It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

It's Not What You Know, It's When You Know It!

Tuesday, September 22nd
As the city basks in the glow of the Bears, its time to talk NFL. Fans are into the NFL for different reasons. Among them are: gambling, tradition, city pride and more gambling! Lets not kid ourselves, in this country, the NFL rules because of the action, and the ACTION! Office confidence pools and fantasy football are all the rage now. Thank you, internet! The ability to win either of these depends on two things: LUCK and information. From having, or not, these two things, we can impress others accordingly. As your resident bartender, Ive been witness to more braggadocio about football than any other sport. Thank-you, alcohol!

As for knowledge about football, we wont talk about luck, because I have none. I know just enough to be dangerous; for me and anyone who would care to listen. Since I am behind a bar just about every Sunday of my adult life, Ive watched a little bit of football. I also meet fans of teams from all over the country, and others who are interested about teams from all over the country, (wonder why that is??) who want to talk football 247. I guess they figure all that time Ive spent behind a bar has taught me something. Well... they are right!

One thing Ive learned is preseason football means absolutely nothing as far as how to predict how a season will go. How did that 4-0 preseason record work out for Detroit last year? The point is, some coaches want to win and some could care less. And if youre a veteran who has the team made, dont get hurt because the regular season is when you get paid! Thats why I think predictions based off the preseason are fairly useless. Have you ever gone over some of the expert predictions after the year? They were throwing darts at a board! This leads me to my fearless predictions for the 2009 season. I think that after two games some trends are very obvious, while some others will need more time to play out. Still its the perfect time for the guy-in-a-red-bow-tie to offer his humble assessments. Besides which, due to the frenetic pace of my domestic life, its the first chance Ive had to get to my computer since the season started! Here we go.

AFC EAST

1) New England: Is Brady still Brady? You bet! Seymour trade is a curious one. Does 4 RBS = Any RBS?

2) NY Jets: Rex Ryan doesnt fall far from the tree. It will be a fun team to watch. Leon Washington is electric.

3) Buffalo: I like Dick Jauron. He is a kind, thoughtful, intelligent person. And he agreed to T. O.??? Good luck!

4) Miami: Lets see how a roster with mediocre talent does with a 1st place schedule. I see a lot of low scores in their future.

AFC NORTH

1) Pittsburgh: Repeat? Four games against Cincinnati and Cleveland help vault them to the playoffs. If healthy, no less than final four.

2) Baltimore: Defense a year older and without the 2nd mentor of the Lewis Era. They will go as far as Flacco will take them.

3) Cincinnati: Really? Their chances? Child, please!

4) Cleveland: Man-genius? Seems to be in a little over his head. This could get ugly.

AFC SOUTH

1) Indy: New coach? Same old Manning. Smartest player in the league is the
ultimate on-field leader, has the best commercials too.

2) Houston: My surprise team of the year. They give Indy a run and get in as
a wild-card. Andre Johnson is a beast!

3) Tennessee: Good defense and ground game. Can you consistently win in this league if you cant throw the ball?

4) Jacksonville: Love Jones-Drew, not much else. And Im not the only one: 17,000 unsold tickets? At least the home town doesnt have to watch this mess.

AFC WEST

1) San Diego: Rulers of the worst division in football. Make the playoffs as usual, then what? Is this finally the year?

2) Denver: Orton move was shocking. What they needed to shock was the defense. Team unity is shown on offense: They all have neck-beards!

3) K.C.: Fantasy owners will love this offense. Cassel will get a chance to air it out.

4) Oakland: Honestly? Team Psycho? They dont look so bad early, but give it time. Enjoy the side-show and the losses.

NFC EAST

1) Eagles: Vick is always the first thing Im asked about. No. 2 is this: Will this FINALLY be the year to end all of the endless suffering?!! (Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.)

2) NY Giants: The best combo of offensive and defensive lines in pro football. That will be good enough to finish 2nd.

3) Dallas: Tons of talent with no results. The lights are on, but nobodys home!

4) Washington: As far as under-achievers go, theyre Phi Beta Kappa!

NFC NORTH

1) Green Bay: Dom Capers taking over the defense is huge. Fast and aggressive, they rule the division.

2) Minnesota: Cant wait to see how Favre implodes another teams season. Three different teams in three consecutive years? This I have to watch!
3) Bears: One word: Defense. Do they have one? Need to move last years 30th against the pass into the top 10 to have a shot. Plus, more KNOX!

4) Detroit: Ouch! Ill go out on a limb and say that theyll win two games!

NFC SOUTH

1) Atlanta: Good young team. Ryan is the real deal. Gonzalez move was brilliant.

2) New Orleans: Score 500- give up 500 = .500? If this team can stop a good offense, theyre scary.

3) Carolina: Ultimate fluke team of last year crashes with a thud!

4) Tampa: I dont think so!

NFC WEST

1) San Francisco: How can you not root for Singletary? I want winners! Surprise team uses easy schedule to get to the playoffs.

2) Seattle: With Hasselbeck: over .500. Without?: Way, way under.

3) Arizona: Remember, even though this team was one play from being the champs last year, they were 9-7. Pete Rozelles dream come true!

4) St. Louis: Thanks for playing; we have some lovely parting gifts. Besides, have you ever met a Rams fan? I havent, everyone in that town is rooting for the Cardinals.

In the postseason, I have:

AFC:NFC:
New England over Houston
Atlanta over Minn
Jets over Indy
NYG over SanFran
Then,Then,San Diego over Jets
Phil. over Atl.
Pitt. over N.E.
NYG over G.B.
Then,Then,S.D. over Pitt.
Phil over NYG

Then, drum roll please,

The Eagles over the Chargers in Super Bowl XLIII!!

Of course, my second week predictions end up like a lot of preseason ones: worthless, so I might as well get to type that once! Check back to see how I did. If I do well and you mention it to me at the bar, Im sure there will be a beer in your future. Otherwise, just hit delete!

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

The tumult around the Bears quarterback position this offseason – signing Mike Glennon, cutting Jay Cutler, not signing Brian Hoyer, now signing Mark Sanchez – was to be expected. (Well, not all the brouhaha around Sanchez; if there has ever been more hyperventilating around the arriving backup quarterback, it’s escaping my recollections of a quarter-century on the beat.)

All of that, and a lot of the noise around Mike Glennon is really missing a larger point. A couple, really.

GM Ryan Pace established fixing the quarterback situation as a top priority, something it has been just about since Jim McMahon left, with the exception of a few Jay Cutler years. Doing that to any meaningful degree with the castoff options available in free agency or via trades wasn’t ever going to happen. What Pace has done with the quarterback situation, however, is more than a little intriguing.

The quarterback additions and subtractions, coupled with also suggest a draft plan far from locked in on a quarterback. The signings of Glennon and Sanchez don’t mean the Bears have solved their quarterback position, but it does mean the Bears have positioned themselves with the distinct option of NOT taking a quarterback – this year.

But here’s the bigger point.

Even with the optimum quarterback solution unavailable – Pace arguably did go best-available in his and the coaches’ minds with Glennon and Sanchez, all derision aside – Pace’s goal needs to be building a team that can reach a high playoff level regardless of quarterback.

Meaning: defense. And while the 2017 free agent and draft classes did not offer must-have quarterbacks in most evaluations, there are those elite-level defensive talents, and every indication is that the Bears will look there, in the draft, and should be. It had that feeling when the Bears, with ample, money to spend, backed away from day one free-agency runs at a couple of pricey defensive backs. The Bears simply think they can do better for less in the draft.

A perspective: With a defense at its levels during the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears could reach the NFC championship game with what they have at quarterback now. They did, twice, with Rex Grossman and with Cutler. Sanchez got to AFC championship games in each of his first two seasons. The Bears reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their quarterback. They went 13-3 in 2001 with a solid-but-unspectacular Jim Miller as their quarterback. They reached the 2005 playoffs with Kyle Orton as their starter most of that year, and should have been in the 2008 playoffs with him as well. The Bears reached the NFC championship game in 2010 with Cutler.

There is a common denominator in all of these situations, and it is within Pace’s grasp, and that was an elite defense. Rex Ryan had one with the Jets and Sanchez, Grossman and Orton and Cutler had theirs with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, etc.

Forget the quarterback situation for now. Nothing anyone, including Pace, can really do anything about it (other than land possibly Deshaun Watson, based on their turnout at his Pro Day).

But if Pace and his personnel staff do this right, they can lay in the foundation for something elite on defense that will transcend the quarterback, or at least allow the Bears to play more than 16 games in a season even if they do not have a great quarterback. With the Urlacher core defense, the Bears went to postseasons with four different quarterbacks.

The prime directive now for Ryan Pace is to create precisely that model again.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."