As the Bears walk through their hiring processes general manager, passing-game coordinatorQB coach the NFL has some business to do this weekend. The games dont involve the Bears but there is rarely a game played somewhere that doesnt have something of interest for the Bears.
Besides, theyre worth analyzing, too. The home teams won all four of the wild-card games and all four will win the divisional games as well (this isnt home-field-advantage thing, incidentally teams have home games because they have better records because they actually are better):
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (Sun. 3:30 p.m.)
The Packers are the gold standard for measuring the Bears, ostensibly the main reason Jerry Angelo was fired as general manager. They dont run the ball as well as the Giants, who remain one of the more enigmatic NFC teams out of the most enigmatic (and over-rated) divisions in the NFL.
But get beyond the dizzying statistics. The Giants rush the passer as well as the Bears wish they could with a front four, and they have returned to running the ball, and that is what helps keep your offense on the field and the other guys off it. Green Bay, like the New England Patriots, has been masking serious problems on defense.
The Giants, even with their pedestrian 9-7 record, are a better team. They have a top-4 quarterback, running backs, good receivers and a pass rush. Still, the Packers in Green Bay simply win. This will be dangerously close but
Green Bay, 24 New York, 20
Sometimes the passage of time makes things a little sweeter.
Josh Sitton had been selected to three Pro Bowls while a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the end of training camp last year, the Packers abruptly released Sitton.
On Monday, Sitton was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, replacing former Green Bay teammate T.J. Lang. At age 30, this Pro Bowl was special.
"It's a great honor, always a goal of mine every year," Sitton said via conference call. "It's an honor to me and to the guys I play with, the guys helping me along...
"I would say just the age thing, the older you get, the more you appreciate them. You can't play at a high level in this game so the whole age thing makes it even more special."
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When the Bears were forced to go into Week 1 of the 2015 season with a shuffled offensive line, the situation wasn't ideal; Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to right tackle as a hurried fill when neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills were an answer.
The 2016 season also began with an unexpected and significant shuffle, but this time with one that immediately bumped up the quality of the line. GM Ryan Pace moved quickly to sign Sitton after his release by the Green Bay Packers, a step that bumped rookie Cody Whitehair from guard to center, where he earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
"It was challenging for sure," Sitton said. "It was something I haven't had to do for quite some time but it was stimulating being thrown in and needing to learn the offense in four or five days."
Sitton, who signed a three-year contract worth as much as $21 million with $10 million guaranteed, joins rookie running back Jordan Howard as the two Bears scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl. He started 12 of 13 games in 2016, missing time with an ankle injury but being a strong presence in a line that ranked No. 8 in sack percentage while getting Howard to a franchise-record 1,313 rushing yards even with a rookie center and a group that never played a game together before Week 1 in Houston against the Texans.
"I think we can only get better, now that we'll have an offseason together," Sitton said. "We'll see what we can do."
The Bears have another Pro Bowler.
After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.
Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.
This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.
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The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.
Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.
Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.