Bears are confident on the upcoming season

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Bears are confident on the upcoming season

Many early publications are already projecting the Bears to finish third in the NFC North. Chicago finished 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs, while Green Bay (15-1) lost in the divisional round and Detroit (10-6) lost in the wild-card round. This ranking doesnt sit well with Bears fans or the team, especially after the 2011 playoffs evaporated with one injury.

The upcoming season could shape up to be a good one. I can hear the Peanut Gallery already shouting, Mills, you're a Bears homer!
Au Contraire!

For the Bears, 2012 is more or less about offensive accountability and consistency. If they can achieve this at a high level against their opponents, they will be a playoff team. If not, discussions of rebuilding with a new head coach will come into play as Lovie Smith would be entering a lame duck season in 2013. The offense could potentially be even stronger in 2013 if a good foundation is built in 2012.

The best comparison to the Bears' situation can be seen when analyzing the Baltimore Ravens. Since head coach John Harbaughs arrival in 2008, offensive accountability has been stressed. The Ravens have made the playoffs four straight seasons because their offense has come up big, bailing out what once was a feared defense. The Ravens' offense has also built leads in games their defense has not been able to hold on to. During Harbaughs first season in Baltimore, offense jumped from 17.2 points a game under Brian Billick in 2007 to 24.1 points a game under Harbaugh. The Ravens have hovered around that number ever since. The bottom line is Harbaugh has achieved his goal--the Ravens are a more complete team with greater consistency offensively.
Shaping Offense

Before the Bears reach the bye week during Week 6, they will play three teams with new head coaches installing new schemes, who are rebuilding with young quarterbacks (Indianapolis: Week 1, St. Louis: Week 3, and Jacksonville: Week 5). Much like the Bears' offense, these teams will be sorting things out early, defining who they are and what they can do. The Bears understand their other two opponents (Green Bay: Week 2 and Dallas: Week 4) very well. The Bears' defense will have to rise to the occasion like they normally do, but these, by no stretch of the imagination, are unwinnable games as many will predict. The Bears would then have the bye week to really start getting their offense humming smoothly.

The Bears could be re-living the fast start from 2011, but can they sustain it this time around? If Mike Tice can embolden the offense with a mindset of confidence and consistency rather than depressed and unpredictable chaos, the Bears will be dangerous in 2012.

The Kyle Schwarber reboot begins Monday in Iowa

The Kyle Schwarber reboot begins Monday in Iowa

MIAMI – This isn’t a Tommy La Stella situation. The Cubs purposely told Kyle Schwarber to take a few days off to decompress before reporting to Triple-A Iowa. The reboot will begin Monday in Des Moines.

“We’re doing it to hopefully reset him, get him back up with a fresh start,” manager Joe Maddon said. “As you would expect, he was very professional about it, understood it entirely.

“There’s no actual timetable. I don’t anticipate it to be long. But we’ll see how it plays out, give him a little bit of room to get things right and then move it forward from there.”

The Cubs broke the news to Schwarber after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field, where the entire lineup went 1-for-27 outside of rookie Ian Happ’s two-run homer. It left Schwarber hitting .171 with a .673 OPS, not enough to justify his 12 home runs and suspect outfield defense. The Iowa Cubs are in the middle of a four-game series this weekend in Round Rock, Texas.

The Cubs hope Schwarber can regain his confidence and almost become a trade-deadline addition, reenergizing the team the way he did in 2015, when he blasted 16 homers in 69 games and five more in the playoffs.

Under entirely different circumstances in 2012, future All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo used 70 games with Iowa to rework his swing and make adjustments after bombing his audition with the Padres.

“He’s going to go down and be able to exhale a little bit,” Rizzo said. “Hopefully, he can smooth things out. We’re all confident he will. Just do the best down there to get back up here and to be the Kyle Schwarber that we all know and love.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”