One more (final?) time: The season is in Cutler's hands


One more (final?) time: The season is in Cutler's hands

Bears players knew very well what was at stake last week and the week before that and the week before that and

They did not do enough each time. The prospect of the collective light going on is the great unknown right now and sometimes it is open to question whether certain key figures fully grasp the moment.

I think any time you lose games, you lose consecutive games, theres going to be that doom that sets in of what we could do differently, what we should have done, said quarterback Jay Cutler. I think thats anywhere in the league. Even when I was in Denver, you lose a couple games here and there, and its the end of the world.

(It actually was, if you define world as playoffs.)

The three straight losses by the 2008 Broncos took them from 8-5 to out of the postseason. While it may have been convenient to blame a porous defense, the fact is that Cutler threw four interceptions vs. two touchdowns and failed to post a passer rating higher than 75 in any of those three games.

The 2012 Bears were 8-5 going into the Green Bay game and Cutlers passer rating (72.5) was eerily similar to those three failed efforts.

The abyss

The point is not to single out Cutler. Others have dropped the ball literally and figuratively to put the Bears in their present fix. But no single player holds as much of the franchise future in his hands as No. 6.

What Cutler has established over his time in Chicago is that he is not a quarterback who is a consistent force for bringing his team from behind, particularly against a good defense, which Arizonas most definitely is.

The concerning element is that Cutler himself is more than capable of helping his team into a trail technique, as his first-half interceptions against Minnesota and Green Bay amply demonstrated. If that happens Sunday in the desert, the Bears project to have the kind of bad loss that gets head coaches fired.

And quarterbacks franchise credentials questioned.

Once the season is over, I think that this organization will take time to let things settle down and figure out what the necessary steps are going forward, Cutler allowed. But as players, we cant worry about that. That cant be in the back of our mind, cant be anything were concerned with. We can only have one concern right now, and thats Arizona.

Another must win

The Lovie Smith Bears are 12-50 when they fail to score at least 18 points. Five of those 12 wins were in the 2005 season when the defense was the NFLs best in points-allowed. The likelihood of Cutler directing the offense to at least 18 points against the Cardinals is problematic at best.

Whether Smith wanted to characterize the Green Bay game as a must win did not alter the fact that it was, because without a win, the Bears were reduced to waiting for playoff scraps rather than being able to order off the menu and affect what their own fortunes. Smith addressed that loss only in terms of the NFC North, which it indeed affected.

But the defeat dropped the Bears into the hopper of wannabes like Dallas, Washington, New York and Minnesota, which the Bears had throttled just three weeks earlier but could not put away in Minneapolis when they had the chance.

A nagging sub-question then became whether the Bears were in fact deteriorating, from a 28-10 breezing to a 21-14 study in inept offense against the same team. Did the Vikings get better or the Bears worse?

The loss to the Packers, turning just as the Minnesota game did, on Jay Cutler interceptions, gave a disturbing answer at a time when the head coach was being evaluated. And evaluations of head coaches jobs are less about game specifics but rather where the team is trending.

All I know how to do is come back and get it corrected the next week, said defensive end Julius Peppers. Weve got to win these two and see how everything else works out. But were going to win these last two.

We dont have any more chances. We have to win them all and whatever we can do, weve got to do it now.

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 8

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 8

We're living in a bizarre age of fantasy football.

Each week we're questioning whether or not we should start players such as DeAndre Hopkins and Todd Gurley. At the same time, we're making room in our lineups for Jacquizz Rodgers, Ty Montgomery and Terrelle Pryor.

Down is up and up is down.

If you have any questions, hit us up on @CSNFantasy and tune in to our weekly Fantasy Fix Facebook Live show every Thursday.

Let's get right into the Week 8 Start/Sit and as always, Liam Neeson has a message for you:


Devontae Booker, RB, DEN (vs. SD) - With the news that C.J. Anderson is likely done for the season with a torn meniscus, Booker has turned into a must-own/must-start running back. The rookie out of Utah is averaging an impressive 4.8 yards per carry in limited time, and now moves into the starting role in Gary Kubiak's running back friendly offense which ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing attempts per game. Booker is a no-brainer this weekend against a Chargers defense which has allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns in 2016. (Scott Krinch)

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, NYJ (@ CLE) - I'll get criticism for this prediction, but Fitzpatrick should be a firm QB1 in Week 8. The Browns are always on the fantasy radar as a friendly opponent for quarterbacks, which is the team Fitzpatrick draws on Sunday. Cleveland hasn't allowed less than two passing touchdowns in any game this season, and have given up three scores to opposing signal callers four out of the last five weeks. This is a layup for Fitzpatrick owners. (Krinch)

Ty Montgomery, WR/RB, GB (@ ATL) - Fantasy players were given an early stocking stuffer when Montgomery was granted running back eligibility in the majority of leagues. It doesn't matter which position you want to insert Montgomery in, he just needs to be in your lineup at all costs. With 20 receptions on 25 targets and 12 carries for 66 yards in his last two games, Montgomery is turning into one of the league's most valuable fantasy commodities. The Packers opponent this weekend, the Falcons, have allowed the second-most receptions to running backs. Look for Montgomery to take advantage in that area. (Krinch)

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear here]


Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI (vs. MIN) - Jay Cutler's thumb has mysteriously healed and it's time for Jeffery to become a Top 10 wide receiver, right? Not exactly. I like Jeffery's outlook for the remainder of the season, but for this week and this week only, I'm staying clear of him. The Vikings defense presents a major mismatch for the Bears offense, and Jeffery will be in for a long night against a Vikings which ranks No. 2 against opposing wide receivers. (Krinch)

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET (@ HOU) - Stafford is having an MVP-caliber season and in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career so I know I'll get a lot of flack for benching him. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Stafford fan and think he's one of the best fantasy bargains in 2016. I just expect him to be more of a game manager against a stingy Texans secondary. Look for Stafford to keep the turnovers at a minimum and for the Lions to establish a ground attack, limiting Stafford's fantasy value for this week. (Krinch)

Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR (vs. ARI) - The forgotten man in most fantasy circles — despite routinely finishing each season as a Top 20 running back — is going to keep that label this weekend. The Cardinals front seven has been a nightmare for opposing running backs, and I expect it to be no different on Sunday. If the Cardinals get up big — a very good possibility — it's going to be a game of catch-up for the Panthers offense which will limit Stewart's touches. (Krinch)

Adjusting to bench role, Nikola Mirotic made big defensive play to seal Bulls win

Adjusting to bench role, Nikola Mirotic made big defensive play to seal Bulls win

Anytime Nikola Mirotic is on an island defensively in a crucial moment of a game, there’s a general sense of nervousness and doubt that’s palpable inside the United Center.

So imagine everyone’s surprise when Mirotic defended Boston Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown well enough to force a travel in the final minute of the Bulls’ 105-99 win Thursday night.

With the Celtics down two, Brown started his drive from the top of the key and pivoted back to his right. When he rose up for a jumper or pass, Mirotic was right in his face and Brown, a talented rookie playing in his second NBA game, didn’t know where to go.

He came back down with the ball still in his hands for a traveling violation, and the stage was set for Dwyane Wade’s closing heroics.

Wade, the closer was set up by Mirotic, the stopper—well, let’s not go that far just yet.

“I tried just to play good defense, to make him drive the ball because we want him to shoot a contested shot,” Mirotic said. “It was big-time defense. We needed that one. After that, Dwyane Wade has huge stop and made that 3. It’s a team job, team defense. I was just trying to be a part of that. I’m very happy about the game.”

In all fairness, Brown is a rookie and the Bulls would rather not see Mirotic in a one-on-one situation late in games defensively. But it appears as if Fred Hoiberg will give him the opportunities to close games so Mirotic will find himself in instances where he’ll have to make plays on both ends.

Hoiberg called it the defensive play of the game, and agreed with the assessment of Mirotic being an underrated defensive rebounder despite his struggles on that end of the floor.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It just goes to show you even when your shot isn’t falling, you can still have a positive impact,” Hoiberg said. “I loved his attack. He was getting in the paint and got some offensive rebound tip-ins as well so just overall solid game.”

Although Hoiberg had to make the decision to insert Taj Gibson as a starter at power forward over Mirotic, it’s not hard to see scenarios like Thursday where both are together to close games—Mirotic will be needed to spread the floor for Wade and Jimmy Butler to create shots in one-on-one situations.

Mirotic missed five of his six 3-point shots but was flawless inside the line, scoring 15 with nine rebounds.

“To be honest, I didn’t feel very comfortable with my 3-point shot,” said Mirotic, although Hoiberg said Mirotic’s attempts were good looks. “I tried to find a way to score, make an impact on the game---rebound the ball, play unselfish. My goal was to play good defense because I know that’s the next step.”

Getting over the idea of losing a starting job many believed would’ve been his given the composition of the roster seems to be behind Mirotic, who was a starter last season before acute appendicitis forced him out of action before the All-Star break.

“It doesn’t feel right to be honest. But no disappointment. It is what it is,” Mirotic said. “I want to not think and be focused and play my game. Now that I come from the bench, it’s like, ‘All right, figure out how you’re going to do that, how you’re going to help your team and play well.’”

Gibson and Mirotic were the only Bulls to shoot over 50 percent, as Gibson’s strong preseason play carried over to the opener. Make no mistake, if the Bulls are to exceed modest expectations, Mirotic will have to step up, as his production is no longer a luxury.

“It’s going to be a long season. But I told Fred it’s no problem,” Mirotic said. “I respect your decision. Taj is an amazing player. He’s playing so good. He’s in great shape. He deserves to be the starter. He has played a lot of years here. So I respect that. I’m cool with that. What I want to do is play my game, improve this year, make my team win more games. That’s all I can do.”