Bears-Titans preview: Bears ball

930961.png

Bears-Titans preview: Bears ball

The Tennessee Titans have not defended anything particularly well. So:
If the Bears cannot run the ball at will on a defense standing 28th in yardage and 26th in per-carry averages allowed;
if they cannot throw at will on a unit ranked 31st in third-down stops, 30th in sacks per pass play and 30th in overall yards allowed per game;
then the Bears offense may want to forget about getting off the bus running and just stay on the bus.
We dont have to get exponentially better, insisted quarterback Jay Cutler. We just have to take one step at a time, each week each player gets a little better at a time and by the end of the year well be where we want to be.
They most definitely are not where they want to be now. Despite the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Bears rank 25th in passing yardage per game (195.6). Last year they were 18th (222.7).
Curiously perhaps, while some talk is over whether or not running back Matt Forte is getting the ball enough, the Bears are averaging 124 yards per game vs. last years 114.7 at this point.
Remember the Titans
The Titans are being perceived as a get-right game for the streaky Chicago Bears offense. It would be a mistake in judgment if that filtered into the Bears locker room the way the misperception of the Carolina Panthers appeared to, judging from the results of the first three quarters last Sunday and players acknowledging that they came out flat.
Carolina allowed the Bears all of 61 yards until the final possession of the third quarter when Jay Cutler found Earl Bennett for 24 and 11 yards on successive plays. Even that trace of a pulse amounted to nothing when Robbie Gould missed a field goal, meaning that with 7 minutes remaining in the game, the supposedly explosive Chicago offense had put all of seven points on the NFLs 20th-ranked scoring defense.
If that happens against the Titans, an offseason of adding Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Chilo Rachal and other pieces like Jeremy Bates to coach Cutler would appear to have added very little to the overall.
Tennessee is 31st in points allowed (32.1 per game). Of some immediate concern, for the last three games, the Titans are allowing an average of nearly 25 points per game, and they won two of those games.
Breakdown avoidance
The Bears have allowed an alarming 11 sacks in the last two games. They are credited with accounting for nearly a third of the years sack totals for Detroit (five of 17) and Carolina (six of 20).
The operative word there is Bears because Cutlers propensity to hold the ball too long has directly contributed to an estimated half of those takedowns.
And it is Bears because so many different players are having breakdowns in an overall where one missed block can offset every other one being made.
We talked about a couple weeks ago, Dont be The Guy to mess up, and we took turns all the way across the board being the guy, Tice said. We had a lot of individual breakdowns of guys physically across the board.
The Titans play a 4-3 with undersized speed rushers on the edges, one in particular that has left the Bears with some scar tissue.
Kamerion Wimbley delivered what arguably was a turning point the wrong direction last season as an Oakland Raider when he intercepted a Caleb Hanie pass and returned it 73 yards to set up a first-half field goal that took away a go-ahead scoring opportunity and appeared to unravel Hanie and the Bears, who lost that and the next four games, and the season.
Wimbley, with 2.5 sacks and five QB pressures, will typically line up at right end at 255 pounds about the same size as Green Bays Clay Matthews with a 70-pound disadvantage vs. left tackle JMarcus Webb. He had a sack of Hanie last year and one of Cutler in 2009, a game in which Cutler was pressured into a passer rating of 66.7.
Wimbley is a former No. 1 pick (Cleveland). Left end Derrick Morgan (278 pounds) was Titans No. 1 pick in 2010. And the starting secondary has a total of 22 NFL seasons, with three 6-footers and 5-10 corner Alterraun Verner.
Scary team, Marshall said. Theyve got some guys on the back end that have played the game for some time now.

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

For the third time since the event was created, the Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic, facing the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2, 2017.

To build some hype for the Central Division showdown, which will feature two teams that find themselves battling for the top seed in the Western Conference, Ryan Hartman and Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks squared off with Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri of the Blues in EA Sports' NHL 17.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Edmunson and Fabbri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the finish would be determined in 3-on-3 overtime.

Check out who came out on top in the video below:

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

tysonross12916.png
AP

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces of the offseason puzzle as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title while still planning for the future.

The Cubs left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks, sources said, monitoring an intriguing pitcher they had targeted before the 2015 trade deadline.

The San Diego Padres didn’t really buy or sell during that pennant race and made another curious decision last week when they didn’t offer Ross a contract for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected Ross would have made $9.6 million during his final year in the arbitration system.

After issues involving his right shoulder wiped out almost his entire season, Ross underwent surgery in October to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter during a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but didn’t pitch again, clouding a future that once had him looking like a trade-deadline chip and one of the best pitchers in the free-agent class after the 2017 season.

That’s when Jake Arrieta will be looking for his megadeal and John Lackey might be in retirement and Jon Lester will be turning 34. That’s why the Cubs are so focused on pitching this winter and trying to balance out an organization tilted toward hitters.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Kyle Hendricks proved he will be a pitcher to build around – and the Cubs believe Mike Montgomery can evolve from a swingman into a fifth starter and maybe something far more valuable – but depth is a real issue.

Ross made 30-plus starts in 2014 and 2015, when he earned an All-Star selection and accounted for almost 400 innings combined. He will turn 30 in April and is seen as a positive force within the clubhouse. He has a 6-foot-6 frame, a second-round-pick pedigree and a Cal-Berkeley education.

Reports have already linked the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates to Ross and not completely ruled out a return to San Diego. During an offseason where the free-agent market is essentially devoid of reliable frontline starters, there could be sticker shock, even with a rehabbing pitcher.

Trading for Wade Davis meant the Cubs were out of the bidding for Greg Holland, another All-Star closer who helped turn the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions. Holland spent this year recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but he will still be in position to capitalize after Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and eventually Kenley Jansen reset the market for closers.

With Ross, the Cubs will have to get a better sense of the medical picture and the price for all that upside.

Beyond a winning culture, the Cubs can sell the pitching infrastructure that helped turn Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Hendricks into an ERA leader and keep the rotation remarkably healthy.

“Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

“We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons.”