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.

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night, downplaying any health concerns about their All-Star middle infielders. 

One week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, manager Joe Maddon spent part of Sunday's media session saying how he had no concerns with his World Series MVP's stiff neck and his franchise shortstop's stiff back.

"You can tell with 'Zo,'" Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "He'll come around and let me know specifically if he feels it's going to be anything longer than that. He's talking either tomorrow night or the next day."

Zobrist, who spent nine seasons with Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays, hasn't appeared in a Cactus League game since March 19. Maddon also signaled Russell is close to returning to action after being a late scratch from Friday's lineup.

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Not like this, but the Cubs already planned to schedule extra rest for Zobrist, given his age (36 in May), the playoff stress on his body from back-to-back World Series titles and emerging options like Javier Baez on a mix-and-match team. 

All along, Maddon hasn't worried about finding enough at-bats for Baez, knowing that injuries are inevitable and the Cubs have insurance policies up and down the roster that should pay off across a 162-game season. But in this case, it doesn't sound like the Cubs are testing that theory with Zobrist and Russell.

"None of this stuff is really threatening," Maddon said. "The trainers have no real strong issues with anything. It's almost like you'll be overly cautious right now. And that's all we're doing."

Glenbard North's Tyrik Henderson goes 1-on-1 with Edgy Tim

Glenbard North's Tyrik Henderson goes 1-on-1 with Edgy Tim

It's been a good winter for Glenbard North junior three-star ranked defensive back Tyrik Henderson (5-foot-10, 165 pounds). Henderson, who added his latest offer on Saturday from Minnesota, has continued to pile up multiple scholarship offers at an impressive rate heading into the all important spring evaluation period. 

Henderson, who also has been playing travel 7-on-7 this winter for Boom Midwest, is a fierce competitor took time from his busy schedule to take part in the annual Dodgeball Madness charity tournament along with some of his Glenbard North teammates. Henderson fills us in on some of his recent offers along with some recent college visit.

I caught up with Tyrik Henderson at the Fifth Annual Franklin Dodgeball Madness Tournament at Franklink Middle School in Wheaton. Proceeds from the tournament benefited the school, the DuPage Hundred Club, Team Red, White and Blue and The Pat Tillman Foundation.

Watch the following video above.