Turkey Day State of the Bears

Bears at Rams 2013

What a meltdown in St. Louis.

I haven’t posted since before that amazing Ravens game. What a roller coaster of a season. Since losing two games in a row to the Lions and Saints seven weeks ago, the Bears have now won, lost, won, lost, won, lost in that order.

As amazing as the Ravens game was, the Rams game was as disappointing. This weekend, the Bears start a stretch run of “final stands” every week. Pretty tough to expect success when your defense can’t stop the run or rush the passer. In reality, a 4-1 finish just might get the Bears into the playoffs with a 10-6 record. That’s a big maybe. A 3-2 finish leading to a 9-7 final record will likely mean the Bears are home for the holidays again.

Doug Buffone used to have a mantra that he recited almost daily. The keys for a team to have success in the NFL are 1) Rush the Passer, 2) Stop the Run, 3) Run the Football. I believe he changed #3 to throw the football recently. With the Bears incapable of 1 & 2, a lot of luck needs to be on the Bears’ side.

Unbelievably, we all find ourselves in the position of rooting for Green Bay today. Would you believe it? Hard to believe. Happy Thanksgiving.

The Forecast- Bears vs Rams

I’ll be honest with everyone. Up until this point, I think Martellus Bennett has been a gigantic waste of money. In the three weeks prior to the game against the Ravens, Bennett had 9 catches. Nine. Against Baltimore, he only had two, but he may have made the catch that turned the Bears season around. After a 14-yard catch by Alshon Jeffery to move the chains, Josh McCown found Bennett streaking down the seam for a 43-yard pitch-and-catch. The Bears only ran three more plays for the game, one of which was a field goal to propel them to a 23-20 victory in overtime. Last week, I said that that the Bears needed a big game from Julius Peppers. Peppers came through with 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He got help from his DE partner, David Bass, who made an unbelievable play, where he took an interception for a touchdown after he avoided a low block attempt (a very pathetic effort, I may add) from Ray Rice. Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills also had very good games.

The Bears now head to St. Louis to take on the Rams. The Rams were on their bye last weekend, but in the game before that, they destroyed the Colts in Indianapolis. Don’t let that fool you—the Rams have struggled this season. Sam Bradford, who has always been pretty average, tore his ACL a few weeks back in a game in Carolina. Since then, Kellen Clemens has assumed the starting job and has been pretty bad. He’s completing 53 percent of his passes and has only thrown 3 touchdowns in 4 weeks. How did they beat the hell out of the Colts then? Rookie RB Zac Stacy has taken the reigns as the starter and has run with it, literally. He is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He has 4 total touchdowns and can catch the ball with ease. Defensively, they’re in the middle of the pack in terms of pass and run defense. However, St. Louis is giving up 8.4 yards per attempt through the air, which is good for 31st in football. In other words, they’re prone to giving up big plays through the air. On the ground, they yield 4.2 yards per carry, which is something that Matt Forte can exploit.

College Football Recap
Florida’s atrocious season continues. The Gators lost at home to Georgia Southern. The Eagles couldn’t complete a single pass, but it didn’t matter. I’m not so sure Will Muschamp will survive this. A few years ago, Florida was the premier job in college football. Muschamp has been a huge disappointment.

Baylor got smashed in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma State dominated the Bears, and Baylor’s national championship hopes are over. This will help Ohio State, as with a Baylor win, Ohio State would have fallen to #4 in the BCS. Still, Alabama and Florida State are the class of the sport.

Speaking of the Seminoles, Jameis Winston is now the clear-cut favorite for the Heisman. Johnny Manziel had a very poor game at LSU as did Bryce Petty against Oklahoma State. Florida State crushed Idaho, and Winston had 4 passing touchdowns. Boston College RB Andre Williams and Alabama QB A.J. McCarron are probably Winston’s biggest competition for the award.

Quickly, a few conference championship games are now set. Ohio State will square off with Michigan State in Indianapolis, and Arizona State will play Stanford for the Pac-12 Championship.


Injury report
Jay Cutler (ankle) is still sidelined, as are Lance Briggs (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (groin). Stephen Paea (toe) left last week’s game and is week to week, so he won’t play today. The Bears waived Jeremy Cain, so Patrick Mannelly (calf) will return in St. Louis. Isaiah Frey (hand), Jordan Mills (quad), and Shea McClellin (hamstring) are probable. Craig Steltz (head) is questionable. For the most part, St. Louis is healthy. G Harvey Dahl (knee) is out. Cortland Finnegan, who has struggled to the point where he’s now the Rams’ nickelback, is out for the season (eye). They do have S T.J. McDonald (knee) returning today.

Did you know?
The Bears have only committed four pass interference penalties all year long. Half of them came last week.

NFL Predictions
I had a great week last week going 5-1. To try and duplicate more of the same, I like San Francisco to knock off Washington, Baltimore to beat the Jets, Green Bay to sneak by Minnesota, New England to beat Denver, and for an upset, I think the Chargers will get by Kansas City. (25-21 on the year)

Players to Watch
Robert Quinn- When Robert Quinn left North Carolina for the NFL, he was heavily sought after by many professional teams. He fell to the Rams, and he has been a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators ever since. Quinn had a decent rookie season, but in his second year, he turned it on with 10 sacks. Already in 2013, he has 12.5 sacks. Chris Long, who plays the opposite DE spot for the Rams, has been a terror as well, which means Quinn gets a lot of one-on-one looks. The Bears did a fabulous job on Terrell Suggs last week, as he only managed to notch one tackle. They have to do more of the same today on Long but especially on Quinn.

Tavon Austin- Tavon Austin is another guy who was wanted by a lot of teams, but St. Louis snatched him up 9th overall in this past draft. Austin might be the fastest player in football. He has four touchdowns this year, but he has had three called back due to penalties that were out of his control. Two weeks ago, he caught two passes against the Colts and both went for long touchdowns. In the same game, he had a return for touchdown, too. Chicago has to limit Austin’s catches today. If he starts catching a lot of balls, it just increases the chances of a lot of long scores.

Jon Bostic- In my opinion, Jon Bostic is going to be the next great Bears linebacker. He made a tackle on Jacoby Ford last week that only a handful of linebackers in the league could make, where he ran sideline-to-sideline and limited the speedy Ford to a minimal gain of four yards. He also made a Brian Urlacheresque play against the Ravens where he ran stride-for-stride down the middle of the field with Dallas Clark and intercepted a Joe Flacco pass. Bostic is going to be important once again today. A place where Bostic has had some difficulty is in the straight-ahead run game. The Rams will give Zac Stacy a lot of carries today, and Bostic has to be all over him. Kellen Clemens isn’t very good, but any quarterback can dissect a defense if his running back is getting big chunks of yards at a time.

The Forecast
After their annihilation of the Colts, the Rams firmly believe that they can build off of it and get into the playoffs. As I said, Sam Bradford wasn’t playing all that well anyways, so whatever they can get from Kellen Clemens is considered a bonus for Jeff Fisher. Their defense is beginning to play better, as they only surrendered 8 points to Indianapolis and 14 to Seattle. Getting T.J. McDonald back will only help their cause. However, I believe the Bears will edge out a victory. There will be more Bears fans’ in attendance than Rams’ fans. Josh McCown is playing unbelievable football (and everyone should realize that this will end eventually), and the defense has given up only 61 points in the last three weeks; that is leaps and bounds better than the horseshit efforts that they were putting out there in the first eight weeks. Oh, and one more thing: when I’m in attendance for a road game, the Bears are 4-2. Bears 27-20. (6-4 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

St. Louis Bound

Bears at RamsMan, that Ravens game. With the circumstances and heady play of Josh McCown and the defense (when needed), that will go down as one of the most unique Bears games in my lifetime. I’ll have to write a whole story about that.

Today it’s time to head to St. Louis for what will undoubtedly be a great time, win or lose. As always, I’m sure the stadium will be packed with a large percentage of Chicago Bears fans. And I hope the score will be similar to the 2008 result (pictured).

Make sure to watch the Chicago Bears Facebook page for updates throughout the weekend.

Soldier Field Evacuation

Nine-minute video from under the stands during the Bears-Ravens game evacuation of the stands. Crazy, crazy day. I will never identify those doing the talking on this video. Enjoy.

The Forecast- Ravens vs Bears

It’s so strange how football works. One week the Bears look like they’re potentially the class of the division with a win in Green Bay, and the next they can’t even score 20 points at home. The Lions wanted to hand the Bears the win, but the Bears wouldn’t take it. Marc Trestman continued to let Jay Cutler play, despite being noticeably hobbled by an ankle (and groin) injury. Trestman also refused to take an easy three points in the first quarter when Michael Bush (in typical horseshit Michael Bush fashion) couldn’t gain a yard on the play. Trestman also didn’t have Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery (who dropped two touchdowns during the game) in at the end on a potential game tying two-point conversion. Cutler’s red zone interception before the second quarter ended didn’t help the Bears’ cause and neither did the offensive line giving up pressure after pressure on Cutler and Josh McCown. The offensive line also generated nothing in the run game; Matt Forte only mustered 1.7 yards per carry. It was an all around brutal game to watch, whether you were a Chicago or Detroit fan. The effort will have to be much better today and throughout the remainder of the season, especially since the Panthers, 49ers and Packers are all strong contenders for the two wild card spots.

The defending Super Bowl Champions are next on the schedule. On that note, the ears should perk up of every player who dons the navy and orange. The Ravens have really had a rough ‘go’ of it this season. Understandably, they had to keep Joe Flacco and so the rest of the roster suffered. They were forced to trade Anquan Boldin for next to nothing. Defensively, they lost Ray Lewis to retirement, Dannell Ellerbe to Miami, and Paul Kruger to shitty ol’ Cleveland. TE Dennis Pitta was lost for the season before it almost began, who has always been Flacco’s favorite target. Flacco isn’t getting any help from his running game, either. Once again, Baltimore’s defense is the only reason that they’re somewhat competitive this year. They are giving up only 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks fifth in the NFL. They also have 32 sacks which ranks third. After a big win for the Ravens last weekend, the Bears have to be ready for a fight, because with a Baltimore win today, they are right in the thick of the AFC playoff picture.

College Football Recap
There wasn’t too much news today in major college football. Alabama squeaked out a victory at Mississippi State, Florida State put their distractions aside and creamed Syracuse, and Ohio State obliterated a pathetic Illinois team.

College Gameday went to Los Angeles for USC and Stanford, and it didn’t disappoint. Despite being thoroughly outplayed in the second half yardage wise, USC found a way and beat the Cardinal. Ed Orgeron continues to win himself into potentially getting the “interim” title removed.

The game of the day was in Auburn, Alabama. Georgia was losing by 17 to the now 9-1 Tigers in the second half, but the Bulldogs ended up taking the lead with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on a gutsy Aaron Murray touchdown scramble. Unfortunately, Georgia’s defense went for an interception on a desperation throw rather than a sure tackle or pass deflection. Auburn caught the prayer and took it 73 yards for the win. As a college football fan, I was thrilled. This sets up Alabama at Auburn in two weeks in what could force a dramatic shake-up in the BCS if Auburn can find a way to knock off the Crimson Tide.

The good news? Temperatures will somehow be in the mid-60’s. The bad news? It’s most likely going to be a monsoon, as rain will pass through around 1:00 and 25-35 mph winds are in the forecast throughout the afternoon.

Injury report
Just as fast as Jay Cutler came back from a groin tear, he’s back on the shelf for a few weeks again (ankle). On Wednesday, it was also announced that Charles Tillman (triceps) would miss the rest of the regular season. Shea McClellin (hamstring), Patrick Mannelly (calf), and newly acquired Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) remain out. Martellus Bennett is questionable (ankle), but if I’m a betting man, I think he plays today. The Ravens, meanwhile, seem to be pretty healthy. A few weeks ago, it was announced that G Kelechi Osemele (back) would be out for the remainder of the year. LB Daryl Smith (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), WR Marlon Brown (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (groin), S James Ihedigbo (toe), and CB Lardarius Webb (groin) are all questionable for today’s game. However, I would guess that most, if not all of them, will play.

Did you know?
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have combined for 1,521 yards this season. No other wide receiving duo has more.

NFL Predictions
I’m finally over .500. This weekend, I think the Saints, Broncos, Giants, Raiders, and Patriots all get wins. (21-20 on the year)

Players to Watch
Torrey Smith- Truly, Torrey Smith is the Ravens’ only weapon on the outside. As I mentioned earlier, Dennis Pitta is out for the season and Anquan Boldin now plays for the 49ers. Marlon Brown, Joe Flacco’s only other true wideout, is an undrafted free agent. Smith isn’t a great wide receiver by any means. He didn’t record more than 860 yards or 8 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, but he is on pace for 1,000+ yards this year. Smith might be one of the fastest players in the game. With news breaking this week about Charles Tillman’s season ending injury and the fact that Chicago has been very poor against the pass, Smith has a great chance of going above 80 yards today, something he hasn’t done since October 6.

Ray Rice- Ray Rice has been pretty bad this year. His offensive line isn’t very good to begin with, but Rice has so much talent that can typically hide the flaws of his line. This year, it hasn’t happened that way. He’s averaging an abysmal 2.5 yards per carry and has only found the endzone three times on the ground. It’s gotten so bad that coach John Harbaugh is going to start splitting carries between Rice and his back-up, Bernard Pierce. Unfortunately for Harbaugh, Pierce has been equally as bad this season. Fortunately for Harbaugh, Henry Melton tore up his knee, so the Bears’ run defense is giving up 4.5 yards per carry (fifth worst) and 129 yards per game (fourth worst).

Terrell Suggs- With the Ravens struggles so far, there has been a lot of talk about Terrell Suggs being over the hill, past his prime, and missing the aforesaid Paul Kruger, Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe. Clearly, those same people haven’t watched one Baltimore game so far this season, because Suggs is his typical, game-chaning self. Suggs has 9 sacks this year, which means he’s on pace for his best season ever in the sack column as a professional. The wet field will help the Bears contain Suggs, but Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills have their work cut out for then.

Julius Peppers- It seems like every week I have Julius Peppers on here, but it just shows how important he is to this defense. He’s only made a true impact in two games so far in 2013, and the Bears won both. Last week against a young offensive line, he once again did nothing. The Ravens are tied for fourth worst in the league in sacks given up (30) and eighth worst in quarterback hits given up (53). Peppers has an opportunity to have a solid game today, but I’m not going to get my hopes up, thanks to his unfathomable poor season and the weather.

The Forecast
Take my word for it—I had a great year last two years picking these games; I was 11-5 and 13-3, respectively. Sadly, the Bears injury situation as well as their miserable play that pops up every now and again has really hurt my chances of a third straight decent year. It’s not going to get easier for me again today, because this is another toss-up. The Bears are probably the better team this year, but the Ravens are coming off of a big win in overtime against the AFC North leading Bengals. However, that game was their whole season; they needed a victory or their already-slim chances of a repeat were over. The Bears, meanwhile, finally had a stellar defensive outing but still managed to lose a home game against a divisional foe. Another reason for such uncertainty is the weather. It’s going to be nearly impossible to make a field goal past 35 yards and to reach a rhythm in the passing game. The Bears need a win. With one today, they would advance to 6-4 with games against St. Louis and Minnesota on the horizon, two games where the talent level will heavily favor Chicago. The veterans on this team have to realize that moving to 5-5 is going to put them in a hole that will be too deep to dig themselves out of. Bears 17-14. (5-4 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Rooting for Bears to Lose?

No, I don’t seriously mean that, but read on.

What a crazy season it’s been. The Bears rally in the final minutes to win their first two games, then survive a comeback at Pittsburgh to start 3-0. They lose handily to New Orleans, survive another comeback to beat the Giants. They score 41 points and lose to a reeling Redskins team. They beat Green Bay for the first time in six attempts, but come up short in two rallies to be swept by Detroit for the first time in six years.

The Bears stand 5-4 with seven games remaining. Unless the Lions start falling on their own (Detroit owns the first tiebreaker over the Bears), they will win the division for the first time in, well, ever. In order for the Bears to have any shot at the wildcard against Green Bay, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carolina, you have to think they have to finish with a 5-2 record at worst.

So why do I say “rooting for the Bears to lose” this week, which I’m really not? The best two games for the Bears to lose the rest of the season are against Baltimore and Cleveland, their remaining AFC opponents. Obviously, finishing 7-0 is preferred. But unlikely even for the most optimistic fans to believe.

It has been interesting. But not as interesting as the 2013 off-season will be, with over 30 players not under contract.

The Forecast- Lions vs Bears

Sometimes, I love being wrong. This is one of those cases. The Bears went up to Lambeau Field and beat the Packers in a game between two back-up quarterbacks. Luckily, Josh McCown actually deserves to pick up a check every week while Seneca Wallace does not. McCown managed the game perfectly, and my lone Bears player to watch, Matt Forte, dominated on the ground yet again against a stellar Packers’ run defense. I won’t go as far as saying that if Shea McClellin does nothing else in his career as a Chicago Bear, at least he gave the Bears a shot at winning the NFC North this season, but it could be huge going forward. It may even give McClellin some confidence in the coming weeks. With news that Aaron Rodgers is out for at least three weeks with a broken collarbone, this divisional race may come down to the Bears and Lions.

Before I get to the Lions, I want to get something off of my chest. THE BEARS DID NOT GET “LUCKY” ON MONDAY NIGHT.
–The Bears hurt Aaron Rodgers. It wasn’t like he sprained his ankle a week ago, or he was running on Monday and somehow came up limping. McClellin broke his stupid collarbone. Period.
–The Bears were without their quarterback (Cutler), an All-Pro outside linebacker (Briggs), and one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the NFL (Melton). Charles Tillman also was not 100 percent. Had the Packers one, I bet there wouldn’t be any “lucky” discussions.
–Does Rodgers play defense?

Let’s move on now. Speaking of the Lions, those hooligans are in town today. The Lions are coming off of a big come from behind win against the Cowboys and then a bye week, and their offense is very dangerous. Detroit’s offensive line is giving the ever-pudgy Matthew Stafford just enough time to find Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Kris Durham, and as usual, the Lions defensive line continues to pressure the quarterback. Ndamukong Suh’s stats don’t show it, but he has been flat out dominant this year, and Nick Fairley is that much better with teams giving Suh the majority of their focus. Given that their tackles have been so good, no one can say the same about their ends. Teams have been running to the edges and averaging more than 5 yards per carry. Today is going to be a battle on the Lakefront, and after Chicago’s big win in Green Bay, this has the potential to be the game of the week across the whole NFL.

College Football Recap
Going back to Thursday, there were three great college football games. Baylor hosted Oklahoma, Oregon traveled down to Stanford, and LSU made the short flight to Tuscaloosa. In a way, all of the games were disappointing. Baylor crushed the Sooners, and the Cardinal dominated Oregon for three quarters. In the grand finale, Alabama obliterated LSU and seems like the clear favorite to win the national championship.

Johnny Manziel had another unreal performance. He continues to impress everyone, and with Oregon’s loss and FSU’s blowout, it seems like he may be inching toward a second straight Heisman trophy.

It should be a perfect November day for football. Temperatures will stay in the 40’s and the skies will be totally clear. Wind may be a small factor.

Injury report
Chris Mortensen reported on Monday that Jay Cutler (groin) would likely start today, and he was right. Cutler is back. The aforementioned Shea McClellin, however, tweaked his hamstring in practice on Wednesday and is doubtful. Joe Anderson (chest/groin) was put on injured reserve during the week, so he is done for the remainder of the year. Patrick Mannelly will miss today’s game (calf), and that is very rare for him. On the other side of the field, WR Nate Burleson remains out (arm) for the Lions. DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), Starting RT Corey Hilliard (knee) and CB Bill Bentley (knee) are all doubtful. RB Reggie Bush (knee), WR Calvin Johnson (knee), and S Louis Delmas (knee) are probable.

Did you know?
The Bears’ offensive line has only committed one false start this year. The Giants, Colts, and Dolphins are tied for second with four.

NFL Predictions
We’re in the home stretch. I’d like to finish above .500 for the year. To turn it around, give me the Broncos in a blowout against the Charges, 49ers to crush the Panthers, Saints to knock off the Cowboys, and for two upsets, the Ravens over the Bengals and the Falcons to top the Seahawks. (18-18 on the year)

Players to Watch
Calvin Johnson- Once again, Calvin Johnson is having a monster season. He has 821 yards on just 47 receptions, which comes out to 17.5 yards per catch. He has 7 touchdowns, too. In the last meeting with Detroit, the Bears held him to only 44 yards on 4 receptions. It would be absolutely huge to hold Johnson to that again, because anytime you can take a team’s best player out the game it greatly benefits your chances of winning, obviously. It won’t be easy and I’m not counting on it (thanks a lot, Chris Conte).

Reggie Bush- Everyone now knows that the Bears’ run defense is awful, so I expect Reggie Bush to get a lot of touches today, on the ground and through the air. It won’t be as easy for Bush this time on the Soldier Field sod, as it always seems to negate some speed and cutting ability for the shiftier players in football. Bush has only gone for more than 92 yards once this year, and that was against the Bears. Bush and Johnson are the Lions two most explosive players, and so with just some containment, Detroit’s offense could struggle.

Julius Peppers- Maybe it’s a night game thing. In Pittsburgh, Julius Peppers had a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and in Green Bay, he had an interception and a sack. If it is, he will probably struggle today, since it is a noon start. However, his only other sack this year came against Detroit. In fact, he has 12 sacks and 6 forced fumbles in 11 career games against the Lions. As I said, Shea McClellin won’t play today, but even if he had, I wasn’t going to predict that he would have another great game. The Bears need Peppers today to slow down Detroit’s well-oiled offensive machine. A sack or two and a solid game in run defense, where the Bears really struggled the last time these two teams met, will do the trick. Keep in mind that Detroit’s offensive line has only given up 10 sacks this year, and that is the best in football.

The Forecast
This is yet another game that can go either way. The Lions got the best of the Bears back in September, but the Bears got crushed in the turnover battle and they only lost by 8. Detroit is a solid team this year. Proof of that is the fact that they haven’t Detroit Lion’d a game…yet. Ndamukong Suh hasn’t tried to commit homicide so far and Jim Schwartz hasn’t pissed down his leg up to now. For Chicago, it sure would be nice to win this one with three straight winnable contests ahead. The good feelings from the win in Green Bay with the addition of the excitement of Cutler’s return and a little homefield advantage mixed in is the difference today. Bears 33-30. (5-3 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Friday 5: Lions at Bears 2013

I admit it. I proclaimed it. I had totally, completely lost faith in the Bears beating the Green Bay Packers on November 4th. I kept faith in 2008, 2009, in the 2010 NFC Championship, in portions of the 2011 and 2012 season. Not so much the late games in those years. But this year I had to completely write off their chances. And the Bears finally beat the Packers for only the second time in five years. And I loved it. The MVP’s for the Bears were abundant: Marc Trestman for the game he called including the gutsy fourth-down attempt, the offensive line, Josh McCown‘s brilliant play, Matt Forte‘s execution, Shea McClellin, Julius Peppers. Who have I missed?

Speaking of McClellin, he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his three-sack performance. Way to come out of the shell for which he’s been criticized all at once. I don’t have the time to watch the “all-22″ coaches’ film, but I have heard that once again Julius Peppers laid it on the line in the background to sacrifice for the other linemen.

Certainly, Aaron Rodgers‘ first significant injury in his brilliant career as a starter was the difference in the game. I hate to see a player get injured, and Rodgers is a phenomenal player and seemingly a good guy. But the Bears have deserved a break to come their way in the Bears-Packers series for a long, long time. Let me explain. Of course the Packer organization deserves the credit for drafting and developing great players over the last 20 years. But there is no way anyone could claim they haven’t had some damn good fortune as well. In 1992 the Atlanta Falcons gave away Brett Favre. Yes, they got a first-round pick back, but don’t you think they’d re-do that trade in a heartbeat if they could? So Favre is a Hall of Fame quarterback and plays without missing a game for Green Bay for 16 seasons. In 2005, Aaron Rodgers drops in the draft all the way to the 24th pick. So the Packers are lucky as hell that 23 other teams passed on another Hall of Fame quarterback (including the Bears, who took Cedric Benson 20 picks before). Now Rodgers as well has been more durable than 99% of quarterbacks, which is part skill and conditioning but a large part good fortune as well. The Packers have had extremely good luck, and it’s about time the Bears received a little.

Jay Cutler is playing Sunday, just one game after a four-game injury diagnosis. Anyone else think he and the Bears might be better off starting Josh McCown for one more game?

Prediction anyone?

The Forecast- Bears vs Packers

I desperately wanted to pick the Redskins in my last forecast. Honestly, I went back and forth with myself all week, but I went with the Bears. Clearly, I underestimated how bad the Bears’ defense really is. They were solid in the first half, but in the end, Josh McCown got them 31 points and they still lost. Had you told me when Jay Cutler went down with an injury that McCown would put up that many points, I would have said that the Bears would be 5-2 right now. Injuries have really hurt this team, literally and figuratively, but Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin are just unbelievably horrible right now. This leaves the secondary, which isn’t any good to begin with either, in a position where they have to cover opposing players for 5-8 seconds. The worst part of watching the game against Washington was knowing that had Cutler taken that sack and hopped back up normally like he usually does, they probably still would have lost, thanks to the defense.

Green Bay comes into this game as the class of the NFC North (yes, the class of the NFC North. Don’t start with Detroit, because those screwballs will find a way to mess it up like usual). Like in years past, the Packers are playing with a lot of injuries yet continue to put up points and knock around the opposing quarterback. An argument can be made that Aaron Rodgers is the second best quarterback in football right now. They now have a running game as well, making their offense that much better. They plug in weapons all over the field and they all make an impact. I watch these guys each and every week and get filled with rage/envy with how quickly and effectively they grow players. They may be the best organization in the sport. Tonight, the Bears face a huge challenge that, on paper, almost looks improbable.

College Football Recap
Florida State continues to roll. Even when the Heisman front runner only throws one touchdown, they still manage to beat the #7 overall team in the country by 27 points.

I think the Big-10 is boring and stupid, but Michigan State might be the best team in the country that nobody knows about. Their #1 overall defense in the country showed up once again yesterday. In case nobody heard, Michigan had -48 (yes, negative forty-eight) rushing yards against that defense. The Spartans even cut Devin Gardner’s day short, as they knocked him out of the game due to injury in the fourth quarter. It would be interesting to see Michigan State play Ohio State in the Big-10 Championship if both teams continue to win.

Two losses won’t help, but Johnny Manziel should get a lot of Heisman votes. He might be having a better season this year than the Heisman-winning season he had last year. Manziel and the rest of his team destroyed UTEP yesterday, and Manziel accounted for 340+ yards and 6 touchdowns. If Manziel keeps that up, he’s going to be invited to New York once again.

Typically, wind isn’t a factor in Green Bay, but it will be tonight with projected 10-15 mph gusts during the game. The temperatures should dip into the mid-40’s as well and there is a slight chance of showers.

Injury report
The best news of the past 23 days for the Bears is that Jay Cutler’s injury is now looking like it is going to be a 2-3 week injury and so he will be back for the Lions or Ravens contest. However, the news didn’t get any better with Lance Briggs (shoulder), who is out for at least four weeks with a fracture. Charles Tillman (knee) is still not 100 percent but will give it a go tonight, as will Blake Costanzo (knee) and Major Wright (knee). Joe Anderson is questionable (chest). For the Packers, LB Clay Matthews (thumb) and WR Randall Cobb (knee) are both out as they are each still rehabbing their injuries. TE Jermichael Finley took a nasty hit on October 20 against Cleveland and remains severely injured (neck). I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t play again this season. WR James Jones (knee) is questionable but should play while OLB Nick Perry (foot) is doubtful. LB Brad Jones (hamstring), CB Sam Shields (toes), and TE Ryan Taylor (knee) will play.

Did you know?
The Bears have given up 206 points through seven games. That is a new franchise record.

NFL Predictions
N/A. (18-18 on the year)

Players to Watch
Eddie Lacy- No running back in football had a better October than Eddie Lacy. Lacy is an outstanding rookie out of Alabama, who I’m sure many will remember as the guy who run over and around Manti Te’o and his overrated Notre Dame defense repeatedly in January. Lacy somehow fell in the draft, and of course he has turned into a nice weapon for Green Bay. Lacy is a power back, but he has shiftiness and underrated speed to boot. Anytime you can take the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers with a running game, he becomes that much more dangerous, and judging from the last four weeks, Rodgers is just that. Look for Lacy to get the ball at least 25 times tonight. If the Bears horseshit defense can find a way to limit his production, they have a chance tonight.

A.J. Hawk- A.J. Hawk has always been an overrated linebacker. Whenever a player consistently get handed a starting job in the league, the general public gets the idea that the certain player is having a nice career. To this point, Hawk has not been a good player for the Packers since he was drafted, but this year, he’s been exceptional. He needs just a half of a sack to match his season high. He is making plays all over the field. For the first time in Hawk’s career, the Bears have to game plan for him and ensure that he doesn’t take the game over like he has done a few times this year already.

Matt Forte- Matt Forte is proving once again that he is one of the best players in the NFL. Last week, Forte went over 100 total yards in a game for the fifth time this season already. He topped his stellar individual game off with three touchdowns as well. The Packers are fourth in football in rushing defense, giving up only about 84 yards on the ground each week. Forte has to find a way to get close to that number and have a few impactful catches, because I don’t trust Josh McCown to play another game like he did in Washington, despite the Pack being 20th in pass defense.

The Forecast
The Packers have a guy named Micah Hyde who ran back a punt last week in Minnesota. Jamari Lattimore is a third year linebacker who is playing extremely well. Davon House is a cornerback who is having an unheralded season. Green Bay just finds these guys who all perform even in the most desperate of times. When another team does this, it seems like a miracle but for Green Bay, it’s just more of the same. Of the 53 players on the roster, only 3 have played with another team in their career. That is how you draft and pick up undrafted free agents, something Phil Emery and every general manager strives for. Unfortunately for Chicago, the Packers are the league’s best when it comes to it. At one time, Green Bay’s three biggest weaknesses was the kicking game, running game, and the offensive line, but all of them are now strengths. It’s hard to see the Bears actually winning this game, despite Aaron Rodgers’ shockingly bad career record on Monday Night Football. In primetime in Wisconsin with Josh McCown and a bad defense with two rookie linebackers, I’m taking the Pack. I wouldn’t be surprised though if this game is closer. Packers 37-23. (5-2 on the year)

-Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1)

Curse of the Honey Bears

The Honey BearsI don’t truly believe in curses, even as a Cubs and Bears fan. And I don’t remember anyone associated with the Honey Bears saying anything about the team not going back to the Super Bowl after their contract wasn’t renewed for 1986.

I enjoyed watching the Honey Bears immensely when I was a little kid going to Bears games with my Dad. I thought they were a cool part of the package of being a Bears fan. But for whatever reason, “ownership” of the Bears will only say that they don’t think cheerleaders are a proper part of football. Right after the announcement in 1985, the team officially answered the question of “why” with a question. “Have cheerleaders become passe?” 30 years later, I’d say they haven’t.

What do you think?