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

Do you hear anything? No? Me either. No noise. No torches and pitchforks. No jobs on the line (yet). It’s pretty boring around here.

Usually in late July we’re all too eager here in Chicago to begin HOT TAKE SZN surrounding the Bears and the NFL. This July, though, feels different. Is everyone just happy to banter about the Cubs division chase and Sox future potential? No, we’ve been doing that every July since 2015. The NBA had a pretty big summer, but the Bulls largely sat that out and everyone is just content they MIGHT make a surprise run at the 8-seed in the East. Hawks prospect camp and convention?? OK, I’m done.

So with nothing new or exciting going on in major sports around the city, why is this late July so different? The Bears, coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and second in the last 13 years, have had the quietest offseason in about as long. No new head coach/GM/Front Office personnel. No major signings/high draft picks. Hardly any turnover on the roster/staff, and no real starting positions up for the taking. GM Ryan Pace didn’t even get to make a draft pick until the third day, and there’s been little discussion about the his team or the impending camp since.

The biggest offseason story? Kickers. Cody Parkey long fired into the sun, the talk of both mini-camp and now training camp is the kicking sideshow. Each day’s camp breakdown thus far has started with the accuracy for that day’s kicker; Elliot Fry is 17 of 20 so far! He’s hit from 60 and banged in from 48 and 51 in the driving rain! Eddie Pineiro hit from 63 after doing his best 80s macho movie hunk routine – after his coaches asked him to try from 60 he replied “nah, how ’bout 63”! Suh gnarly, broseph.

The crowds are another HOT story coming out of Bourbonnais. Attendance day one? OVER 8,000!!! Videos tweeted of fans LIGHTLY JOGGING to get front row standing room to see the Midway Monsters strap on the pads and paw at each other! Whoa, did you see that 50-yard bomb from Mitch to Gabriel?? Kahlil Mack and Eddie Jackson are sooooo goood OMFG!!!! I mean, it’s great to see the guys you want to excel succeed in practice, but that’s the bar here, no? To be as good as advertised?

This shit is BORING. But boring doesn’t really mean bad. Consider:

-There was one major coaching change in the offseason, but not the normal refrain of a deficiency in some area. Vic Fangio left to go be the head coach in Denver because his defense was so amazing (while the rest of the team was total ass for most of his tenure). The ensuing hire? Chuck Pagano, a highly regarded defensive mind in his own right that mostly just needs to keep the ship on course. There also are no ‘hot’ seats to speak of at the moment. Weird.

-The players lost to free agency were seen as priced out of their worth at Halas Hall and nary a tear was shed for Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan. The replacements and other new signings were mostly budget buys met with a collective “meh”.  HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skine swap in for Amos and Callahan. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson are here to do something in the backfield. Great, fine. I bet you didn’t even know they signed Ted Larson, again, for O-Line depth or Marvin Hall and Peter Williams. Only one of those guys is made up, but I’m guessing you have to look it up to tell me which one.

-The draft was pretty uneventful as well, unless you count trading up 14 or so spots in the 3rd round “eventful”. Sure, they got their GUY at running back in David Montgomery, or so they’ll tell anything with ears. Even he hasn’t generated much buzz since the draft, a soft spoken type that just does his work and stays quiet off the field. Booooooring. The rest of the draft was all lottery tickets and undrafted free agents because Pace only had five picks to work with. They got a Ridley? No, not the one from Alabama.

-There aren’t any big injuries to get all worked up about, either. Adam Shaheen hasn’t practiced in two days, but that’s basically his whole bag of tricks since being wildly overdrafted three years ago. Someone named Emmanuel Hall is recovering from groin surgery. HaHa is on the PUP list, rehabbing a lower body injury but expected back before too long. Whatever.

So this late July, the start to camp is boring. Embrace the boring, it means that most of us are looking forward to September and could give a shit about what happens between now and then. We don’t even get another open practice for a few days; the team has a shorter, closed practice today and is off Wednesday. There’s a preseason game a week after that, so maybe by the weekend we’ll start to get some real battles for the edge of the roster. Those are the positions that help to define serious championship contending NFL teams from the dregs they beat up.

Boring kinda sucks, but we’ll take it after the last decade worth of summers overstuffed with tough questions. Wait and see how these jokers fighting for their NFL lives fair in game reps in a week or so. If you need your fix the rest of this first week, keep refreshing that twitter account of your favorite beat writer to see where Steady Eddie P tells coach he’s spotting his next kick. HOOOOO BABYYYYY!

@WFrenchman on Twitter