Wild-card scramble: Who has the edge?


Wild-card scramble: Who has the edge?

Back when the Bears were the team scoring 50 points in a game in Tennessee, long before the Seattle Seahawks made that point total weekly occurrence the question was whether the Bears would have a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Now it is who else has to lose games to let the Bears squeak into the postseason. Because the first casualty of Sundays 21-13 Green Bay win was the Bears control over their own destiny. If they kept winning, it didnt matter what others did, because the Bears had a lead.

Now they dont. But they arguably have a better course through the minefield of two final games than the teams they find themselves chasing, some of which play each other. All of which presupposes the Bears winning on the road against Arizona and Detroit, two teams with a combined 19 losses.

Seattle is the biggest hurdle because of having beaten the Bears. As for the overall:

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsSeattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers
10-3-1St. Louis Rams
6-7-1Comment: Few teams are playing better than Seattle right now, winners of three straight and five of their last six. Head-to-head tiebreak edge on Bears.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsMinnesota Vikings
@ Houston Texans
12-2Green Bay Packers

Comment: The toughest finishing stretch, although both opponents may be resting their firepower with positions clinched.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsWash. Redskins
@ Philadelphia Eagles
4-10Dallas Cowboys

Comment: Dallas is a blood feud but Washington has won five straight and put up 30 in four of the five.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsDallas Cowboys
New Orleans Saints
6-8@ Washington Redskins

Comment: No one really likes playing the Saints even after losing three straight before dismembering Tampa Bay. Washington in D.C. will be difficult.

Wild-card team
Remaining opponents
RecordsNew York Giants
@ Baltimore Ravens
9-5Philadelphia Eagles

Comment: The Ravens are slumping with three straight losses and getting scored upon. The Eagles should just forfeit.

Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game


Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

According to a report from Crain's Chicago Business, Chicago's Soldier Field may be in the running to host next year's MLS All-Star Game.

The report says the city and Major League Soccer are discussing Chicago hosting the All-Star Game, which includes a number of other events in the lead up to the game.

Toyota Park, which is located in suburban Bridgeview, hosted the All-Star Game in 2006 less than two months after the stadium opened. Soldier Field has never hosted the MLS All-Star Game.

The Chicago Fire played in Soldier Field from the team's expansion season in 1998 until Soldier Field renovations in 2002. The Fire moved back to the renovated Soldier Field midway through the 2003 season before heading to Toyota Park.

If Soldier Field hosts the All-Star Game, it would be the first non-MLS venue to host the game since 2010 when Houston's Reliant Stadium hosted the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United.

This year's All-Star Game was in San Jose's year-and-a-half old Avaya Stadium. Arsenal beat the MLS All-Stars 2-1.

Stan Bowman likes Blackhawks prospects' potential to fill holes

Stan Bowman likes Blackhawks prospects' potential to fill holes

The Blackhawks have holes to fill on their roster, especially among the forwards. And general manager Stan Bowman reiterated that the team will look from within to fill them.

“The guys we have are the ones that are here, and our team’s going to come from this group,” said Bowman, who addressed the media on Tuesday. “We’ve only had a few days of camp here but it’s been a bright start. They’re all full of energy, excitement, knowing they have a chance to make the team. Maybe it’s been different than in previous years when they’ve looked at the lineup and wondered where they might fit. And now, they know there’s a possibility they can make the team if they pay well. That’s what these games are going to be, starting tomorrow, we’re going to have an opportunity to see how they perform in a game setting.”

It’s still way too early to say where some of those young players fit; Patrick Kane just joined camp on Tuesday and several other veteran Blackhawks who were playing at the World Cup of Hockey are either still there or just returned from Toronto. But Bowman’s liked what he’s seen from several prospects. Some of them, including Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte and Alexandre Fortin, who the Blackhawks signed on Sunday, are expected to play in Wednesday’s preseason opener vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A big concern is still who’s going to play on the top line with Jonathan Toews. Richard Panik and Nick Schmaltz are two possibilities – Schmaltz was on the left side during Tuesday morning’s skate. He’s primarily been a center but, as it usually goes with the Blackhawks, forwards have to be versatile. But Bowman wasn’t sure who would play in that top left-wing spot, or in other spots, at this juncture.

“I think it’s hard to give a direct answer to that because we have to see what Joel [Quenneville] thinks when he gets here, as well,” said Bowman on Quenneville, who’s still with Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey. “We have to see how they perform in the exhibition games. But stability is a nice thing. I think having a familiar line mate can help you in a lot of situations. But as the year goes on, sometimes things get stale or injuries happen. You have to have flexibility for different players to float into those roles.”

North American fun

Bowman himself recently returned from the World Cup of Hockey, where he was co-general manager of Team North America. That group brought a tremendous amount of excitement to the tournament, despite not moving onto the semifinal round.

“It was a blast to be part of that group. I had so much fun. You never know how it’s going to go when you’re first asked to be part of it but we had a great time. It was a treat even to watch those guys in practice.”

Liking Forsling

Bowman has liked what he’s seen from defenseman Gustav Forsling, who’s vying for a spot on the Blackhawks’ roster. Forsling could also return to the Swedish league.

“He was very impressive there [at Traverse City]. I thought comfortable, poised, very talented in both transitioning the offense, making plays. So there's a lot to like there,” Bowman said. “We're certainly going to see how he plays in these exhibition games. Whether he benefitted from going to Sweden? That's a great league, so if he does end up back there, he's going to continue to grow his game. But we haven't made that decision yet. We want to see how things go here.”