It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

Tuesday, September 22nd
As the city basks in the glow of the Bears, its time to talk NFL. Fans are into the NFL for different reasons. Among them are: gambling, tradition, city pride and more gambling! Lets not kid ourselves, in this country, the NFL rules because of the action, and the ACTION! Office confidence pools and fantasy football are all the rage now. Thank you, internet! The ability to win either of these depends on two things: LUCK and information. From having, or not, these two things, we can impress others accordingly. As your resident bartender, Ive been witness to more braggadocio about football than any other sport. Thank-you, alcohol!

As for knowledge about football, we wont talk about luck, because I have none. I know just enough to be dangerous; for me and anyone who would care to listen. Since I am behind a bar just about every Sunday of my adult life, Ive watched a little bit of football. I also meet fans of teams from all over the country, and others who are interested about teams from all over the country, (wonder why that is??) who want to talk football 247. I guess they figure all that time Ive spent behind a bar has taught me something. Well... they are right!

One thing Ive learned is preseason football means absolutely nothing as far as how to predict how a season will go. How did that 4-0 preseason record work out for Detroit last year? The point is, some coaches want to win and some could care less. And if youre a veteran who has the team made, dont get hurt because the regular season is when you get paid! Thats why I think predictions based off the preseason are fairly useless. Have you ever gone over some of the expert predictions after the year? They were throwing darts at a board! This leads me to my fearless predictions for the 2009 season. I think that after two games some trends are very obvious, while some others will need more time to play out. Still its the perfect time for the guy-in-a-red-bow-tie to offer his humble assessments. Besides which, due to the frenetic pace of my domestic life, its the first chance Ive had to get to my computer since the season started! Here we go.

AFC EAST

1) New England: Is Brady still Brady? You bet! Seymour trade is a curious one. Does 4 RBS = Any RBS?

2) NY Jets: Rex Ryan doesnt fall far from the tree. It will be a fun team to watch. Leon Washington is electric.

3) Buffalo: I like Dick Jauron. He is a kind, thoughtful, intelligent person. And he agreed to T. O.??? Good luck!

4) Miami: Lets see how a roster with mediocre talent does with a 1st place schedule. I see a lot of low scores in their future.

AFC NORTH

1) Pittsburgh: Repeat? Four games against Cincinnati and Cleveland help vault them to the playoffs. If healthy, no less than final four.

2) Baltimore: Defense a year older and without the 2nd mentor of the Lewis Era. They will go as far as Flacco will take them.

3) Cincinnati: Really? Their chances? Child, please!

4) Cleveland: Man-genius? Seems to be in a little over his head. This could get ugly.

AFC SOUTH

1) Indy: New coach? Same old Manning. Smartest player in the league is the
ultimate on-field leader, has the best commercials too.

2) Houston: My surprise team of the year. They give Indy a run and get in as
a wild-card. Andre Johnson is a beast!

3) Tennessee: Good defense and ground game. Can you consistently win in this league if you cant throw the ball?

4) Jacksonville: Love Jones-Drew, not much else. And Im not the only one: 17,000 unsold tickets? At least the home town doesnt have to watch this mess.

AFC WEST

1) San Diego: Rulers of the worst division in football. Make the playoffs as usual, then what? Is this finally the year?

2) Denver: Orton move was shocking. What they needed to shock was the defense. Team unity is shown on offense: They all have neck-beards!

3) K.C.: Fantasy owners will love this offense. Cassel will get a chance to air it out.

4) Oakland: Honestly? Team Psycho? They dont look so bad early, but give it time. Enjoy the side-show and the losses.

NFC EAST

1) Eagles: Vick is always the first thing Im asked about. No. 2 is this: Will this FINALLY be the year to end all of the endless suffering?!! (Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.)

2) NY Giants: The best combo of offensive and defensive lines in pro football. That will be good enough to finish 2nd.

3) Dallas: Tons of talent with no results. The lights are on, but nobodys home!

4) Washington: As far as under-achievers go, theyre Phi Beta Kappa!

NFC NORTH

1) Green Bay: Dom Capers taking over the defense is huge. Fast and aggressive, they rule the division.

2) Minnesota: Cant wait to see how Favre implodes another teams season. Three different teams in three consecutive years? This I have to watch!
3) Bears: One word: Defense. Do they have one? Need to move last years 30th against the pass into the top 10 to have a shot. Plus, more KNOX!

4) Detroit: Ouch! Ill go out on a limb and say that theyll win two games!

NFC SOUTH

1) Atlanta: Good young team. Ryan is the real deal. Gonzalez move was brilliant.

2) New Orleans: Score 500- give up 500 = .500? If this team can stop a good offense, theyre scary.

3) Carolina: Ultimate fluke team of last year crashes with a thud!

4) Tampa: I dont think so!

NFC WEST

1) San Francisco: How can you not root for Singletary? I want winners! Surprise team uses easy schedule to get to the playoffs.

2) Seattle: With Hasselbeck: over .500. Without?: Way, way under.

3) Arizona: Remember, even though this team was one play from being the champs last year, they were 9-7. Pete Rozelles dream come true!

4) St. Louis: Thanks for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts. Besides, have you ever met a Rams fan? I havent, everyone in that town is rooting for the Cardinals.

In the postseason, I have:

AFC:NFC:
New England over Houston
Atlanta over Minn
Jets over Indy
NYG over SanFran
Then,Then,San Diego over Jets
Phil. over Atl.
Pitt. over N.E.
NYG over G.B.
Then,Then,S.D. over Pitt.
Phil over NYG

Then, drum roll please,

The Eagles over the Chargers in Super Bowl XLIII!!

Of course, my second week predictions end up like a lot of preseason ones: worthless, so I might as well get to type that once! Check back to see how I did. If I do well and you mention it to me at the bar, Im sure there will be a beer in your future. Otherwise, just hit delete!

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.

For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.

The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”

More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”

This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.

Quarterback: A-

Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.

Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.

“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”

Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.

Running back: A+

In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.

Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”

Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.

“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”

Receivers: B+

Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.

All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”

Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.

Offensive line: A

With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.

“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”

The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.

Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.

Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.

Coaching: A

The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.

The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.

The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.

“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.

Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

Here are some of the top stories from Sunday in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Trail Blazers

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Bears offense finds groove in win over 49ers

Winter meetings preview: Why teams will find trying to copy a ‘Cubs Way’ rebuild is easier said than done

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

Significance of Bears win over 49ers lies beyond records and score

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Bears' Matt Barkley 'showing the world' he can be a starting QB in the NFL

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up