Tag Archives: Akiem Hicks

Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers: Staying on Schedule

Week 11 saw the return of significant season-ending injuries and Week 12 is back to screwing with the schedule. After losing Joe Burrow and Rex Burkhead, among others, to injury last week we might lose an entire game due to COVID. An outbreak at the Baltimore Raves facility that has claimed Lamar Jackson and forced a shutdown until at least Monday. This obviously puts their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in even further doubt after the game was already moved from Thursday.

Moving that game may have been for the best. It was another week of taking it on the chin, going 1-3 in Week 11 which was an improvement over the week before. Undeterred, we must forge on with a two-game primetime slate. There’s still plenty of opportunities to make some money this week and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us (for a change, sheesh).

Staying on Schedule with Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers

Chicago Bears (5-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-3)

Spread: Packers -9

O/U: 44.5

What a fall from grace it’s been for the Chicago Bears (5-5 ATS) who began the season 5-1. They went into their bye on a four-game losing streak and with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since 2017. As usual, their defense is among the best, ranking fourth in defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders and sixth in scoring. But their offense checks in at 29th in DVOA and 31st in scoring. You see the problem. Now, they turn back to opening-day starter Mitchell Trubisky with Nick Foles still on the mend. They also don’t know if Akiem Hicks will be available to stop the run.

The Green Bay Packers (6-4 ATS) should be 8-2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s fumble in Packer territory in overtime allowed for a game-winning field goal by the Indianapolis Colts. All three of Green Bay’s losses have been of a confounding nature for various reasons. They still rank ninth in total DVOA and second in offense DVOA. Their (sometimes glaring) weakness is their defense. After making tremendous strides last season, they have regressed some. They still rank 18th in defense DVOA (15th in 2019), but aren’t getting to the quarterback in the same way as before. Still, the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones is as good of an eraser as there is.

There isn’t much mystery here as the Packers have owned the Bears since Bret Favre’s time in Wisconsin with some highly critical games along the way including an NFC Championship. Chicago hasn’t beaten Green Bay since 2018 and, with the current state of both teams as it is, they don’t appear poised to snap that streak in 2020. Trubisky, who was already benched this season, has only thrown four touchdowns (with three interceptions) in five games against the Packers. So it’s unlikely he is the answer to their scoring woes, let alone breaking out of their slump. This game opened at Packer -7.5 and has only grown. Follow that lead and take Green Bay laying the points. We’re leaving totals alone this week for…reasons.

Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)

Spread: Eagles +5

O/U: 50

It was around this time last week that we were on the brink of eulogizing the Seattle Seahawks (6-4 ATS) in advance of their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. “Let Russ Cook” took a backseat as Russell Wilson tied a season-low with 28 pass attempts and set a new season-low with 197 yards. The Seahawks still managed a 28-21 victory in primetime. Seattle is much like Green Bay in that they are carried by their offense. They rank fourth in offense DVOA but 23rd in defense DVOA. So perhaps they can find a happy medium between letting Russ cook and their run-heavy approach of the past two seasons.

Carson Wentz is fighting for his career as a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7 ATS) while they are fighting for the crown in the worst division in football. With a win, the Eagles would take over first place from the Washington Football team by virtue of having a tie in place of a loss. It’s a dubious honor but a loss could usher in the start of the Jalen Hurts era in Philly. The Eagles defense ranks 30th in DVOA thanks in no small part to Wentz’s league-leading 14 interceptions. But their defense ranks 13th bolstered by their stout run-stopping ability.

The Eagles have lost and failed to cover in each of their last two games and neither contest was against top-tier competition. On the other side, the Seahawks bounced back from implosion but have failed to cover on the road since Week 4 in Miami. Philadelphia is also getting healthier at wide receiver and tight end. Can they offset the juice seemingly added to Seattle’s pass rush by the addition of Carlos Dunlap? This feels like a trap after opening at -2.5, but home dogs have covered over 50 percent of the time making Philly plus the points feel best. Both defenses shut down the run meaning more passing which usually means more points. Pound the over.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)

Spread: Steelers -4.5

O/U: 45  

This on-again, off-again affair is back on again for primetime after being moved from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, now to Tuesday night following an outbreak of COVID among the Baltimore Ravens (4-6 ATS). In the midst of what would be considered a down year offensively, the Ravens will face an undefeated opponent having not been allowed to practice until Monday at the earliest. On top of that, even if they end up playing the game, Baltimore’s 23rd ranked offense (DVOA) will be led by Robert Griffin III as Lamar Jackson has tested positive. They’ll be relying on their defense that ranks seventh in DVOA a little more than usual.

“Undefeated” might as well be a four-letter word as you won’t find many teams that will ever entertain the idea. The same goes for the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) who are having an incredible season. They’re third in total DVOA, first in defense DVOA, fourth in scoring offense, and first in scoring defense. This is a well-rounded machine even if it isn’t always well-oiled. Pittsburgh has scored at least 24 points in every game this season while allowing an opponent to score more than that just once.  The Steelers also lead the league in sacks, just one more thing for fill-in RGIII to worry about come (hopefully) Tuesday night.

There is no way the Ravens can be as prepared to play this game as they need to be to have a chance. And that’s before factoring in a backup quarterback. When these two teams met back in Week 8, the Steelers came away with a 28-24 victory on a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Chase Claypool late in the fourth quarter. It won’t get that close this time with the way this game is shaping up. 4.5 might not be enough for the Ravens to cover the first quarter, take Pittsburgh. And if you’re feeling frisky take the under. Baltimore might have trouble hitting their implied total of 20.5 and Pittsburgh could turn to James Conner and the run early with the Calais Campbell set to miss another game.

Bears’ Season Over, Journey Just Beginning

Bears Season Ends on Sour Note

Be You

If you listen closely, you can probably still hear the reverberations of the goal post at Soldier Field. After Cody Parkey’s 43-yard potential game-winning kick hit both the upright and the crossbar, that goal post might not even exist anymore. Sure, the kick was tipped. That does little to numb the pain of eight years of missing the playoffs, only to have your season ended in that fashion. Now, the Chicago Bears have to do some soul searching. Despite the success this year, the loss exposed several issues.

All year long Head Coach Matt Nagy has lived by the motto “be you”. Sunday, though, he may have shown that he is who we thought he was. Flashback to the 2017 AFC Wild Card game, and you see a Kansas City Chiefs offense looking suspiciously like the Bears did Sunday night. Chicago looked stagnant and boring for three and a half quarters. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was off kilter most of that time, while his coach did little by way of play-calling to help him.

Turtling

Typically the Bears offense has a lot of motion and formations to it; designed to create chunk gains by springing receivers open on all three levels. That does not work when you are not challenging down the field. Instead, Chicago seemed to take the what the Eagles gave them almost to a fault in the first half. A quick scoring drive gave them a 6-3 lead at halftime. They should have taken note. Trubisky was his usual erratic self, but he looked better when playing a faster, freer-flowing pace.

In the second half, it was more of the same, although Trubisky did play much better when let off the leash. It was troubling to see him struggle early and the play-calling not adjust sooner to get him into a rhythm. Perhaps even more disturbing is the Bears running backs only totaled 13 carries the entire game; two more than K.C. rushers in their Wild Card loss last year. Play-calling cost the Chiefs when Nagy was OC. It cost him again Sunday, this time with the Bears.

Cavalry? Not Quite

Their biggest improvements will come from within. When faced with someone who knew him well, Nagy blinked. Perhaps these last two playoff exits will compel him to come out firing and keep his foot on the gas for 60 minutes. His scheme works and his quartback showed he can thrive in it when given the opportunity. Another offseason in this offense bodes well for the young signal-caller. They cannot rest on their laurels. Both must be more consistent; Nagy with aggressiveness, Trubisky with accuracy.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson showed why the Bears paid him. Hopefully, he can be healthier next year. Same for tight end Trey Burton. Also, Taylor Gabriel is not a number two receiver. That may be Anthony Miller, but his fit in the slot seems ideal. Running back is interesting because the Bears were more explosive when Tarik Cohen was featured but struggled closing out games. When Jordan Howard was featured they struggled to put up points. Either keep both involved or find a three-down back.

Defending Defense

The defense faces the possibility of losing coordinator Vic Fangio. That would be a massive blow, but some of the names thrown out should he leave are promising. The personnel — namely linebacker Khalil Mack and lineman Akiem Hicks — will remain largely intact and safety Eddie Jackson will return from injury; his absence was felt Sunday. They need to add more pass rushers, as do most teams. Maybe Kylie Fitts steps up in his second year. It will also be a key year for former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who has two career sacks.

Too many second half let downs defensively needs to be resolved regardless of if Fangio stays or goes. For all the well deserved praise, there were several penalties by the defense that walked the Philadelphia Eagle down the field. Bryce Callahan’s absence went largely unnoticed until the final Eagles score. Having ten men in the field and giving up a touchdown in a playoff game is unacceptable. Sure Jackson would have helped, but the late game breakdowns hurt this team all season.

Not so special teams

Special teams has not been a strength for the Bears since Dave Toub left. Busted coverage and poor returns were overshadowed by the kicker’s affinity for goal posts. It will all need to be corrected if the Bears are to truly contend for a title. Punting was also hit or miss. Punter Pat O’Donnell doesn’t have the strongest leg, which can be problematic in Chicago. He does do a decent job of pinning opponents when drives still near midfield, but touchbacks are an issue. If not for Parkey, this is a bigger story.

Chicago will almost certainly waive the embattled kicker – who missed seven field goals and three PATs in 2018 – eating the remaining three years and north of three million dollars in the process. His contract makes the Mike Glennon deal seem smart. The Bears stuck with Parkey despite his career-worst season, but a return is unlikely. Even before Robbie Gould was cut the Bears have been dealing with kicking issues. Simply put, it has been an issue longer than it has mattered, but one that will be a priority this offseason.

Bright Future

Overall, the roster is young and should be stable for the next few years. Save for safety Adrian Amos, nickel corner Callahan, and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris, the rest of the impending free agents are replaceable. Starting right tackle Bobby Massie is a candidate to return, but the position could also use an upgrade; perhaps through the draft.

The hope has to be that the offense takes a leap forward; closer to the echelon of the defense, alleviating that burden. There is a good chance this team is nowhere near as healthy next year, and the rest of the division should not be as injured. They have to get better. The offseason rhetoric is bound to promise improvement. The proof will have to wait until next season. This is of course after a season that ended heartbreak, but was better than anyone saw coming.