Week 16 Game Picks

Week 16 Picks are live! 8-8 in week 15, hopefully better this week.
Lock: Atlanta over Carolina
Upset: Arizona over L.A.

Playoff Implications Abound In Week 16

Redskins @ Titans: Both of these teams are still alive in the playoff race, but both need help to make it. Tennessee (8-6) has a better shot by virtue of having their actual starting quarterback – Marcus Mariota — under center. Derrick Henry is on a heater but faces a stiff test in a Washington (7-7) front featuring fellow Alabama alum, Jonathan Allen. New Redskins starting quarterback Josh Johnson, threw his first passes since 2011 and won in Jacksonville last week. Still, injuries have to catch up at some point right? Prediction: 21-14 Titans

Final Score: 25-16 Titans

Notes: Tennesse outlasted Washington in what turned out to be a battle of the backups. Derrick Henry is still going strong as the Titans control their playoff destiny.

Ravens @ Chargers: Two teams, getting it done in different ways, meet with divisional crowns still in play. Los Angeles’ (11-3) attack is helmed by quarterback Philip Rivers. In the midst of an MVP-caliber season, Rivers’ load will be lessened by the return the of the running back, Melvin Gordon from injury. They will take on Baltimore’s (8-6) top-ranked defense, led by Pro Bowlers C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle. On offense, an option-heavy attack has quarterback Lamar Jackson in position to lead the Ravens to the postseason; provided he can continue making enough plays with his arm. Prediction: 21-20 Ravens

Final Score: 22-10 Ravens

Notes: Baltimore took a major step towards actually winning the division — Pittsburgh losing also helps. For what, exactly, remains to be seen as they are still relying on Lamar Jackson’s legs and the defense, though his arm was plenty effective this week. 

Bengals @ Browns: Cleveland (6-7-1) still has an outside chance at the playoffs. That alone is an accomplishment but this team has made it clear they will fight until the end. Led by quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, the Browns have employed a run-oriented attack that keeps them in games most weeks. As the defense has been leakier in the second half of the season, expect the ground game to again be the focus. Cincinnati (6-8) has endured a brutal season. Victims of injuries – as well as poor play and coaching — expect changes in the Queen City. Prediction: 27-10 Browns

Final Score: 26-18 Browns

Notes: The Browns continued their climb from obscurity. Unfortunately, they are no longer playoff eligible. Still, this franchise has come a long way and has a bright future with Baker Mayfield at quarterback. The Bengals likely won’t get a much-needed change of staff.

Buccaneers @ Cowboys: Coming off a dud of a performance, expect Dallas (8-6) to get back on track against Tampa Bay (5-9) team in disarray. Look for another heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott, who showed no lingering effects of a reported neck injury. Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper should get back on track against the Bucs; who lack any semblance of a defense. It could be another bad performance for quarterback Jameis Winston and crew in this week. DeMarcus Lawrence leads a sneaky-good pass rush and Byron Jones matches up well with stud receiver, Mike Evans. Prediction 27-24 Cowboys

Final Score: 27-20 Cowboys

Notes: Dallas managed to pull this one out as the final margin was decided by a Tampa fumble. They did lock up the division with the victory. Jameis Winston is not long for the Bucs.

Vikings @ Lions: Neither of these teams saw themselves in their respective positions when the season began. Minnesota (7-6-1) came in with championship aspirations but now faces the prospect of missing the playoffs altogether. Kirk Cousins’ play has elevated receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but not the team. They face a Lions team that has done more damage to themselves than any opponent. Aside from an odd trade of Golden Tate, injuries sunk Matthew Stafford and this team; especially the loss of Marvin Jones. The Detroit (5-9) defense will be without Ezekiel Ansah, leaving Darius Slay as the lone playmaker. Prediction: 24-10 Vikings

Final Score: 27-9 Vikings

Notes: The Vikings took care of the Lions on the road. Next, they prepare to host the division champion Bears in Minnesota, in a game where Chicago may not play their starters for the duration. Detroit has already begun soul-searching.

Giants @ Colts: Fresh off a convincing win over the Cowboys, Indianapolis (8-6) is making a push for the playoffs behind quarterback Andrew Luck and a newfound ground game headed by Marlon Mack. The defense has played much better than anticipated with the NFL’s leading tackler, Darius Leonard. New York (5-9) is playing the last games of a disappointing season. They will be without Odell Beckham Jr yet again, and it probably makes sense to shut him down for the remainder of the year. Running back Saquon Barkley has not been enough to mask Eli Manning‘s uneven play under center. Prediction: 28-14 Colts

Final Score: 28-27 Colts

Notes: The Colts got the win, and travel to take on the Titans in a win-and-get-in situation. Andre Luck will have to outduel Blaine Gabbert if Marcus Mariota can’t make it back from yet another injury. Derrick Henry and Marlon Mack might be the more entertaining matchup.

Jaguars @ Dolphins: There honestly is not much to look for in this one; neither team has a shot at the playoffs. That is an exceptionally poor outlook for Jacksonville (4-10) after they won the division last season. Leonard Fournette has missed chunks of time for the second year in a row, Blake Bortles is good as gone, and Jalen Ramsey has not exactly endeared himself. Miami (7-7) started the season hot only to fade drastically as injuries to Ryan Tannehill had Brock Osweiler under center. The defense – toothless late in the season – will be without top corner, Xavien Howard. Prediction: 14-10 Jaguars

Final Score: 17-7 Jaguars

Notes: Not much to take away from this game between two lost franchises. It will be interesting to see who goes on either side with big names like Leonard Fournette and Jalen Ramsey being discussed in Jacksonville. Washington already cut D.J. Swearinger.

Bills @ Patriots: Normally, this is when New England (9-5) is getting into gear for a deep playoff run. This year they approach the second season with more questions than answers. Aside from the surprise exit of receiver Josh Gordon, rumors have come out that Tom Brady may be playing with a strained MCL. Buffalo (5-9) is far from a playoff team. They will need to provide quarterback Josh Allen with more weapons than Zay Jones and LeSean McCoy; who was subject of trade rumors. Perhaps a deal gets done in the offseason, but there will be a lot of new faces next season. Prediction: 34-10 Patriots

Final Score: 24-12 Patriots

Notes: New England secured their tenth straight division title. Take that as you will but Tom Brady and friends have been dominant in an era of parody. For Buffalo, get Josh Allen some help.

Packers @ Jets: With players auditioning for next season, conventional wisdom says Green Bay should sit Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the year. He came out this week and shot that idea down. Davante Adams is having his best year during one of the Pack’s worst. Jamaal Williams takes over for the injured Aaron Jones. New York is similar to the Bills in that they march towards the offseason needing to infuse the roster with more talent. Quarterback Sam Darnold and safety Jamal Adams are the only true building blocks on this team, though suspended linebacker Darron Lee has potential if he can stay clean. Prediction: Packers 27-14

Final Score: 44-38 Packers

Notes: Green Bay needed over time with the Jets’ offense clicking and the Packer defense failing again. Aaron Rodgers outlasted Sam Darnold in the end.

Texans @ Eagles: Deshaun Watson‘s return has Houston (10-4) leading their division. His top target, DeAndre Hopkins will have to continue being the standout he has been his entire career, the rest of the cast is extremely unreliable. J.J. Watt will take his dominant act on the road; a big test for the Eagle o-line. Philadelphia (7-7) will try to recapture the magic of last season and make a playoff push; Nick Foles gets another start at quarterback for the injured Carson Wentz. Look for big games from Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffrey, the Texan defense ranks well, but their competition has been suspect. Prediction: 27-24 Eagles

Final Score: 32-30 Eagles

Notes: Philly is channeling their inner-selves with Nick Foles looking right at home in this offense. Houston’s defensive woes came to fruition as anticipated. An issue in conjunction with their protection of Deshaun Watson.

Falcons @ Panthers: A couple of NFC South also-rans, this matchup looked better when the schedule came out than it does now. Taylor Heinicke takes over at quarterback after Carolina (6-8) finally shut down Cam Newton. Christian McCaffrey will have to carry even more of the load. Atlanta (5-9) will count this year as a wash after injuries decimated their defense. Tevin Coleman has not come close to Devonta Freeman‘s production. Julio Jones’ third 100-catch season will be for naught. The hope has to be that 2019 should bring more health, and thus more success. Prediction: 28-10 Falcons

Final Score: 24-14

Notes: Atlanta just had too much firepower for Carolina sans Cam Newton. Another year of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ primes have gone to waste. Next can’t come soon enough for either team.

Rams @ Cardinals: In need of a confidence boost – and momentum before the playoffs – Los Angeles (11-3) goes on the road following back-to-back losses. They may be without the services of Todd Gurley as he nurses a knee injury, possibly forcing the newly-signed C.J. Anderson into duty. Jared Goff‘s outlook is murky after recent struggles. Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones lead Arizona’s (3-11) defense; quietly top-10 on a per-play basis. If the Cards can protect rookie Josh Rosen – a lot to ask facing Aaron Donald – and feed David Johnson they could conceivably be competitive. Prediction: 17-14 Cardinals

Final Score: 31-9 Rams

Notes: This week’s upset pick was a major dud, but the Rams got a much-needed victory. They’ll wrap up the regular season against the 49ers. Arizona will likely have a new coaching staff and possibly GM in place next year. Maybe they will use David Johnson correctly.

Bears @ 49ers: This game has “trap” written all over it. Chicago (10-4) is riding high after back-to-back wins and clinching the division. Mitchell Trubisky played better last week, but will likely need to string together a few of those performances if the Bears are going to go far in the playoffs. More Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen plus a Khalil Mack-led defense mean Trubisky just needs to play smart. San Francisco (4-10) hurt their draft pick but got the upset last week. George Kittle and Nick Mullens have a strong rapport, look for them to try exploiting Eddie Jackson‘s potential absence. Prediction: 28-17 Bears

Final Score:  14-9

Notes: Chicago avoided the dreaded trap game to keep their hopes for a first-round bye alive. The health of Eddie Jackson and Allen Robinson will need to be monitored. The Niners, for their part, never give up but have been outmatched most of the season.

Steelers @ Saints: Pittsburgh (8-5-1) ended a three-game skid with a stunning win over an old-looking Patriots at home. This week they go into New Orleans (12-1) looking to stay ahead of the Ravens in the division. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster are going to give the top-seeded Saints’ resurgent defense fits; assuming the latter suits up. Drew Brees is usually lights out at home further implicating a shootout. The three-headed monster that is Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram all have tough matchups so it will be imperative that one of a myriad of role players step up. Prediction: 34-31 Steelers

Final Score: 31-28 Saints

Notes: This game delivered on the hype as it came down to the last drive. Juju Smith-Schuster will be down on himself, but there were also a few questionable calls that did not help. Drew Brees jumps right back into the lead for MVP.

Chiefs @ Seahawks: Yet another game with significant playoff implications for both sides, Seattle (8-6), likely looking ahead, letdown last week. Russell Wilson will need to be at his best, though he would likely be content to just give the ball to Chris Carson 25-plus times. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are both capable of going off as well if needed. Kansas City (11-3) lost on a heart-breaking two-point conversion. Patrick Mahomes is on his way to becoming the youngest MVP in league history. He will try to ride Tarvis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to the award, but more importantly a win in a hostile environment. Prediction: 27-24 Seahawks

Final Score: 38-31 Seahawks

Notes: Russell Wilson has to be on the MVP shortlist this has been an impeccably efficient season. No one wants to see the Seahawks right now. The Chiefs are another team whose defensive woes came to the forefront. They will have to figure something out ahead of the playoffs

Broncos @ Raiders: Not much to see here folks. Denver (6-8) is rumored to be heading towards a coaching change. Phillip Lindsay is the best thing about the Broncos offense and he will look to get back in track against a hapless Oakland (3-11) team. Derek Carr and the Raiders may be headed for a divorce in the offseason. It is not out of the question this ends up as the lowest-rated Monday night game of the season, if not history. Prediction: 21-14 Broncos

Final Score: 27-14

Notes: Oakland has won two of their last three games for some reason. Jon Gruden keeps hurting his own cause as the picks acquired have already been guaranteed to at least be in the 20s or higher. Denver is headed toward a divorce with Vance Joseph, but Phillip Lindsay has been one of the best stories in football.

Bulls Bad in 2018

pexels-photo-752036~22018 Bulls are Bad

Bottoming out

What is the endgame? That has to be the question on the minds of all Chicago Bulls fans following Wednesday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets that dropped their record to 7-25. This is shaping up to be the worst season since the 1998-99 season; following Michael Jordan‘s retirement. The issue here, however, is this Bulls team did not lose an MJ. They are not coming off of a single championship, let alone a second three-peat. In fact, this Bulls team only won 27 games all last season; 13th in the East.

Building Through The Draft

The thought going into last season was the Bulls would be rebuilding. That is code in 2018 for tanking. Chicago won more games than they should have, ending up taking Wendell Carter Jr with the seventh pick and Chandler Hutchison with the pick acquired in the Nikola Mirotic trade. Carter has been compared to Al Horford; a technician that can fill a variety of roles on offense and anchor a defense. Hutchison was a player the team fell in love with during the pre-draft process; going so far as to guarantee they would select him. Both may become really good players, but the NBA is a superstar driven league.

Greater Expectations

Top to bottom, this roster is just a collection of secondary and tertiary options playing out of position (Jabari Parker) or in the wrong role (Justin Holiday). The hole at small forward – created by the Jimmy Butler trade – is glaring. Drafting the right prospect is not necessarily the problem for this front office. The Bulls have largely done well on that front, but that is relative. They were a middling playoff team, so they could get by with getting the most out of under-the-radar players. When teams are bad, they must get immediate, high-impact players. Last year’s first-round pick, Lauri Markkanen forms a talented and dynamic duo with Carter Jr in the frontcourt, but that is where the hype ends.

Looking Ahead

Rumors swirled over the summer that, behind closed doors, the Bulls are not completely sold on Kris Dunn. Zach LaVine began the season as a candidate for Most Improved Player. That praise has since given way to criticism over LaVine’s late-game shot selection. To make matters worse, he is now dealing with an ankle sprain that will sideline him up to a month. It is just another injury added to the list in a season that saw Chicago start the season without Dunn, Markkanen or Bobby Portis – who is also dealing with an ankle injury. While no one likes to see injuries, it would be foolish to overlook the proverbial silver lining.

2018 Bulls Bad; 2019 Better?

The aforementioned issues have the Bulls with the worst record in the league; a dubious honor with the kicker being a shot at the number one pick. This assumes – already a risk with this team – that Chicago doesn’t get in its’ own way and win games unnecessarily. Discussion on the overall confidence in this front office is warranted. Questioning the tactics of Head Coach Jim Boylan, also fair. The 2018 Bulls are bad. Getting the first pick in the collective hands of Vice President John Paxon and General Manager Gar Forman, however, has proven beneficial in the past. Perhaps they can deliver again.

NBA Weekend Eventful

Adobe_Post_20181216_032012

NBA Weekend Eventful to Start

Is anybody else’s head spinning? Not that the Association can really ever be boring, but Friday and Saturday showcased what makes it so compelling.

Full Friday

From a failed trade reminding us of 2011 to Russell Westbrook not mincing words. Spencer Dinwiddie and Allonzo Trier continued to earn their new money; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid both dropped 40, albeit with different end results. Kawhi had 28, but it was Lillard time in TO, and Golden State and Miami both won close games with late runs. By the way, all this was just Friday.

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday night brought its own brand of drama. Orlando stayed undefeated in Mexico. Washington and Phoenix completed a simplified version of the nixed deal, minus Memphis. Speaking of, the Grizzlies fell to 3-5 in December after losing to Houston. James Harden had 32-12-10 while leading the game in points and rebounds – his 10 assists tied Chris Paul. LeBron and Lonzo used triple-doubles of their own to take out the Hornets; while the Thunder downed the Clippers behind Paul George’s game-high 33 points. Chicago, Detroit, and Phoenix upset San Antonio, Boston, and Minnesota respectively. On to Sunday.

Friday Files

Adobe_Post_20181214_144101NBA:
James Harden goes 50-10-10; has 19 free throws as Rockets topple Lakers 126 – 111
• Spurs find defense; blow out Clips 125 – 87
• Bulls lose to Orlando 97 – 91; reportedly bench Parker
• T.J. Warren’s 30 points vs Mavs help Suns snap skid; overshadow Dirk’s return

NFL:
• Philip Rivers, Chargers exorcise demons on TNF; stun Chiefs at Arrowhead
• Keenan Allen goes down with hip injury
• OBJ out again with quad injury vs Titans
Carson Wentz to possibly be shut down for rest of season

Bulls Sink Further in Lost Season

We can't forget MJ on the wall of our bedroom (we were eleven in 1992), french paper Le Monde's director said one day (was it in 2001?)
Photo by: Steven Largouet

MEXICO CITY – Let the good times roll. It can be difficult to detect sarcasm in writing, but hopefully it was clear in this case. It wound take extraordinary circumstances for even casual basketball fans to not see what is going on with the Chicago Bulls. Yet somehow, the front office and head coach continue to say things like “change is difficult”. Or that they “did have some distraction“. There is no way they are watching the same things as everyone else.

As if the 97-91 loss to Orlando was not enough, a report came out that not only would prized free-agent Jabari Parker – he of the 2-year $40M contract – not see regular minutes going forward, he might not even remain with the team through the season. Since that is not enough, the Brooklyn Nets and Spencer Dinwiddie agreed to a 3-year $34M extension. How does this impact the Bulls, you ask? Dinwiddie was cut by Chicago, for someone named R.J. Hunter. All of this and there is still the matter of the media firestorm over the developments this season. A season that, although clearly not set up for a playoff run, has been embarrassing nonetheless.

So what next? Well since we can likely rule out a change in management, the best hope is that the Bulls young guys continue to develop – perhaps in spite of the organization – while the Bulls continue to lose games. Then the could use what will assuredly be a top-4 pick to draft their superstar wing; that being the clearest position of need. The hot name is Zion Williamson, the 6’7” 285 pound forward from Duke. Interestingly enough Williamson’s own teammates, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish have also been linked to the Bulls. You will probably get a different answer on who the pick should be depending on who you ask.

The true question remains, will it matter? Can this front office – that actually has drafted well – attract the seemingly elusive superstar free agent? The recent failures with Parker and Dwyane Wade last year will not do much to help. There were already stories of players avoiding the Bulls, can GarPax change that if they are the ones causing it? Is Jim Boylen really the coach that is going to get this team on track and back to the playoffs? There are more questions and fewer answers every single day with this team.

Bulls Brooding Over Boylen

Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen questions a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Indianapolis.

DEERFIELD, IL — Not even two weeks. Newly minted head coach Jim Boylen has not been in the position for two full weeks and he may have already worn out his welcome the players. According to this report on Yahoo.com, players contacted the NBPA to complain about their new leader’s “extreme tactics”.

Those tactics included three two-and-a-half hour practices that included extra conditioning drills, military-style pushups, film session immediately after games and calling for practices after back-to-backs. Calling for a practice Sunday was reportedly the final straw.

Following a 9-15 start to the season, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson fired Fred Hoiberg and named Boylen to the post; omitting ‘interim’ from his title. Both he and General Manager Gar Forman have since come to the defense of Boylen.

The choice to go with Boylen is looking like the wrong one. Concerning when looking back on Paxson’s presser where he spoke on the team lacking “energy and spirit”.

Boylen has since refuted the initial reports; saying it was only a couple of players. It is an ominous development, nonetheless, and one Boylen is said to have been notified of. His response? Proceed as planned. This likely gets worse before it gets better. So who is really to blame?

On their umpteenth coaching hire — two this season alone — and poised to select another, it would be fair to wonder how much longer the front office duo known as ‘GarPax’ will get to besmudge the legacy the Bulls built.

Seemingly capable of building teams that compete but never seriously threaten — asterisk on the Derrick Rose era — GarPax are wearing thin on a passionate and increasingly vocal fanbase. Looking at the past tendencies of ownership, however, suggests a divorce is not soon to come.

Trubisky Awful on SNF

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 09: Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) hands the football to Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) in action during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears on December 09, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky returned to action Sunday night after missing the previous two contests with a shoulder injury. He finished 16 of 30 for 110 yards and three interceptions. Bad interceptions.

Whether the injury or rust was the cause of his erratic play last night remains to be seen. To clarify: Trubisky has been perhaps the most erratic quarterback in the NFL this year. It goes deeper than game-to-game or even series-to-series. Trubisky will look like two completely different quarterbacks from one play to the next. It is a major flaw, but is something he had done better with before getting injured.

Prior to Sunday night, Trubisky had not completed less than 60 percent of his passes since week eight against the hapless Jets; a game he finished with two touchdowns and zero intercepts. In fact, this was only the third game of the season with a completion percentage in the 50s.

Look, Mitch still makes too many bad throws, period. His reads are usually correct however. He has also shown the ability to make every throw, and we know about his running ability. Where he lacks is consistency, but that will come as he continues building chemistry with his surrounding cast.

The Green Bay Packers come to the lakefront next week. They just embarrassed Matt Ryan and the Falcons for a 34-20 victory. It was not nearly as close as the final score suggests.

Surely they would love nothing more than to hang a loss on the Bears in defiance of any changing-of-the-guard narrative. A Bears win not only locks up the first playoff appearance since 2010, it would also put a nice little bow on what has been fascinating season to follow.

Bears Put Clamps On Rams

Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (95) and Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) sack Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) in action during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears on December 09, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Well then. There are a number of superlatives that could be thrown out to describe what happened. ‘Lockdown’ seems to be the most fitting for a game the Bears won 16-5. That was the Chicago Bears defense on a night when quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was…awful.

Missing high and long all night, Trubisky showed every bit of a two week layoff; finishing 16 of 30 for 110 yards one touchdown and three bad interceptions. It is not a new issue, but it is one he had done better with before getting injured against Minnesota. He will need to be better, but not much if the Bears defense manhandles opponents like it did Los Angeles.

The running game was a different story. Jordan Howard (19 runs for yards) and Tarik Cohen (9-69) gave the Bears what they had been missing for weeks: consistent positive yardage on the ground. It was especially nice to see Howard, a focal point the past two years, get rolling. With the playoffs drawing nearer, having a 230 pound sledgehammer to wear down defenses is going to pay dividends.

If Trubisky was awful, Goff can only be described as putrid. Yes he finished with more yardage — going 20 of 44 for 180 yards — but he threw four interceptions of his own and absorbed three sacks, one of which was a safety. Some will say that two of the picks were “fluky”, but the Chicago front seven had Goff under duress the entire night.

His supporting cast did not fair much better. One of Jukes & Jumpers keys to victory, the Bears took the NFLs leading rusher completely out of the game. Todd Gurley finished with 11 carries for 28 yards; tacking on 30 yards by way of three receptions. Every time Gurley touched the ball, there was a defender hot in pursuit. Typically one of the most explosive runners in the game, Gurley was repeatedly kept to two- and three-yard carries; with a long of 12 yards.

With Goff being off his game, his receivers were not able to do much. Robert Woods was the only one to have an impact; catching seven passes for 61 yards. Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds combined for six catches and 58 yards. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are playing great football right now; while Bryce Callahan is also having an under-the-radar good year, though he did leave the game with an injury.

The Bears defense came in to the night in the discussion for best defense in the League. They made their claim in front of a raucous crowd Sunday night. Perhaps the most satisfying part was the sound tackling and pressure late in the game. Both issues have haunted the Bears most of the season

Next up, an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and avenge a tough loss next week; when the Packers (5-7-1) come to Soldier Field. The latest meeting in a long and storied rivalry, the circumstances are quite different this time around.

Keys to a Bears Victory on SNF

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 18: A detailed view of the jumbotron at Soldier Field displaying a Bears Win sign is seen after game action during a NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on November 18, 2018 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — As the Bears prepare for their toughest test to date, here are the keys to a Bears Victory:

Offense

1) Get Mitch, offense in a rhythm early: There should be a LOT of points scored in this one, so Matt Nagy needs to get Mitch Trubisky going quickly. Mitch will undoubtedly be rusty, having missed two weeks with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Why not call some quick hitting plays? Get the ball out of Mitch’s hands and into one of those playmakers; let them do the heavy lifting.

2) Control the clock: It has been an issue all season, but against the League’s second ranked offense, it would behoove the Bears to establish a consistent ground game. The Rams are actually middle of the pack against the run. The issue is teams typically do not get the chance to stack carries. The Bears need run it early and often, and not abandon it if unsuccessful early.

Defense

3) Stop Todd Gurley: Perhaps this should say ‘slow Gurley’ but the idea is the same. Make the Rams one dimensional, something the Bears have done all season. It should be mentioned that Gurley is also a threat in the passing game. Which brings us to the final key…

4) Get after the quarterback: Jared Goff is having a wonderful season. He has even been mentioned in MVP discussions. But the Bears have a player who specializes in terrorizing his position. Vic Fangio needs to get Khalil Mack back in early season form. Not that his impact has not been felt recently, but he was sacking quarterbacks and taking the ball away at a blistering pace to start the campaign. The Bears hope to see that version tonight on the lakefront.

***Bonus Key***

Show up in the fourth quarter defensively: For all the well-deserved praise the Bears defense has gotten, this is one thing that certainly sticks in players, coaches and fans craw. The Bears have given up far too many points and yards in the final frame. The biggest reason has been poor tackling allowing insane amounts of yards after catch. The Bears must be technically sound and bring down the Rams explosive weapons when they have the chance.

Bulls in Familiar Territory with Youth Movement

Wallpaper of Derrick Rose with Michael Jordan in the background
Photo by: RyanHurstDesigns

CHICAGO — In all fairness, it was time to trade Derrick Rose, and it is clear who won the first Jimmy Butler trade.

This group also has intrigue. Lauri Markkanen looks like a special player, Lavine can go off on any night and Wendell Carter’s play has made his seventh overall draft cost seem like a bargain. The jury is still out on Kris Dunn, but when on his game he is a tough defender with a knack for closing games.
The elephant in the lineup is at the small forward position. The hope was that Parker would be a case of talent overcoming fit. Now the hope is likely that Jabari is elsewhere next season with an incoming rookie manning that spot.

It is not all on Parker, though he has not exactly put his best for forward. Although undersized, Jabari is a natural power forward and is a square peg in a defensive hole on the wing. Not that his post defense is great but you live with it because he is such a mismatch for most bigs in the Association.

That is another issue. The average power forward is closer to Parker’s profile than when he came in to the NBA. His advantage is diminished with each new class. Make no mistake, Jabari Parker has All-Star ability. Just not at small forward, and probably not in Chicago.

Part of the the thinking behind Jabari at the three is Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr both look like solid blocks to build on. The failed experiment has resulted in Parker coming off the bench; something I’m sure neither side foresaw.

With the team drafting guys like Denzel Valentine and this year’s second first round selection, Chandler Hutchison, signs point to the Bulls selecting a wing player in the upcoming draft. Duke forward Cam Reddish perhaps?

Whoever the Bulls choose, it will likely be Gar Forman and John Paxon making the pick. Whether that is a positive or negative remains to be seen. Hopefully the Bulls get it right, regardless of who is calling the shots.

You Know What Time It Is