How the Bears can target the Lions' weaknesses


How the Bears can target the Lions' weaknesses

The 165th meeting between the Bears and Lions should be a good one as the stage of playing on Monday night should only intensify what has become a heated battle in recent years.
The Bears have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams, but tonight both teams will go in with a clean slate.
Offensively, the key for the Bears is easy: Handle Detroit's front four. The Lions are much improved on the defensive side of the ball, but their one weakness is giving up points. They ranked 24th in points allowed prior to this weekend's round of games.
The weather could very well play a factor, which may give an edge to the Bears' running game. You can be certain Mike Tice has a game plan to get the ball out of Jay Cutler's hand quickly. He does not want to risk the types of hits Ndamukong Suh and company are capable of delivering.
Defensively, the Bears have to avoid big plays in the Lions' passing game, which may be what hurts Detroit. If it is rainy and windy, those deep throws down the field become much less effective. In their last meeting of 2011 at Soldier Field, the Bears forced six takeaways, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Turnovers could be key once again as they usually are in every NFL game.
If it's really a messy, field expect both teams to play for filed position.

Brent Seabrook could return, but Jonathan Toews will miss ninth straight when Blackhawks play Stars

Brent Seabrook could return, but Jonathan Toews will miss ninth straight when Blackhawks play Stars

Brent Seabrook might be an option, but Jonathan Toews will miss his ninth consecutive game when the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars on Sunday night at the United Center.

Seabrook suffered an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. He did not play Friday when the Blackhawks lost 1-0 to the New York Rangers in overtime. Seabrook practiced on Saturday, but coach Joel Quenneville said he'll see how Seabrook feels on Sunday morning before seeing if the defenseman can play.

Toews has skated with the team just once since suffering his back injury against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. That was on Dec. 2; Toews skated mainly on his own that day before joining the team for about 10 to 15 minutes of practice. But Toews has not been on the ice since, and coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks won’t have a better idea of when Toews can return until he skates again.

Corey Crawford (appendectomy) did not practice.

Marian Hossa did not practice but was just taking a rest day. He’s expected to play Sunday. Same goes for Richard Panik, who also did not practice.

Scott Darling will start in net vs. the Stars.

Bill Dineen, father of Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, died on Saturday morning. Kevin Dineen was not at practice.

Cincinnati hires Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell as new head coach


Cincinnati hires Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell as new head coach

Urban Meyer has lost another coordinator to the head-coaching ranks.

After reports Friday that Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was talking with Cincinnati about its vacant head-coaching job, the Bearcats announced Saturday that Fickell is the guy.

"It’s with much pride and humility that I accept the awesome honor of becoming the head coach at the University of Cincinnati," Fickell said in the announcement. "This city, this school and my family are all Ohio. It’s a tough, blue-collar state with hard-working, blue-collar people that respect an honest and complete effort. That’s what they will get from me personally and what they should expect from this football program. This team belongs to this city, and we will make you proud."

Fickell had been a mainstay at Ohio State. He played there in the mid-1990s and returned as a graduate assistant in 1999. After a two-year stint as the defensive line coach at Akron, he returns as an assistant on Jim Tressel's staff, the special teams coordinator on the Buckeyes' national championship team in 2002. He spent six seasons as a defensive coordinator before Tressel's tenure ended in tumultuous fashion amid the "Tattoogate" scandal, and it was Fickell who took over as interim head coach, helping to keep the program together during a 6-7 season before Meyer arrived in 2012. Fickell stayed on Meyer's staff and has served as a defensive coordinator under Meyer for the past five seasons as Ohio State has posted a stunning 61-5 record with a national championship win in 2014.

Fickell's track record has been terrific in recent seasons, coaching a Buckeyes defense that's ranked as one of the nation's best. Ohio State currently ranks third in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 14.2 points a game, and fourth in the country in total defense, allowing an average of 282.3 yards per game. The Buckeyes also rank fourth in the nation in interceptions, fifth in passing defense and fifth in red zone defense. In 2015, the Buckeyes were second in the nation in scoring defense and ninth in total defense.

Six defensive players from the 2015 Ohio State team were selected in this year's NFL Draft, including three in the first round.

Cincinnati fills a vacancy created when Tommy Tuberville departed earlier this month. Tuberville posted a 4-8 record last season. Fickell seems a perfect fit with the Bearcats, as he brings that one season of head-coaching experience and intimate knowledge of the recruiting area.

"We are excited to welcome Luke, his wife Amy and their family to Cincinnati," Cincinnati athletics director Mike Bohn said in the announcement. "We targeted a number of criteria we wanted in our head football coach, and we were looking for the coach who was the best fit for our program, our university and our community and we have found that leader in Luke Fickell. His extensive ties to the state of Ohio, experience at a championship-level program in Ohio State, ability to evaluate and develop talent, energy and leadership are all qualities which set him apart. Above all else, he's a model of integrity and a great family man, and we look forward to partnering with him to continue to build upon our winning tradition."

Fickell is the second defensive coordinator in as many years to depart Meyer's staff for a head-coaching job and the third coordinator overall in as many years. Chris Ash left to coach Rutgers last offseason, and Tom Herman left for the head-coaching job at Houston two offseasons ago. Herman is now the head coach at Texas.

And some fun scheduling coincidences: Not only does Fickell's new team face Michigan next season during non-conference play, but the Bearcats take on the Buckeyes in 2019.