201 Comments

Thoughts From Around the NFC North

| March 22nd, 2022

The odds above are from DraftKings Sportsbook.


Green Bay Packers

  • The story of the Green Bay off-season is Aaron Rodgers. The second he decided to return to the club, he cemented their frontrunner status for not only the NFC North but for the NFC, generally. (They run side-by-side with Brady’s Bucs.) Barring injury to the signal caller, the Packers will be in the 2022 postseason.
  • Has any draft pick caused more organizational turmoil than the Jordan Love pick? Sure, it alienated one of the greatest (and emotionally fragile) quarterbacks in the history of the sport. But also, the kid clearly can’t play. If he could, the Packers wouldn’t be doing advanced calisthenics to contort around Rodgers’ emotions. If the team viewed Love as capable, they could have dealt Rodgers for multiple first-round picks, replenishing Love’s supporting cast, and likely still maintaining their contender status.
    • Stacey Dales and I had a rather contentious Twitter exchange when the Packers took Love. She “reported” Rodgers was fully onboard with the selection. But of course, he wasn’t. People like Rodgers – and I’m sure you know a few – harbor everything. They stew with every perceived slight. They don’t use it for motivation; they use to be upset. Still awaiting the formal apology from Dales.
  • Rodgers has a history of making the weapons around him better but that’ll be put to the test in 2022. The Packers will likely address wide receiver in the draft but until they do, this is the weakest collection of outside targets they’ve rostered in quite some time, with Allen Lazard as their top current option for next season.
  • And don’t count me among those criticizing Green Bay for dealing Davante Adams. They got a first and second-round pick and now don’t have to pay him $30M a season. There is no reason to believe Adams will replicate his Rodgers production with Derek Carr. Rodgers aggressively fed Adams, with the most accurate arm in the league.
  • Green Bay’s defense was solid in all the standard categories and mediocre in the advanced metrics like DVOA. But their special teams sabotaged them in 2021. Pat O’Donnell is not a game changer. Rich Bisaccia, while a great leader, is not a game changer. The Packers need to strengthen the bottom of their roster – the core of specials – and that will need to happen over the closing days of free agency/draft season.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Kirk Cousins is still the quarterback. Thus, the team has a definitive ceiling. But we should all marvel at what he’s achieved in the sport. Warren Sharp put it in one Tweet: “Kirk Cousins has a 59-59-2 record as an NFL quarterback, performs slightly above average, and has made $231,669,486 in his career.”
  • Minnesota has a new head coach but as long as they stay committed to Kirk, they are in win now mode. This became even more clear when the Vikings were unable to trade Danielle Hunter prior to his $18M bonus becoming guaranteed on Sunday. (This is why Ryan Poles traded Khalil Mack THIS off-season. When you’re trying to retool a roster, you have to clear payroll when it’s possible. There’s no guarantee that Mack would have had the same value a year from now and Poles couldn’t take that chance.)
  • The off-season approach taken by the Vikings is receiving harsh, and I believe appropriate, criticism from their media.
    • From Ben Goessling: “This week, the Vikings opted not to follow through on the considerations they’d had, however briefly, about a hard reset, instead making moves to keep veterans on their roster while clearing enough cap space to sign several free agents and perhaps satisfy the Wilf family’s stated expectation the Vikings be “super-competitive” 8in 2022.”
    • From Chip Scoggins: “The team’s salary cap quagmire has created dueling agendas that make ownership’s win-now objective a tug-of-war with reality.”
    • From Mark Craig: “The Packers are the team to beat in 2022. The Bears and Lions are eyeballing 2023. And your new Vikings regime has stuck itself somewhere in between as a team still giving full chase to the distant Packers in 2022 while staring down the probability of falling short and finding itself a year behind the rebuilds in Chicago and Detroit in 2023.”

Read More …

Tagged: , ,

353 Comments

Bears at Packers Game Preview: On the Rodgers Legacy in GB, Sondheim at the Cinema, Another Loss?!?

| December 10th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And the game has significantly more juice with Justin Fields in the starting lineup. The idea of Nick Foles starting at Lambeau Field, in primetime, had some Henry Burris vs. Tampa (2002) vibes.


On Rodgers.

This could be the last time the Bears see Aaron Rodgers in a Green Bay Packers uniform. And it is very difficult to contextualize his tenure with the team. So here are a bunch of thoughts.

  • My biggest disappointment is the Bears never fielded a quarterback to go toe-to-toe with him. For all the talk of his “owning” the Bears, look at the opposing quarterbacks he owned. (I own a 2005 Chevy Cavalier with 206k miles on it. I don’t brag about it.) Jay Cutler was his best opposition, and nobody puts Cutler and Rodgers in the same sentence, unless that sentence starts, “If I were to rank quarterbacks by how much I didn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with them, it would go Cutler, Rodgers…”
  • There’s an odd symmetry between the regular season careers of Rodgers and Tom Brady, as both dominated weak divisions for the entire careers. But the symmetry ends there. Rodgers’ stats don’t fall in almost any important category in the postseason, except one. He is 135-65-1 in the regular season and 11-9 in the postseason, reaching only one Super Bowl. But is he really to blame for that?
    • His numbers do plummet in the NFC title game. He is 1-4. His TD/INT is 9/8. His rating is 83.7, a good 20 points lower than his regular season and non-title game ratings. If there is a fly in the ointment of his career, it is those games.
  • People have tried to assign logic to Rodgers’ desires to leave Green Bay, questioning why he’d want to abandon one of the better rosters in the league. But you can’t apply logic to people as thin-skinned and temperamental as Rodgers. If something the organization did offended him, it is unlikely he’ll ever move on from it. (This is a guy who cut off his entire family over a woman and she was like five women ago.) Rodgers is still on the Packers in 2021 because GB knew they had a title-contending roster this season and they also knew that wouldn’t be true with Jordan Love.

Sondheim at the Cinema

Once again, I’ll be writing more extensively about Sondheim this off-season when content is harder to come by, but I am using these game previews to simply share his work. Sondheim was a cinephile to an intense extent (I know the feeling). He and Anthony Perkins co-wrote the excellent film The Last of Sheila, which you can rent on Amazon or anywhere else you do those things. Here are some other contribution to the world of movies.

________________

Stavisky (1974)

Sondheim wrote the absolutely lovely score for this underrated Alain Resnais picture.

________________

Reds (1981)

Sondheim provided the song “Goodbye for Now” for Warren Beatty’s score. It’s a gorgeous melody that stands out dramatically in the film.

________________

Dick Tracy (1990)

Sondheim won the Academy Award for “Sooner or Later” but I actually think “Back in Business” is the better song. However, I don’t know a Sondheim junkie that doesn’t consider Mandy Patinkin and Madonna’s gorgeous duet of “What Can You Lose” their favorite musical passage in the film.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

332 Comments

Week Six Game Preview, Volume II: Why Not, Thoughts on Not Drinking (Again), Bears Take Division Lead?

| October 15th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And this young 2021 campaign has been building to the Packers, and Justin Fields, at Soldier Field. If the Bears win, the fan march back into the city will look like this:

(I realize those who drive to Soldier Field have never experienced this walk but it is truly one of the most unique, remarkable things about the experience. Win or lose, it’s always amazing.)


Why Not?

So often, these Packers games can be approached with a sense of resignation. Everything feels like it has to go right for the Bears to beat Aaron Rodgers. Khalil Mack wrecks the game. Lose. Defense holds Rodgers to 10 points. Still lose. It is obvious the Bears will be out-gunned at quarterback when these teams play but too often they have felt outplayed at the 21 other positions, and out-maneuvered on the sideline. Honestly, it hasn’t been a fair fight.

This fight is fair. The Packers are not the Packers. They struggle to run the ball. They are a bit one-trick on the outside, with Davante Adams pulling away from the field when it comes to targets. And injuries to Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander have rendered what was an ascending defense to the realm of gettable. (Kevin King may also be out this week.) They are still the best team in the NFC North, and overwhelming favorites to win this division, but they also could have easily lost to both the Niners and Bengals. What would we be saying about this team if they were 2-3 right now?

Why not now, Bears? Why not roll this two-game winning streak into Soldier Field and beat your oldest rival? Why not ride the crowd energy created by this young quarterback to a franchise-invigorating victory? Why not make the statement that, “Hey, we might not have the weapons or corners of the best teams in the league but we’re coming and coming soon”?

This is likely to be Rodgers’ last game in Soldier Field as the Packers quarterback. Why not make his swan song a dirge?


Stats of the Week

  • Hinted at this yesterday but the Bears and Packers are oddly close in a lot of defensive statistical rankings. They are 8th/6th in yards allowed, 12th/10th in passing yards allowed, 14th/16th in opposing passer rating and 12th/11th in rushing yards allowed. The big defensive gaps are sacks (18-10 Bears) and points allowed (20 Bears, 24.4 Packers).
  • The Packers blitz on 25.7% of opponent drop backs; the league’s 14th highest rate. The Bears blitz on 15.7%; only three teams blitz less. For a game that will come down to pressuring the quarterback, these numbers seem pertinent.
  • First downs.
    • The Bears have 38 first downs on the ground. (8th in the league) The Packers have 25. (23rd in league)
    • The Packers have 67 first downs through the air. (11th in league) The Bears are dead last with 35. They simply have to get more creative in short yardage.

Thoughts on Not Drinking

Years ago I wrote a longform piece about taking time off the drink, titled Diary of a Boozer (Off the Booze). You can visit the link for the post HERE or download the PDF right HERE. For someone who drinks a lot, taking an extended break from it can feel like an earth-shattering experience.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

159 Comments

Super Bowl Prediction Fifty-Six Prediction

| September 6th, 2021


Last season, DBB nailed the preseason Super Bowl prediction for the first time in our history. The excitement at our headquarters was palpable; the laudits many. The key to the city of Pasadena was an unnecessary thrill.

This season we seek to repeat that historic achievement. Three questions.


(1) What teams have the big-game quarterback?

(2) What teams have the kind of division that will escort them into the top seed?

(3) What teams have a pass rush capable of taking over in January?


NFC.

  • Forget the East, though I think Washington‘s defense against that Dallas offense is fascinating when it comes to picking a division winner.
  • In the West, I have loved Los Angeles all off-season but are any of the teams in that division getting to 12 wins? (In my gambling life, I’m hard-fading Arizona. I think they’re the worst coached team in the league and that situation feels combustible.)
  • I’m really excited to watch the NFC South but I don’t think New Orleans has enough firepower to contain Tampa Bay and the other two don’t have enough defense.
  • I couldn’t be less excited to watch the NFC North. It’s going to be a Green Bay runaway. Detroit might be the worst team in the league. Chicago is starting Andy Dalton. Minnesota will inevitably lose half that roster to Covid issues, because their quarterbacks room is Nutjob Central.

Sorry, folks, Green Bay. 

Read More …

Tagged: ,

101 Comments

ATM: North Might Be Tighter, But Bears Are Still Best

| June 4th, 2019

There is little question that at least a couple of other teams in the NFC North are better than they were a year ago, but the Bears were so much better than the field it doesn’t seem likely the gap isn’t still significant. In addition to having four more wins than any other NFC North team last year, the Bears outscored their divisional opponents 153-109. That’s a differential of 44 points, meaning a +7.3 point average in divisional contests.

While the Lions and Packers made significant additions via free agency and, presumably, through the draft, they were so far behind the top two teams. The Lions were outscored by the other three teams 131-118, while the Packers were outscored 162-110. In fact, the Packers needed late field goals to avoid three double-digit losses and were handled by the Lions, twice.

Of course, the 2018 Bears were a great example of going worst-to-first, losing every divisional game in 2017, with most of them not being particularly close. But the Bears spent most of the 2017 season with a rookie quarterback and made more significant roster additions than any of the NFC North teams,

Here’s a quick look at the division.


Minnesota Vikings

Best Addition: Irv Smith Jr. The Vikings have some really good offensive players, but they reminded me of the 2014 Bears, who were basically playing 10-on-11 offensively without a decent second tight end or third receiver. Smith gives them another weapon, who should allow them to play big and run the ball.

Biggest Loss: Sheldon Richardson. Playing on a one-year deal, Richardson was second on the team with 20.5 combined quarterback hits and sacks last year.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

58 Comments

Audibles From the Long Snapper: Packers/Bears, Pass Interference, Ted Phillips & More!

| March 28th, 2019


Packers at Bears to Open Season

My Thoughts:

  • I hate it. The opening Sunday of NFL football is my favorite day of the entire year and if the Bears are not playing in that early window it is ruined for me. (Hopefully the Bills are home that weekend so I can make something of the whole experience. I’ll just go up there and eat the world’s best wings and drink Blue Light.)
  • I hate it. Bears/Packers – and all important divisional games – should be scheduled for later in the season. None of these teams are playing their best football in September. I’ll continue fighting for the NFL to move all out of conference games to the first month of the calendar.
  • I hate it. Because it means the NFL is all-in on the 2019 Chicago Bears and that means the club will be all over primetime television next season.


Reviewing Pass Interference

The league had a pass interference problem, more than any other piece of officiating. Bad pass interference calls were destroying the flow of the viewing experience and in many cases deciding game outcomes. That issue reached its peak in the NFC title game on the other side, with a no-calling putting the Rams in the Super Bowl.

Will this rule change – allowing PI to be challenged – extend games? Who cares? I can handle football games being 5 minutes longer if the calls are right. (And the networks could cut down commercials with ease and nobody would notice.) Will this rule change open the floodgates to challenging all penalties? No. Challenging a hold or a shift or something menial will be as difficult to overturn as challenging a spot. And if they allowing roughing the passer to be challenged, they’d be smart.

Just check out how video replay is working in the Premiere League. They’re getting calls right. It’s wonky, yes. Nobody is quite sure how to deal with the change in flow. But they’re getting calls right. That’s all that matters.


Jahns with Ted Phillips

You should read all of Adam Jahns’ excellent conversation with Ted Phillips. But here’s a passage that shows why Ted is good at his job and has been instrumental in bringing these Bears back:

As Pace explained the positives — from Mack’s age to him playing a “need” position to his lack of baggage — Phillips said that trading for him started to make too much sense.

“I don’t need to have four committee meetings and let’s discuss it all,” Phillips said. “That’s why you have to have the right people in place.

“You have to be decisive. It wasn’t a long, drawn-out, lengthy discussion. Once I understood it all — because [Pace] never leaves a stone unturned, he’s very thorough — and when I hear it all, it’s, ‘Go get him.’ ”

And Pace did.

Jahns will be joining me for an extended conversation (podcast) in the coming week.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

44 Comments

ATM: Opener is Time for Bears to Retake Control of Rivalry

| March 26th, 2019

What better time for the Chicago Bears to reestablish their dominance with their oldest rivals than the opener of the 2019 season?

On Monday, the NFL officially announced the opening of the 2019 season, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the league with the Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers.

The Bears have a target on their backs throughout the 2019 offseason and the Packers are making the biggest surge. With a spending spree that included two pass rushers, a new starting guard and, of course, Adrian Amos, the Packers have already attacked some of their biggest weaknesses. With two first round picks and 10 selections overall in the draft next month, it isn’t hard to see a scenario in which their roster looks almost nothing like the sorry group they trotted out last year. All of that, of course, will go around quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers are trying to do what the Bears just did and the Rams did two years ago by winning their division in the first year of a new regime.

The Bears simply can’t let that happen.

Read More …

Tagged:

233 Comments

Aaron Rodgers, Soldier Field & An Opportunity To Become Champions

| December 12th, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images


Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Chicago Bears. This is a fact that does not require statistical, analytical or anecdotal support. It’s as common knowledge a statement as Nazis are bad people, Roy Scheider was criminally underrated in the 1970s and a Saturday night on the Guinness makes my apartment smell decidedly worse Sunday morning.

I am not going to Google “Aaron Rodgers Record Chicago Bears”. I don’t want to molest my current football euphoria with a bunch of grabby statistics. Rodgers has dominated the Bears because since 2010, or for the bulk of Rodgers’ prime, he’s been one of the two best quarterbacks in the league and the Bears have been shit. Rodgers’ dominance is a fact. It’s just not particularly impressive.

Sunday, Rodgers will be a five or six-point underdog at Soldier Field. He brings in a mediocre team with mediocre players. But after beating a terrible Falcons team last week and watching every other sixth-seed contender in the conference lose, the Packers are still clinging to hope of playing in January and the laundry list of what they need to occur is not particularly outlandish.

First and foremost, they have to beat the Bears at Soldier Field. Something that has not been an issue in the past.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,