Who are you?

Who are you?

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
2:32 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its the ultimate question isnt it? We ask it about others and sometimes even ourselves. While we dont have enough time or space here for me to ponder this question about myself, I have spent considerable time trying to figure what this question means as it pertains to my professional football, um, rooting interests.

Its what the first four weeks of the regular season are for. Now that we can put the preseason behind us, (Good thing we used all of the things we learned there! I love how people use a teams performance during half-speed time to predict regular season results. Indy was 0-4. Detroit 3-1. Houston 1-3. And Im sure you remember the Bears staggering through a 0-4 summer. Did any of this predict what we see now? I always find preseason prognostication as a waste of time. Do you know how many of the local experts picked the Bears last year as a double-digit winner and playoff team? How about every one of the ones I read or talked to. Why watch the preseason? Just drink your Kool-aid, then make your picks!) its time to try and figure out the truths, and the illusions, that are in front of us. Of course, as always, I do this for conversational purposes only!

How could I not start with the Bears? Has 2-0 ever felt this good? Well as a matter of fact, it has felt much better. The last time the Bears started out this well, 2006, they went to the Super Bowl. That team though had a lot of expectations. They were coming off of a playoff appearance and had a dominant defense that was in its prime. This team? Well, with the stench of the last two campaigns still not totally removed, theres more apprehension than expectation for this team. They have a maddening ability to pull the rug from out of under you every time that you start to believe.
One difference this year is Jay Cutler. Last year at this time, Cutler-mania was in full bloom. The team started out 3-1 (after a 3-1 preseason!) and all was great. Wasnt it? After a horrid 4-pick effort in the opener, a loss, he had a 7-1 TD to interception ratio in the next 3 games, all wins, so the natural summation was that he was headed, along with the team, to the promised land. We all know how that turned out. But as we watched, there was a feeling that thing were not all good. There was just a feeling that the team was not as good as its record. And in spite of some of his success, Cutler did not seem to always be on the same page with his receivers, or he was just plain reckless with the ball. 26 interceptions later, we saw how that played out.

I know its still early, but Im going to go out on a limb and say that Cutlers results are going to be different this year. Im still not sold on the O-lines ability to protect him, but he has a different feel to him this year. I think all of the negativity, following a summer of love upon his arrival here, has had an effect. I think hes motivated to make amends and reclaim his status as a golden-boy. This also includes his interactions with a media that he disdains. Ive not seen many guys, who just because of their personality, get so much scorn and ill will with media members. I know that we all are entertained by Peyton Manning and his sense of humor, which is on display in many places, but what makes him Peyton Manning is his ability to lead a football team.

3-13 quarterbacks are just not funny or lovable. Combine this desire with an offensive coordinator, who I think gets him, and also gets aggressive, pass-oriented football, and I think that good things are in store for this Bears team on the offensive side of the ball.

On the defensive side, I dont know if I feel as good. Big win and thats what its all about, but giving up 410 yards is giving up 410 yards. Much will be made of the swagger and big hits, but is that enough to stop Aaron Rogers? What you have to like is that in spite of the amount of yards given up, it was bend-but-dont-break, only yielding 1 defensive touchdown.

Also, in what I think will be the most telling stat for the defense all year, were the 3 turnovers created. Turnovers have a way of negating yardage and also get into the head of an opponent. They also are supposed to be a trademark of a Lovie Smith defense. In this defining year of Smiths tenure here, they better come in abundance.

So who are the Bears? Do any of us know? This is the NFL and that stands for: Not For Long. Things we see now may not be what they appear. One thing for sure though, a home Monday Night game against the Packers, with both teams 2-0, should be the barometer we need. 3-0 would be time for everyone to hop on the Bears express. Who are you?

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

james-franklin-1207.jpg
USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead