around the Bears and the suddenness with which Soldier Field can turn toxic, you really feel like the Bears had better score on their first drive or it’s going to bet poisonous in a hurry. They might be booing at the pregame tailgate. Mitch Trubisky pointing at the TVs screaming, “DEATH!!!” isn’t going to help the cause much.

So the Bears will have to turn it around against what’s normally their favorite punching bag, and really everyone’s favorite punching bag. Luckily, the Lions contain some things that could really help the Bears if they’ve conditioned themselves during the week to change. Sadly, they also contain the Bears destruction within them as well.

First the good news. As my father would say, “The Lions defense stinkums.” They’re 27th in rush yards against per game, 31st in pass yards per game against, 27th in sacks, 27th in interceptions, and 27th in points against. So yeah, you’d think with the lack of pass rush and the lack of ballhawks and the lack of linebackers total, the Bears could actually find something they could do successfully against this outfit. Whether that’s lining up in the I more often and simply running the ball, or getting to play-action off of that, or rolling Mitch out where he’s clearly more comfortable, the Lions offer a fucking buffet of things you can get to them through. Then again, the Chargers were dressing their bus driver as a d-linemen and the Bears couldn’t crack that code until late. So no guarantees here.

The Lions defense has had various problems, including health in the secondary, but this chart is pretty telling (stick-tap to Jeremy Riesman at PoD for linking it):

Brain genius with birds living in his beard, and probable rapist, Matt Patricia hasn’t been able to get any pressure from his front four and they haven’t brought much heat either to try and make up for that. So maybe the Bears offensive line can hold up against this? And give Mitch time? Which won’t cause his eyes to drop to the rush? And maybe he can just pick-and-stick some guys in the open spaces? Am I asking too much? I probably am, aren’t I? More pissing in the wind, YAY!

Of course, it’s not that simple. On the flip side of the ball, Matt Stafford is playing at a ridiculous level, which Brian laid out here. I suppose the good news, if there is any on this front, is that he’s done his best work flinging the ball deep, which is something the Bears have given up next to nothing of this year. The plan against them has always been to get it out quick to avoid Khalil Mack ending your world, and the hope would be if Stafford and the Lions insist on taking their shots that Mack and Leonard Floyd (brief flickering signs of life last week) and others can get to Stafford to either bring him down or force errant throws. Then again, Stafford’s been so good at this he might be able to find the shots others haven’t. Then it could be trouble.

But hey, more good news. The Lions can’t run the ball for shit. Have they ever? This is just like the Lions condition, right? Like the Bears and quarterbacks? The Hawks and power plays? It’s just something they’ll never do. Anyway, Ty Johnson is averaging barely 3.5 yards per carry, and they don’t even go to him much as he’s gotten over 10 carries just once this season since he took over for Kerryon Johnson, who’s on IR with knee-knack. So whereas the Chargers and Eagles and Raiders and oh fuck let’s just stop it here pretty much ran it up the Bears giggy, that’s not something the Lions are built or even motivated to try.

The things is though, the Lions are a couple inches from being 5-2-1 or even better. The refs screwed them over in Green Bay. They had a last-second loss to the Chiefs. They probably should have beaten the Raiders last week. So they have just as much reason to look at the Bears and think they can get healthy against them as the Bears do looking the other way. Other than Mack, who will be heavily watched, Stafford is the best player on the field and is capable of winning this on his own given the right breeze.

Still, the Bears are basically built to not have a quarterback beat them. Yeah, sure, the defense hasn’t gotten the big stops they’ve needed the past two games, and even Denver drove right down the field against them in the 4th. But a lot of that was predicated on rushing attacks, which the Lions just don’t have. And does Stafford really have the patience to five- and six-yard outlet his way down the field? He might, but you have to feel there’ll be a shot or two that Eddie Jackson or Kyle Fuller can get their hands on.

So if they can keep Stafford from going power cosmic, you have to believe the Bears offense will find SOMETHING against this team. Maybe not 35 points something, but like 24? Detroit has given up 23 or more points in every game save one. The fucking Giants hung 31 on them. If Daniel Jones can go for 322 yards against this collection of lost souls, surely Mitch can have at least a decent game? Right? Right?!

This is it for the Bears, this next month. They get the Lions twice and the Giants, and a Sunday night in LA. Win those three and sneak some weird victory out of the Coliseum (where they come to see ’em), and the season isn’t lost. Hell, just take the three you’re supposed to and you’re 6-6 with at least something to hope for in December. But it has to start with one. If you can’t get this one, it’s pack up the cats time.

Football

You are what you eat, they say. If the old adage rings true for NFL coaches, you are what your team is. In that case, Matt Nagy is a colossal letdown. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but his team has forgotten where Club Dub is and Matt is the Lyft driver whose phone just died. He’s spent the last few weeks pretty much just defending Mitch, so it feels like the other areas of the team is suffering due to neglect. The Eagles game was atrocious. The Bears were penalized nine times for 70 yards which doesn’t sound too bad but a handful of those penalties were pre-snap. Nagy, as is Bears coach tradition, has also forgotten how to properly utilize his timeouts, his challenge record is spotty at best, and his clock management has been terrible this year.

Multiple games have seen Nagy attempt a hurry up offense at the end of the half with minimal timeouts remaining and the resulting quick three-and-out and punt has put opposing teams in a spot where they can try to get points instead. During the Packers game when the Bears went for it on fourth down early in the 4th while in field goal range, with a defense that was playing excellently, it dawned on me: Matt Nagy is a 17-year-old playing Madden. Sure, he’s old enough to know better than to do it, but when his system isn’t working he tries to make it work instead of playing to the situation. Running a four-vertical play against a defense that had been getting to the QB with just a three- or four-man rush is totally something your idiot teenager cousin would do right before he takes a sack and turns off the Playstation.

It’s hard to know exactly what level of control Nagy has over the defensive play-calling, but that’s also been suspect. The Bears have stopped blitzing frequently, relying on the front-4 to bring pressure. Offenses have this team figured out, and the defense hasn’t adjusted from a philosophical standpoint. Matt Stafford can pick this team apart if given time, but he can also make mistakes if he is pressured. Let’s hope the Nagy/Pagano brain-trust picks that one up and doesn’t rely on Aaron Lynch to beat a left tackle in under five seconds.

The edge in this match-up has to go to Matt Patricia, right? The Lions are by no means a playoff team, but they’re a competent football team with less talent than they need to be serious contenders. The Lions don’t look great, but Matt Nagy is also not putting his team in a position to be successful. Too many of the routes being run were five-man curls or short routes that ended with a Mitch sack because an effectively run short zone defense wipes out 95% of the Bears offensive plays. When the Bears were moving the ball, it was because they were down by multiple scores and because it seemed like the first time in weeks that Nagy played to the team and Mitch’s strengths.

Even so, this offense has become so predictable that it’s hard to see how they can be successful at anything. If Matt Patricia wants to win this game by out-coaching Matt Nagy, all he needs to do is watch the tape, where the Bears offense has successfully telegraphed themselves into obsolescence.

Tell me more about the previously indicted for sexual assault head coach of the Lions, won’t you Wes?

Matt Nagy is pretty damn STINKY this year, which you’ve laid out nicely. But I’m not sure that Matt Patricia takes the edge based solely on how crappy Nagy has been in year two. 

Patricia, also in his sophomore season as head coach, is failing Detroit in ways that everyone thought he’d succeed – his defense. Detroit currently ranks 31st on defense, giving up a staggering 424 yards a game on average. This is after the team spent pretty heavily on the defensive side this offseason, bringing in former Patricia players from New England in Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman. The results on those two and the defense as a whole are clearly pretty poor, and whatever the plan was in terms of a system or tweaking said system isn’t working. 
Detroit chose to move on from the statue that is Jim Caldwell in early 2018 in favor of Patricia even though Caldwell had winning seasons in three of his four years in Detroit, albeit with some poor playoff performances. If the plan was to bring in a Belichick disciple and have him elevate your team to that next level, Patricia’s short tenure can be generously described as a disappointment. He continues the long history of coaches leaving New England and subsequently failing, usually miserably. There’s time to turn it around, but the natives are getting pretty restless in Detroit and his players seems to be on the verge of mutiny as well. 
Sure sounds an awful lot like the Lions have the same kind of issues on defense as Nagy and the Bears have with the offense: A scheme that either isn’t being executed/grasped properly by the personnel, not having the right personnel or some combination of the two. Regardless, it ain’t working. Patricia claimed him and Darius Slay spoke about his post-Raiders loss comments and they’re now on the same page, that some of the comments were mischaracterized by the media, that he sees the plays and he needs to coach better but they’re working and they’re close….sound familiar? This is all after Detroit gave up 450 yards to Oakland, including a 75-yard drive late in the 4th to seal the game while also failing to force a punt for the first three quarters. (what sort of shitty team allows the Oakland Raiders to go almost the length of the field in the 4th quarter to give up a game losing touchdown? Terrible. -Tony)
We’ve had this conversation before, most recently ahead of the Chargers game; the Bears offense is dreadful and they’re about to face a defense that’s as equally, if not more, inept than they are. SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, RIGHT??? We’re gonna find out if the Detroit defense is just the right medicine Trubisky, Nagy and the Bears need or if Patricia can use Nagy’s poor year to get his defense back on track. This is a pretty massive week for both of these teams, kicking off stretches of four games with three they each have to feel are winnable (DET/CHI play twice between now and turkey day, sandwiched around CHI @LAR/vsNYG and DET vsDAL/@WSH). Three wins in the next four would put each team at six wins on the year and in the hunt for the Wild Card, but anything less and you’re going to start hearing about whether or not either of these guys gets a crack at year three. 
Nagy has his fantastic first season to buoy him, IMO. And maybe with a different QB the Bears look A LOT better. I think the Bears have to have a total disaster of a 2nd half for Nagy to lose his job. Patricia on the other hand, is coming off 6-10 and another losing season after the investments made and the depressing defense (allegedly his strong suit) could see him and possibly most of the Detroit front office fired into the sun. Matt Stafford isn’t getting any younger and his offense is performing well enough to win games, and none of that sentence bodes well for the defense-focused first time Head Coach staying in charge without showing progress – and quickly. Here’s to hoping Nagy can help Patricia start finding a real estate agent sooner than later.