Chicago Fire

NFL Network's "Top 100" makes statements about Bears

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NFL Network's "Top 100" makes statements about Bears

The final 10 members of NFL Networks Top 100 were revealed on Wednesday night, giving some insight into how various players and several prominent Bears are viewed by their peers.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers emerged as the 2012 No. 1, followed by Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, New England quarterback Tom Brady and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Rankings of this sort inevitably carry an element of voter bias. Like Pro Bowl voting, every one contains a degree of popularity contest, regardless of constituency.

In this case the voters are current NFL players, meaning that within limits, the Top 100 give at least a hint of how they view each other. Some observations:

Jay Cutler is still not a top-10 quarterback, per his peers.

Cutler is not in a Top 100 that includes 13 other quarterbacks, one of whom is Tim Tebow, who is not even the starting quarterback on his own team.

Cutler is in good company. Houstons Matt Schaub, the sixth-ranked passer in 2012, is not on the list. Nor is Matt Ryan, the eighth.

The Bears have enough talent to reach and win a Super Bowl.

Elite talent wins championships. Five Bears placed among the Top 100: Julius Peppers (26), Matt Forte (33), Devin Hester (48), Brian Urlacher (51) and Lance Briggs (72). And that includes neither Cutler, Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman or Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, voted No. 61 last year but now gone from the list altogether after an 81-catch season.

Only San Francisco (7), Philadelphia (7) and Green Bay (6) have more than the Bears, with the Giants and Saints also putting five on the list. The Giants, Packers and Saints won Super Bowls.

So did New England (5) and Pittsburgh (6). Talent-wise, the Bears are in the discussion. The Lions, on the other hand, have three, the Vikings two.

Matt Forte rates himself an elite back but his peers arent convinced.

Players voted six running backs above Forte Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Arian Foster and Frank Gore. Forte recently mentioned McCoy and Foster as salary peers.

That has not been an easy sell to the Bears to this point and while the Top 100 wont be a negotiating chit, it does not add to Fortes case.

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

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USA TODAY

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed everything was breaking the Chicago Fire’s way.

The Fire’s 11-match unbeaten run from April into early July featured of plenty of impressive performances from the Fire, but also a few lucky breaks. Dallas rested most of its starting lineup when it came to Toyota Park, Atlanta brought its two best players off the bench when it played in Bridgeview, New England couldn’t get a result against the Fire despite pouring on 24 shots.

It seems that luck is evening out a bit. The Fire dropped a fourth straight game on the road on Wednesday in Montreal and, while sloppy play was evident for the second game in a row, a rash of injuries to the back line played a role in the loss.

Left back Brandon Vincent has been out since picking up a quad injury in the warmups before a July 5 game in Portland. Right back Matt Polster suffered a left knee injury this week in training and did not travel to Montreal. On top of that, Joao Meira, who was listed as questionable for the game with a calf injury, left five minutes in with an injury. That’s not a recipe for success.

Christian Dean, acquired by the Fire seven days ago, had to make his debut as an injury replacement five minutes into a game. His center back partner, Jonathan Campbell, was making his first start since April 8. Johan Kappelhof had slid over to right back to fill in for Polster.

The resulting chaos shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dean’s first touch as a Fire player was a clearance that he didn’t cleanly hit. Ignacio Piatti blocked it with his chest and was suddenly open in the box for an early goal.

A Matteo Mancosu penalty and an incredible curling shot from outside the box by Piatti within a minute of each other put the game away before the first half was over. It finished 3-0.

Injuries aren’t things that have good timing, but this definitely qualifies as poor timing as far as the Fire are concerned. Being shorthanded against a Montreal team that may be playing as well as it has all season wasn’t good. On top of that, the Fire host league-leading Toronto.

That game against Toronto had been circled by MLS fans as a meeting of two of the top teams in the league, but the Fire’s recent slide (four losses in the last five matches) has taken some of the luster off it. Toronto is six points ahead of the third-place Fire.

In one final note, Wednesday’s game was the first MLS start for 18-year-old Djordje Mihailovic. He played 82 minutes before being subbed out.

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

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AP

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

How's this for a #WayBackWednesday?

Homer Bailey — the Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Wednesday night — has dealt with arm injuries the last few years, meaning the last time he faced the Cubs was July 10, 2014.

The only holdover from that lineup three years ago is Anthony Rizzo:

The full lineup:

1. Chris Coghlan - LF
2. Arismendy Alcantara - 2B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Starlin Castro - SS
5. Luis Valbuena - 3B
6. Ryan Sweeney - CF
7. Nate Schierholtz - RF
8. John Baker - C
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

Yep, that was Mr. Hendricks' MLB debut. He gave up four runs in six innings before a bullpen combination of James Russell, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Blake Parker shut down the Reds to give the Cubs a 6-4 victory in 12 innings.

But that's not all. 

That was the same day Anthony Rizzo tried to take on the entire Reds roster after Aroldis Chapman struck out Schierholtz with a 103 mph pitch close to his head:

Rizzo emerged as a leader that day, willing to take on an entire team to back his own roster and stick up for his guys. That was the year before the Cubs made the playoffs and to that point, Rizzo had only been a part of losing teams. But he put the Cubs on his back starting that fateful day in Cincinnati, the last time Bailey faced the Cubs.

Alcantara — who is now in the Reds system and was just outrighted to Double-A this week — had four hits and drove in three runs in that game while Valbuena drove in the winning runs with a two-out triple in the top of the 12th. The Cubs finished 73-89 in 2014 under Ricky Renteria, who got a World Series ring from the Cubs last month for all the work he did in 2014.

Since that day, the Cubs have ended their championship drought (obviously) thanks in part to Chapman and Rizzo has become the unquestioned face of the franchise and one of the top players in baseball.