Football

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Records: CHI 0-1 DEN 0-1

TV: 3:25 pm FOX 32

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Joe Flacco joined the mile high club before you: Milehighreport.com

Ah, there it is. That sinking feeling. The one that rushed in as you saw Adrian Amos come down with the back-breaking interception last Thursday night. All those lofty expectations and National media criticism crashing down at once.  All the sudden, a Week 2 trip to Denver and former Bears DC Vic Fangio that looked like a mildly challenging test in August is now a near must-win road game against the guy that probably knows your playbook better than your QB. Luckily, Fangio has many a mess of his own to clean up to make this game look more winnable than it did on Monday Morning.

Denver limps home after failing to come all the way back to beat the rival Oakland Raiders late on Monday night in what was a decent upset, all things considered. The 24-16 scoreline is misleading, as Oakland thoroughly dominated this one, pitching a first half shutout (14-0) and withstanding some late garbage time scores to prevail. The Broncos were bad in just about every phase of this one, lowlighted on defense where they gave up a 98-yard drive for a TD to open the 2nd Q and EDGE savants Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were credited with a combined ZERO pressures. Fangio was also without his former Bear FA signing Bryce Callahan, having to to watch second year DB Isaac Yiadom get picked apart play after play by guy-liner aficionado Derek Carr.

The offense and new QB Joe Flacco did little to provide bright spots, settling for FG attempts through three quarters on 215 for 6 points. Flacco led two scoring drives late, but with Oakland holding a 24-6 lead they were happy to give up completions to keep the clock going. Flacco is not going through a renaissance in Denver if he keep on the path from Week 1, especially if the Chicago secondary can take away Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders. Those two accounted for 12 of 21 completions and nearly 3/4 of the team passing totals. The ground game is very much a work in progress, with Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay spitting carries and combining for under 100 yards. As stated, the Broncos have a long journey to figuring this thing out.

Matt Nagy drags his bag of tricks, or lack thereof, to the Mile High city with plenty of answers of his own to provide. The focus for over a week has been on the abysmal offensive performance and how exactly they go about getting to average, let alone progressing to the top of the NFL’s offenses like many had hoped for in year two of Nagy-ball. Mitchell Trubisky is continuing to be coddled, with the Bears brass opting against him even speaking about his failures from Week 1. Trubs has plenty of his own work to do with reading the plays and not panicking into awful throws or abandoning pockets in half a second. His offensive line, a major strength of 2018, needs to get their shit together as well after they gave up a near league-worst 19 QB pressures to start the season. It’ll be interesting to see what tweaks, if any, are made with the stable of RBs and what that usage looks like. The major disparity of runs to pass plays will no doubt be better than 15/50, but many were confused by the usage in general of Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, David Montgomery and Cordarelle Patterson. Unlock the backfield, and things could start to fall into place for the offense as a whole. Trey Burton‘s mystery groin injury doesn’t seem set to heal just yet, and his full participation could also be a key to opening up this offense.

The Chicago defense is hoping it won’t be wasted like many of the stout Bear D’s of the recent past. This unit looked as good as advertised, even with a few new faces and new coordinator in Chuck Pagano trying not to bungle the gift Fangio left him. The Broncos only gave up sis QB pressures in Week 1, but the Oakland rush isn’t exactly what you’d call “remotely passable” for an NFL team, and that was before Denver lost the best RT in football in Ju’Waun James. Khalil Mack and co. have to be more than eager to get after the swiss cheese right side of the line and statuesque Flacco. Eddie Goldman will be a game time decision, but with the emergence of Roy Robertson-Harris last week that may be a moot point.

Neither of these teams probably expected to come into this game with this much uncertainty, and how it plays out for the victor will be very telling of where their seasons go from here. Can Nagy sort out his shortcomings to the point the offense runs smoothly and becomes watchable, possibly even…exciting? I’d settle for boring and good for now. Can Fangio tighten up his defense enough, with so many young/new players and a new system, on a short week?

My money is on Nagy, Mitch and the offense doing enough to lean on another stellar defensive performance to get Chicago it’s first win of 2019. Fangio might know how to solve Nagy, but the personnel doesn’t seem like it’s ready to execute as needed. Remember, it took three full years for the Bears to go from bottom third of the league to top five in DVOA under Vic.

Prediction: Bears 22, Broncos 13 

Football

Sunday at 3:25, our beloved and disappointing Chicago Bears travel to Mile High Stadium to face the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are one of those teams that seem like the boring background noise of the NFL at the moment, being roughly about as interesting as the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and that Washington team. The Broncos don’t even have the luxury of being a flaming dumpster fire (Miami, the Giants), they just come out and play. Truth be told, if they weren’t on the late slate so often on Red Zone I’d forget they exist. Luckily, I got a chance to scout them on Monday and then promptly fell asleep on my couch at halftime.

However, I rewatched their loss against the Raiders and did a little bit of research on my own, so I’ll spend this article letting you know all you need to know about the Broncos so you can impress everyone at your watch party.

First off: this team does not pass the eye test. They have budding stars at WR (Courtland Sutton) and RB (Phillip Lindsay), with solid veterans to compliment them in Emmanuel Sanders and the also young but uninspiring Royce Freeman, respectively. So they go and invest in… Joe Flacco and Vic Fangio. Fangio is a brilliant defensive mind, and since Denver went defensive when selecting their head coach, they hopped on the new trend in the NFL and picked someone who once ripped bongs with Sean McVay in college to run the offense. Imagine being Rich Scangarello and getting a chance to FINALLY have an offense of your own and being gifted Joe fucking Flacco to run it. Oof.

The Defense is great on paper. Von Miller is going to be a problem and demand extra help almost no matter what, and Chris Harris Jr is an outstanding defensive back. Bradley Chubb is also a beast. Kareem Jackson is a decent corner, and it looks right now like Bryce Callahan might not play, which is a bummer. I hope nothing but good health for that dude because he is as close to a shutdown slot corner as there is in the NFL, and Bears fans appreciate good defense if for no other reason because we’ve been conditioned to expect defenders to be better than the offense. Unfortunately for this “wonderful” defense, they played terribly against Oakland. The Raiders went 10-14 on 3rd down last week and those defensive numbers don’t look good, no matter if you’re playing backyard football or in the NFL.

As for what to expect, look for a lot of slants, quick reads, and plays designed to get the ball out of Flacco’s hands as quickly as possible, he’s about as mobile as my Grandpa who candidly has never won a Super Bowl but did fight in World War II. Be on the lookout for 60/40 split between Lindsay and Freeman, for some stupid reason. Courtland Sutton will pop on screen when you watch, he’s dynamic. The Broncos sucked in the red zone last week and there has been a lot of talk about opening up the playbook, so we will see stuff we haven’t seen yet. Expect Flacco to air it out a few times, and for Vic to try to confuse Mitch into bad throws and poor reads. When the Bears offense is on the field, we’ll see exactly how much new creativity Matt Nagy has put into the playbook in the offseason, and it should be an entertaining chess match to say the least.

If the Bears are legit, games like this shouldn’t be close and we can all breathe calmly when we reflect on the what happened on Monday morning. If the Bears are truly hitting the regression button, this game could be a surprise loss. As of Wednesday the line is Bears by 3, and while my heart says that’s a good bet, recent data implies this game might be too close for comfort.

Football

When the Bears face Joe Flacco and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, you can’t help but think they will be looking into a mirror or sorts. See, Flacco is the one quarterback in the league whose skill set most resembles Bears QB Mitch Trubisky. Granted, being a Super Bowl champion makes Flacco a far more successful pro, but his own individual Ravens career could best be described as somewhere between meh and shouldn’t Joe Flacco be better? Sometimes, when you win a Super Bowl with an elite defense, all you really need from your quarterback is to be average – sound familiar?

Now, would the Bears love to have a mediocre Joe Flacco behind center this year? I would answer with a resounding YES! Flacco has been a very good game manager throughout this career, and with Vic Fangio taking over a very defensive minded Broncos team; the “game manager” nametag figures to stick to Flacco again this season.

As we look ahead to week 2, the Bears front 7 will take on the brunt of responsibility in limiting Flacco on Sunday. Based on what we learned about the Bears defense vs. Green Bay, as well as Flacco’s performance against the Raiders in the opener, I would expect the Bears defense to be extremely successful for the second straight week. The Bears made Aaron Rodgers look pedestrian last Thursday, and you Joe Flacco, are no Aaron Rodgers. Because of that, I do not envision a scenario where the Broncos QB is the reason why they win this Sunday. However, I also do not envision a scenario where the Broncos QB is the reason why they lose this Sunday.

Where Will The Broncos and Flacco Attack the Bears Secondary?

Going back to the 2016 season, the Charted Passer Rating results paint a very accurate picture of just how consistently inconsistent Flacco has been:

2016

Joe Flacco Qb-grid Chart

2017

Joe Flacco Qb-grid Chart

2018

Joe Flacco Qb-grid Chart

This chart shows a general lack of consistency in any given yardage or portion on the field. Almost every NFL quarterback has a throw that they know they can make in their sleep. Joe Flacco, based on these charts, is the exception to that rule. Watch for the Bears to match up based far more on personnel than they will on where Flacco is comfortable throwing the ball.

 

What Did We Learn From Flacco in Week 1?

In dissecting Flacco’s week 1 performance, there are a few things to be aware of as you watch the Broncos QB take on the Khalil Mack & Co.:

  • Week 1 was vintage Joe Flacco in almost every way:
    • 1 TD
    • 0 INT
    • 68% Completion Percentage
    • 8.6 Yards Per Attempt
    • 268 Passing Yards
    • Sacked 3X
      • Although this stat line screams “Game Manager,” it is also a game I’d take week in and week out from Mitch T.
      • It is also worth noting that Flacco put together a nice portion of his numbers when the game was pretty much decided. If not for ten 4th quarter points on scoring drives of 54 yards and 75 yards, Flacco and the entire Broncos offense could have been classified as Bears-esque.
  • Courtland Sutton, Emmanuel Sanders, and Noah Fant all averaged over 14.5 yards per catch. Would I trade the Bears receiving corps for this group? No. But for one week, their QB put them in a position to be successful, which is something we cannot say about the Bears QB in week 1.
  • Joe Flacco had 1 rushing attempt for 1 yard. As he is somewhat limited athletically, he must go through his progressions and look beyond his first option or 2. This is the opposite of the far more athletic Mitch Trubisky, who looks to use his feet almost immediately after his first read has been taken away. Listen, I love Mitch’s athleticism, and I talk about it often, but sometimes he’s simply too athletic for his own good.
  • The Bronco’s O-Line is an abortion. They quite honestly may be the worst non-Dolphins unit in the league. This could get ugly for Flacco on Sunday, who at this point in his career may be more about personal wellness than sitting in the pocket getting his crank kicked in.

As Such:

If the Bears can control the Broncos running game and their defense plays according to plan, then Joe Flacco isn’t going to be the guy who can put a team on his back and beat you – that just isn’t in his makeup. He has made a career by being a serviceable NFL starter and he has experienced a great deal of team success in that role, but I don’t see him becoming super human on Sunday against one of the best defenses in the league; which is why the Bears will earn their first W of the year in yet another low scoring, borderline unwatchable affair.