Random News of the Day: Would you rather...

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Random News of the Day: Would you rather...

Tue. Jan 4, 2011
9:52 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Happy New Year!

I hope that the start of 2011 was a good one for you. It certainly was for the Monsters of the Midway. A lot of critics figured that the Bears will be on the couch watching the playoffs come January 8th. And wouldnt you know itthose critics were absolutely right. The Bears earned a first round bye and the right to channel surf during the start of the NFL postseason. The Bears will practice Wednesday and Thursday before awaiting the New Orleans-Seattle and Philadelphia-Green Bay games over the weekend. If the 3-seed Eagles win, then Michael Vick and company come to Soldier Field. If the Packers win, then the Bears host the winner of the Saints-Seahawks game.

I was going to do a preview of each NFL playoff game, but then quickly realized that a preview of this nature would end up looking like that scene in Mr. Mom when Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) is trying to fight the out of control washing machine. Its a futile exercise and its just going to leave you looking like an idiot if you even try to outsmart the menacing beast. This season, the NFL has been that out of control washing machinestuffed up with too many potential surprises. Take the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks for that matter. Given this crazy season, would you even flinch if they shock New Orleans? Doubt it. I mean, outside of maybe penciling the New England Patriots in for a win or two, what rock-solid locks are there? Good luck on trying to outsmart the machine.

And yes, I just referenced Mr. Mom.

So I figure that, since the prediction game is out, why not try an NFL variation of the game Would You Rather? Apparently this is an actual card game that adults play as a sort of ice breaker at parties (picture a PG version of Truth or Dare, crossed with a Choose Your Own Adventure book and a typical eHarmony first date conversation). Its a game that focuses on what you would do in hypothetical situations. But lets focus Would You Rather on the Bears' first opponent in the playoffs.

If you were the Bears, would you rather

1. play the Saints? The Super Bowl champs? Really? I wouldnt mind it. Yes, the Saints racked up 11 wins. Yes, Drew Brees and his receivers can carve up a secondary like Zorro slashing a Z into somebodys chest. But they have shown they are susceptible to dumb mistakes (-5 turnover ratio). Have they played their best football yet? I don't think so. Yes, they lost to Cleveland and Arizona but they were also hampered by injuries. Maybe the Seahawks will smack a little wake-up call into the Saints? Hey, with this crazy NFL seasonwho knows. Speaking of which

2. play the Seahawks? Ha! Sure, why not! A 7-9 team that ends up playing the Bears after beating New Orleans? Wowthe Saints would really have to mail it in for this to happen. The Seahawks have very few playmakers on their offense, not to mention a shaky offensive line. Their defense is iffy at best. They were the kings of the NFC Westa division that was the butt of constant jokes this season. But hey, theyve already come into Chicago and dealt with the Bears (23-20 on October 17th). By the way, is it just me or does their quarterback Charlie Whitehurst look a little like a younger Bob Seger? Given the insanity of this NFL season, I wouldnt be surprised if Bob Seger comes off the bench and quarterbacks a team to victory. Too bad his hometown Detroit Lions arent in the postseason.

3. or play the Eagles? Again, why not? The Bears already grounded Michael Vick and the Eagles earlier this year (31-26 on November 28th). But can anybody figure this Philly team out? Which group comes to Chicago: the team that staged an epic comeback against the Giants? Maybe the team that beat the Colts? Or Atlanta? Or the team that looked like raw sewage against the Vikings? Keep in mind that the Packers have already beaten the Eagles this yearin Philly. The Eagles have loads of injuries and who knows if that situation will get any better when a physical Packers team shows up this weekend.

Its up to you, Bears fans. What do you think? What team poses the biggest threat? Or the smallest one? What will it take to put a smile on your face? I insist on playing the Would You Rather game. Dont end up making predictions about the playoffs. Heck, dont even listen to any of the blowhards making predictions. Pssshlike they have any clue whats going on, you know? They should know that the NFL is unpredictable.

Like an out-of-control washing machine.

Or something like that.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.