Moon: Examining the playoffs

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Moon: Examining the playoffs

Things that come to mind as second-round playoff games conclude

The Green Bay Packers losing doesnt make the Bears any better and doesnt undo four Bears losses to them in a calendar year. But before Jay Cutler's injury, the Bears were a consensus threat to the Packers (which the Giants certainly turned out to be as well) and it does suggest that the NFC North is not as out of reach as worst-case thinking would suggest. And:

--Green Bay lost two of its last three games started by Aaron Rodgers.
The only Rodgers win since Dec. 11 was against the Bears

--Jermichael Finley is up for unrestricted free agency. So is Marques Colston, tag pending

--You have to be very good at something to be thinking about championships.

Baltimore and San Francisco rank 3-4 on defense; New York is 27 and the Patriots No. 31. But the Pats are No. 2 in offense, the Giants No. 8.

Defense doesnt necessarily win championships but a lack of one can keep you from winning one. The obvious difference between the 2010 Packers that won a Super Bowl from a start in the wild-card round and the 2011 one that was more than the turnovers. It was a defense that was shredded to the point of coach Mike McCarthy feeling compelled to try trickery in the form of an onsides kick (failed) to open Sundays second half.

Theres a significant couple of buts here, however.

Nine of the top 15 offenses for total yardage qualified for the playoffs. Only six of the top 15 defensive units were among the 12 playoff teams.

Mike Martz-ing

Mike Martz has philosophical differences with more than just Lovie Smith. The game-winning performances of tight ends alone (Vernon Davis in San Francisco, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in New England, even Jimmy Graham for New Orleans all season) point to Martz choosing not to use a major component of good offense.

The unfortunate reality is that the Bears had an effective modern tight end and were effectively forced to trade him away because he had no future in the offense as being cobbled together by Martz

Three Bears necessities toward going 3-0 in Jerry's house

Three Bears necessities toward going 3-0 in Jerry's house

The Bears have won both times they've played in Jerry Jones' gargantuan pigskin palace. But that was in 2010 and 2012, the last two times this franchise finished with a winning record. The home team has lost eight straight times there. This matchup actually provides some hope for the offense (despite Jay Cutler's absence), but uncomfortable thoughts defensively, considering Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman will be sidelined, with safety Adrian Amos and nickel back Bryce Callahan (concussions) potentially joining them.

1. Tag Hoyer

...with a red non-contact jersey. Not possible, you say? Okay, well this scuffling offensive line needs to get in synch. And quickly. Like the Bears, the Cowboys have just four sacks so far this season. But they did deliver nine hits last week in D.C. on an already-rattled Kirk Cousins. Rod Marinelli's no-name, suspension-thinned defense has allowed fewer points than the Bears. The added concern is Hoyer's lack of work with the only player opponents must game-plan for: Alshon Jeffery, who worked primarily with Cutler throughout training camp. And who knows how much Jeffery (knee) worked at full-speed in practice this week, being held out of Thursday's workout completely. So....

2. Hand off, dump off

There is no time like now to establish the running game. There's Hoyer trying to get comfortable. There's the 4.75 yards per rush the Cowboys defense is allowing. There's the need to keep the Cowboys' offensive weapons off the field against the Bears' banged-up D. Between Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, Ezekiel Elliott, and the best offensive line in the NFL, no matter Dak Prescott looks so comfortable. And when the Bears need to mix up their attempt to pound on the ground, get Zach Miller and Eddie Royal involved with quick-hits through the air.

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3. Fill up the half-empty glass

Whether this is Dowell Loggains being unable to adjust and be creative enough to the opposition's counter moves, or a coincidental breakdown in execution, the Bears' offense has scored zero points after halftime. We signed off on Houston's talented defense two weeks ago. Three turnovers on the first four possessions lost momentum Monday night. Loggains and company need to find a way to anticipate, execute, and dictate at a much higher level over the final 30 minutes.

**Join Alex Brown, Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Chris at 6:30 p.m. Sunday night on Comcast SportsNet for "Bears Pregame Live," leading you right up to the 7:30 kickoff on NBC. Then as soon as the second quarter ends, log on to CSNChicago.com for "Bears Halftime Live," as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over adjustments. And immediately after the game ends, switch back to CSN as the four guys are joined by former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt for 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews from Dallas on "Bears Postgame Live."**

Bears vs. Cowboys: And the winner is...

Bears vs. Cowboys: And the winner is...

Severe conflict here.

The obvious temptation is to succumb to the swelling despair surrounding the Bears and predict a third loss to open the 2016 season. And “View from the Moon” did in fact call this game as a loss back in April. It’s not that easy, however.

The Bears couldn’t be pants’d by two rookie quarterbacks in a row, could they? Dak Prescott got the Dallas Cowboys to a win last Sunday while Carson Wentz was preparing to undo the Bears Monday night. Prescott posted a passer rating of 103.7 in the win at Washington while the Bears were losing their game and their quarterback the next night.

But if the Bears have had their troubles at home under John Fox (1-8), the Cowboys haven’t won a home game without Tony Romo at quarterback since December 2010.

So a contrarian view has taken shape. Brian Hoyer looked awful in training camp and preseason, but Hoyer is a controlled professional in the tradition of Josh McCown, and last year with the Houston Texans put up six games with passer ratings of 94 or better (Cutler had seven for the Bears).

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I do not like the look of the Bears defense without nose tackle Eddie Goldman and with a litany of others (Willie Young, Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos) at less than 100 percent because of early season injuries. There is little to favor the Bears, which is why bettors placed them as clear underdogs.

But the belief here is that the offense will shed its passive mindset and attack with Jordan Howard and the running game, unlike the first two games. The first two games effectively turned on turnovers, and Hoyer last year had just one game in the 11 he played where he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes, before the meltdown in the playoffs.

If the Bears keep control of the football, they will wear down a mediocre Dallas defense, which is exactly the style of game Fox and Dowell Loggains want.

Bears 17, Cowboys 16

(View from the Moon ’16 record: 1-1)