August 22, 2012

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Sizing Up the 2012 Chicago Bears

By: Matt Bowen

Chicago Bears’ fans got their first taste of their re-tooled roster recently in preseason Week 2 against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.

Quite simply, the Bears first-string offense looks phenomenal.

Long known for their defense, the offense could be what powers the Bears this season.

Everybody knew heading into the offseason that the Chicago Bears were at a make-or-break point as far as their offense was concerned. Behind running back Matt Forte, quarterback Jay Cutler didn’t have anyone else to rely upon.

The frustration on Cutler’s face, along with the Bears’ faithful was evident and the Bears’ ownership realized that the entire organization needed a breath of fresh air. The team hired Phil Emery to take over as GM and he wasted little time making drastic changes.

Out was offensive coordinator Mike Martz, in was Mike Tice. Martz has long been known for his elaborate schemes on offense which didn’t necessarily cater to Cutler’s liking. In the end it seemed like it was Martz and Cutler, and it is much easier finding an offensive coordinator who will get along with the franchise quarterback than it is to find someone of Cutler’s caliber.

The team then set out on a mission to improve their offense ad they did just that. Emery quickly made a trade with the Miami Dolphins for star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who is familiar with Cutler from their playing days with the Denver Broncos.

Emery then signed Michael Bush, who was the best backup running back available in free agency. Bush is similar to Forte in the sense that he can not only run for a solid average, but he has a steady pair of hands that are to be trusted by Cutler. The Bears combination of Forte and Bush gives them the 1-2 punch that every NFL team desires. Within their division, they now have the best rushing attack in the NFC North.

The Bears weren’t satisfied with just one receiver, so they drafted a second. The Bears committed highway robbery when they stole receiver Alshon Jeffery with the No. 45 pick of the second round this year. Jeffery is a big, physical receiver who should make his living in the red zone. He was the icing on the cake and Bears’ fans have big hopes of eating it, too.

So, how good will the Bears offense be exactly? By all indications from their first game together in preseason Week 2, the Bears will contend for the Super Bowl. Sure, they’ve played less than a half of preseason football together, but they looked pristine.

Bush only had five carries, but he scored two touchdowns. Marshall and Jeffery didn’t find pay dirt, but their combined five catches for 123 yards looks downright scary to opponents. Who are opposing defenses supposed to guard? Don’t forget about Forte, who can do it all and will remain fresh throughout the season because of Bush.  Another member of the Bears who will reap the benefits of the new and improved team is Devin Hester, who will be the dagger to many opponents this season.

Whether you like the Bears or not, it’s time to get excited to watch them play.

November 4, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 9 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Was Drew Brees on the football field Sunday? Didn’t feel like it. Honestly, I’m not that surprised the Rams beat the Saints. There are no actual facts to back up this theory, but sometimes teams that blow up offensively one week don’t perform the next game. It happens in football, basketball, and baseball. Whether the team grows overconfident in their abilities and slacks off, is tired from the week before, or something else, I don’t know. It just seems to happen more often than it should.

Brandon Pettigrew was a disappointment, too. I had high expectations for him last week, and the entire season, but he just hasn’t performed. If you can’t capitalize in that high powered offense when the opposing secondary is focusing on Calvin Johnson, you’re not worth a starting spot on a fantasy team.

Detroit’s defense had a good game, though, thanks to Tebow performing like many of us expected. He’s a good guy, and you want him to win based on personality alone, but I’m worried he’s not a pro caliber quarterback.

Adrian Peterson performed, well, too, as he always does. But he didn’t blow the roof off, like you’d expect. Part of the problem was the Vikings went down early to the Panthers and had to throw more than they’d like. Still, Christian Ponder used a lot of check-down passes to Peterson, recording a TD on that end, too.

Not a bad week overall… on to Week 9 picks.

Matt Forte

Forte has been tearing it up this year, and will certainly be paid in the offseason (unless the Bears slap the Franchise Tag on him). Sunday he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, who I see as playing strong the rest of the season after they had the bye to get situated.

The Eagles defense shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys, but their offensive “forte” is the passing game, and with Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie patrolling the secondary off of a bye, it’s easy to see why the Cowboys offense stalled.

The Bears “forte,” though, is Forte. The Eagles’ frontline has not performed well this season. Look for the Bears to feed their workhorse back (and potentially Marion Barber if he plays) plenty.

There’s also a good chance Jay Cutler throws a few picks, but that’s always on the table.

Arian Foster / Ben Tate

I presume Foster will get the bulk of the carries now that he’s healthy, but you never know, so I include Tate here. The Browns have had a tough time stopping the run this year, as the secondary is responsible for keeping them in games. There’s a good chance both these guys score Sunday in Houston, and a decent chance the Texans eclipse 30 points.

Oakland Defense

I’m going to continue to pick on Tebow here, and say that Oakland will have a solid defensive game. Despite losing Asomugha in the offseason, the defense remains the strong suit of the team. Their defensive line is strong and will surely pressure Tebow like Detroit’s big line did last week.

Denver Defense

Staying in the same game, I’ll now pick on Carson Palmer. I’ll dismiss his three interception performance two weeks ago – he was only with the team for a few days, and had spent the entire season throwing to high school kids until he was traded from Cincinnati. But Palmer has not been the top tier quarterback he once was since he blew out his knee in the playoffs.

Last year he had a fairly solid fantasy season and qualified as a top ten quarterback. But I find it hard to believe, even with a bye week to catch up, that he’ll be able to hit the ground running for the Raiders. They’ll likely feed Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and limit Palmer’s impact. If Tebow manages to work some of his intangible magic and jump to a significant lead, and Palmer’s forced to perform, look for pick city.

October 12, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 6 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Fantasy Football Predictions: Week 5 Recap

I’m not sure what’s going on with the New York Jets. They held up pretty well against the New England Patriots, only losing by nine points, but I’m surprised they didn’t run more. Sure the Patriots’ secondary is suspect, but slowing the game down and playing good defense was the Jets bread and butter. Super Bowl hopefuls I just don’t see.

Where I missed on Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, I hit on Alex Smith. The 49ers crushed the Tampa Bay Bucs 48-3, with Smith tossing 3 TD and 0 INT. The offensive explosion did not include Michael Crabtree, though, recording only a couple catches for 36 yards.

Oh and Nick Novak kicked five field goals. That’s a solid pick for a kicker, albeit lucky. But when your fantasy team begins to tank, you take what you can get.

Fantasy Football Predictions:  Week 6

Dallas & New England

It feels like a cop out to just select two offenses, but this match up has high scoring written all over it. Expect Tom Brady and his receivers to have a big game, as well as Tony Romo and his crew. Brady doesn’t discriminate when it comes to his receivers, so who knows who will be his favorite target for the week. If you’re looking to pick someone up, go after Aaron Hernandez, their second tight end who gets first tight end receptions, or Chad Ochocinco, who has disappointed fantasy owners so far, but has to score at least a few times this year, right?

Michael Bush

The Oakland Raiders face my Cleveland Browns this Sunday, which I fully expect to result in personal dismay. The Brownies can’t stop the run, and Darren McFadden has become the top tier player the Raiders expected him to be when he was drafted in the first round a few years ago.

But unless your league-mates have been in a cave, he’s not on your waiver wire. Chances are Michael Bush isn’t either, but I have him on many of my teams, and it’s always a toss-up whether he should play or not. This week he’s a good play in a likely blowout of the Browns. The Raiders will run the ball a ton, and Bush will get the goal line carries.

Ryan Grant

Speaking of the running game, the Green Bay Packers go up against one of the worst run defenses in the league in the St. Louis Rams. They’re also one of the worse defenses in general, so Aaron Rodgers should have a big day. But eventually they’ll pull out to a big league and run the clock down. Grant splits carries with James Starks, but Grant is technically the starter and incumbent, although he missed all last year due to injury.

For whatever reason, I’ve noticed Grant go undrafted and stay on the waiver wire in many leagues. He’s definitely not what he was two years ago, but he’s a good value play if you’re desperate for a running back.