So much for that whole “on pace for” line I wrote last week for Jay Cutler, huh? Cutler played horribly last week in Detroit. He threw three interceptions, two of which are pathetic throws, and lost a fumble that Nick Fairley ran in for six points. It wasn’t all on Cutler, though. Alshon Jeffery has a solid game on paper but dropped two touchdowns, one that he followed up with a touchdown catch. Martellus Bennett dropped one as well. Kyle Long and Jordan Mills had rough games, which notches the third straight one for Mills. Adam Podlesh was atrocious once again; he’s now 26th in net punting and 28th in punt average. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s the worst punter in football. I wanted the Bears to draft a punter in the 6th or 7th round this year, but they didn’t. Apparently, they wanted Cornelius Washington and Marquess Wilson instead. They brought in a bunch of veterans this week for tryouts, but none of them were signed. Hopefully that was a wake up call for Podlesh.
The Lions were pretty good on Sunday, though. Cutler’s first interception was an awesome play by Louis Delmas. Ndamukong Suh is working his way toward Defensive Player of the Year honors. Brandon Pettigrew is finally not dropping everything thrown his way. Right now, they are definitely a contender in the NFC North.
It doesn’t get easier today. The Saints are coming off a game where they obliterated the Dolphins, and they are now 4-0 on the year. They have weapons all over the field, and with Sean Payton back, they are a serious threat in the NFC. The Saints have holes, but what team doesn’t? Luckily for Chicago, one of their biggest weaknesses is the inability to take their high-powered offense on the road. Since 2010, the Saints are just 14-10 on the road. That doesn’t seem too bad, but their record at home is far better during that span at home. Their biggest weakness is their offensive line. Jermon Bushrod left for the Bears as did Aaron Kromer, and now the Saints are tied for 11th worst in the league with 12 sacks given up. It’s hard to throw from your back, and the Bears have a chance to pummel Drew Brees today. All in all, the Bears have to tackle better. They have to take care of the football. They have to hit Drew Brees. They have to continue to force turnovers. Can they do all of that against a great team?
College Football Recap
USC finally fired Lane Kiffin! There is a god! Chris Petersen and Charlie Strong should be their first two calls.
Ohio State won again against scrappy Northwestern. Unfortunately, Northwestern was highly overrated coming into the game. They kept it close throughout. This is exactly why I think Pat Fitzgerald needs to stay in Evanston. I’m not so sure if he could recruit the best guys in Texas, Florida, or California. He will probably leave one of these days due to a big raise, but I can’t see him being very successful at a big football school.
For weeks, I’ve been tooting Teddy Bridgewater’s Heisman horn. I think there’s a new leader for the trophy. Jameis Winston has had an unbelievable year. He has accounted for 19 total touchdowns already and has only thrown two interceptions. His team is 6-0 and hasn’t scored under 41 points in a game yet. Bridgewater is great, but Winston has the upper hand due to the publicity of playing at Florida State and because of the competition.
The temperature should be right around 60 degrees today at kick-off after some showers during the night and early morning.
The Bears had quite a few players show up on the injury report this week: Stephen Paea (toe), Brandon Marshall (foot), Anthony Walters (hamstring), Charles Tillman (groin), Sherrick McManis (quad), Julius Peppers (chest), and Martellus Bennett (shoulder). Paea and Tillman are questionable, but they will both play. Walters is the only one who will not suit up. For New Orleans, S Roman Harper, RB Mark Ingram, WR Lance Moore, DT Tyrunn Walker, and DT Brodrick Bunkley are all out for today’s contest. That’s a lot of depth missing in the middle of that already weak run defense.
Did you know?
Jay Cutler has thrown 3 or more interceptions in a game seven different times. In the games following those travesties, his teams have a record of 6-1.
Last week was better. I made a little bit of progress. I like the Seahawks to get by the Colts, Broncos to smash the Cowboys, 49ers to top the Texans, Chiefs to beat the Titans, Ravens to upset the Dolphins, and the Packers to clobber the Lions. (11-10 on the year)
Players to Watch
Cameron Jordan- Cameron Jordan was selected by New Orleans in the first round of the 2011 draft out of California. In his rookie year, he was a big disappointment after notching only one sack. Jordan turned it around last season, sacking the quarterback eight times and forcing three fumbles. This year, he’s tied for 7th in the NFL with 4 sacks already, and the Saints’ defense is giving up less than 14 points per game. Defensive ends haven’t really given the Bears issues yet. For the most part, they held Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Jared Allen, Brett Kiesel, and Ziggy Ansah in check, but Jordan has been dominant thus far, and Jermon Bushrod has to do a good job against him today.
Jimmy Graham- For my money, Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in football. He’s so athletic, so fast, and so explosive. Graham has even improved his blocking. From week 2-4, he has 413 yards, and that is the most by a tight end during a three game span ever. Last week, he dominated Miami, including a highlight reel touchdown catch in between three Dolphins’ defenders. Drew Brees loves throwing the ball to Graham, and why wouldn’t he? He’s going to be a focal point in the New Orleans offense today, and I’m sure Mel Tucker game planned for him all week.
Matt Forte- Matt Forte has been great through four weeks. He’s caught everything thrown his way and is hitting the hole better than he ever has. Forte is the NFL’s fifth leading rusher to this point. Today, he has to do more of the same. I expect the Saints’ defense, led by Rob Ryan, is going to give Jay Cutler fits today. Ryan’s defense is fourth in the NFL in pass defense. However, they are dead last against the run, giving up 5.5 yards per carry. On Cutler’s weekly radio show on ESPN 1000, he said that they are trying to ease Forte’s run touches this year so he can stay fresh throughout the fall and winter, hence the amount of passes he’s received. Today might be the exception; I expect Forte to get a lot of carries.
Similar to week one, this game can go either way. Both teams have a lot of talent and both are going to have good seasons. The biggest key to the game is Jimmy Graham against the Bears’ secondary. While on paper it looks like it will be James Anderson’s duty to stop him, nobody is dumb enough to think Anderson’s going to somehow shadow Graham around the field. Graham runs like a wide receiver and is sometimes lined up as one. It will be a collective effort by the back-7 of Chicago. I think they are up for it. This is a veteran group with good players, except Chris Conte, and they despite being consistently put into awful positions last week in Detroit, they can’t be happy with giving up 40 points. Once again, don’t underestimate home field advantage. The Saints almost lost earlier this year against the pathetic Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. Bears 27-26. (4-0 on the year).
-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)