NFL Live Blog, Week 4

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10:30 AM:  Good morning everyone and welcome to our live, running commentary about the day’s NFL action.  Bears/Lions will dominate the early coverage (certainly with some Pats/Ravens and others sprinkled in). Saints/Jets is the big afternoon tilt, but all of the later games have at least some sort of intrigue to them. 

For now, we’ve had a big week of NFL content here at the Bank, since this is a rivalry week, so you should check it all out!

H. Jose Bosch writes about how sports — and specifically the Lions — made the world good again.

Paul Schmidt rolls a 9-3 record against the spread into this week’s picks…he’s not that bright though, so can he REALLY keep it going??

The action in The Sports Bank’s fantasy football brawl is really heating up.

Jake McCormick and Andy “Easy” Weise slap each other around in their Packers/Vikings exchange leading up to the Biggest. Monday. Night. Game. EVER.

Bosch and site founder Paul M. Banks take on the Bears and Lions and their early Sunday tilt.

If that’s not enough to keep you busy for the next 90 minutes…listen to funny man Patton Oswalt talk about the robots at his grocery store.  Seriously.

11:15 AM: Here’s a late add for you!  Tom Lea’s weekly picks.  No Phil Collins from Lea this week, which is really a good thing for all of us.  The gift that keeps on giving, if you will.

Bears-Lions Exchange

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Paul M. Banks and H. Jose Bosch preview Bears-Lions on Sunday

(PMB) Wow!!! Your Lions won! What is the world coming to? Of course, Detroit also once produced a very good and well-accomplished Caucasian hip-hop artist, so I know the Motor City can be “where amazing happens.”

After all four teams in the NFC North won for the first time since Week 10 of the 2005 season (I think we can guess which team has held the league back those four years!!), the Bears remain tied for second place in the division with the Green Bay Packers (2-1), one game behind the Minnesota Vikings (3-0) and one game ahead of the suddenly sizzling Lions. With that torrid winning streak the Lions are on, should the rest of the division be wary of the footsteps behind them? Is this a new Golden Age for the NFC North?staffordgrinding

(HJB) Of course the rest of the division should be scared! OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but the time will come where the Lions aren’t an easy two wins on the schedule. Is that time now? I wouldn’t go that far yet. This week’s game will go a long way in answering that question. But if the Lions give the Bears a good game or (dare I say) win, the NFC North should watch out. Especially the Bears, who travel to Detroit to end the season.

(PMB) I noticed the Lions are 30th in pass defense, so the area expected to be Detroit’s biggest weakness (and that really says something..it’s like being the shortest midget, or the fattest sumo wrestler) is their secondary. I’ve accepted the fact that the Bears WRs are not as bad as I once thought, but do you think they’re mediocre enough to give the DBs some burn marks, complementing their Honolulu Blue and silver?
(HJB) On most weeks all you need are two legs, two hands and a heartbeat and you’ll beat the Detroit secondary. But I wouldn’t put it past any receiver missing a limb to have a career day against the Lions secondary. I’ve only watched one game this season (and they won!) and Washington clearly didn’t fear the DBs. Just 13 runs the entire game for the Skins.Detroit couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback or cover the receivers. Santana Moss had a big day. The only confidence I have is that the Bears tend to play down to their opponents rather than crushing them. But Cutler may change that. Is he a fantasy free agent?

(PMB) Possibly, you’ll have to go on the open market and check. Good joke about the Detroit secondary. On the flip side, tell me about the youngster Cliff Avril, is he the real deal? And what about this year’s crop of rookies, do you think they’re ready to defend Chicago’s VAUNTED 28th ranked rushing attack?

I don’t think it’s all Forte’s fault. Yes, he’s looked bad, but how do you “run to daylight” when your offensive line never lets you see any? The OL has been pretty bad, as it’s been incessant nighttime for Forte through the first three games.

(HJB) You mean 2008 Sporting News All-rookie team member Cliff Avril? He clearly had a good first season, but he injured his hamstring the first week of the season and has been out since. If he plays this week, he probably won’t be much of a factor. You might be thinking of safety Louis Delmas, who hasn’t done anything to improve the secondary from what I’ve seen. Or defensive tackle Sammie Hill, who has just one solo tackle in two games. Whoever you mean, the defense might not have to worry about the running attack because of the awful secondary.

But the Bears can’t completely ignore the running game. They need to, at the very least, convert on short yardage situations, something Washington struggled with.  That’s killed them, especially when the field got shorter. So the Bears may not have to worry about the run, but they need it juuuuuuuust enough for the win.

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(PMB) I figured I’d close on a high note, and bring up a stat which should become even more superlative after Sunday. For the season, Cutler has now thrown for 760 yards on 65 of 101 passing with six touchdowns and five interceptions for an 86.2 passer rating. Cutler’s 253.3 passing yards per game average is currently highest in Bears franchise history. Cutler is on pace to throw for a franchise record 4,053 yards this season. I show you this chart for two reasons

1.) it highlights how sorry Bears QBs have been over the years

2.) Look at who #2 is on this list, your good old friend was indeed the most accomplished Captain of “Air Chicago”

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(HJB) That’s a pretty sad state of affairs when your quarterbacks are just as pathetic as the Lions. And in great Chicago tradition you’ve signed a guy that carries himself like anything other than an NFL quarterback. If I want a beer pong partner at a frat house, I want Jay Cutler. Hell, I’d want any Bears quarterback from the last 10 years. If I want a clutch quarterback, someone who can actually win me games late in the season and not just rack up stats, well Cutler wouldn’t be my guy. I hope you guys enjoy having a quarterback sans neck beard but when the games matter most, you’re going to wish you had a winner like Matthew Stafford … who will be a winner next year … probably. As for this week, Cutler will probably look like Joe Montana.

MOST PASSING YARDS PER GAME             Bears History

Player  Season  G    Att   Cmp   Yds    Yds/G

1 . Jay Cutler 2009 3 101    65   760      253.3

2. Erik Kramer 1995 16  522  315   3,838   239.9

3 . Billy Wade 1962   14  412   225       3,172    226.6

4 . Sid Luckman 1947  12   323  176    2,712    226.0

5 . Johnny Lujack 1949 12 312 162    2,658    221.5

Lions are in mid-season form: The exchange

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By David Boucher and H. Jose Bosch
There are three constants in live: death, taxes and the Lions sucking.

This week’s Lions exchange began in the preseason and finished just after Detroit’s 45-27 undressing to New Orleans. Notice some of the preseason optimism and how it nearly disappears after the game.

DB-Everyone that follows professional football knows about the position battle between incumbent Daunte Culpepper and the rich rookie Matt Stafford. Obviously the winner will have his work cut out for him, but is quarterback the team’s biggest problem? I think the defense, more specifically the secondary, poses a significantly more difficult situation for the Honolulu Blue. So, the re question for the Lions should be: What player, not including Culpepper or Stafford, will have the largest impact on the team? Or who needs to have that impact?

HJB-Larry Foote is the player Lions fans should keep an eye on this season. Especially after the loss of Jarrod Devries. The linebackers have become the defense’s strongest unit and will have to step up in a big way to give the Lions a chance to win and Foote needs to lead the charge. Not that Ernie Sims isn’t a good linebacker, but I think the presence of Foote will elevate Sims’ play and give the defense a leader that has a proven track record of winning. Who do you see making the biggest impact on the team?

DB-The person who needs to have the impact for the Lions is Anthony Henry. He was brought in to shore up the terrible secondary, exchanged for the former face of the franchise (Jon Kitna). If the Lions want to have any chance of winning, they need Henry to act the fool in passing lanes, blowing up QB’s in the back field and limiting the number of big plays the defense surrenders. anthony_henryHe’ll be put to the test right away against the Saints, with Colston, Moore, Henderson and Shockey each able to catch numerous touchdown passes. In order for the Lions to win their first game in (gosh, I can’t even remember…) they need to cause some turnovers in order to keep the ball out of the hands of the phenomenal Drew Brees. Bosch, do the Lions have any hope of starting the season 1-0?

HJB-It’s almost more fun to post these after the fact because your last question looks comical following the first game. Was there even a secondary on the field on Sunday? There can’t be a secondary worse than Detroit and fantasy leagues across the country will consist of guys scrambling to sign any quarterback facing the Lions. My last question is this. If the over/under on Lions wins is 2.5, would you take the over?
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DB-Just as I thought it would, the secondary was tested to the highest degree on Sunday, and understandably failed miserably. However, you can’t blame them when Drew Brees is not only able to pitch a tent in the pocket, but light a fire and toast marshmallows. The Lions need the likes of Cliff Avril and Julian Peterson to put some heat on the QB and take pressure off of their secondary.

As far as your second question goes, I’m a perpetual optimist: give me the over baby! I really think the Lions are going to score some points this season, and there are three games on their schedule I can definitely see them winning: at home vs. St. Louis and Cleveland and in Cincinnati to play the Bengals. None of these teams are all that special, and the Lions luck can’t be that bad, can they!? I see a few more plays falling their way, allowing them to take all three of these matches. And who knows, they may be able to steal one in Seattle and one in Arizona depending on how healthy Hasselbeck and Warner can stay down the stretch. Now, if you would’ve said four games…..

HJB-Fair enough but there is no way the Lions beat the Seahawks and Cardinals, even if Warner and Hasselbeck have broken throwing arms. The three teams you point out (St. Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati) are legit picks to lose to Detroit. St. Louis and Cleveland are no good and the Bengals are so dysfunctional they aren’t even aware of the game.
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But this is the Lions! When have they done something they were supposed to do, other than lose? All the years of being a Lions fan have conditioned me to believe that it can always get worse.

Possible NFC North Reality Shows

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By the TSB Staff

Since the NFC North in 2009 seems to be the ultimate reality series in professional sports right now. I asked my staff to  analogize the players and coaches in the division with some of the tv show “characters” currently dotting the reality show landscape.

JAKE MCCORMICK

This is an easy one. Despite my vocal criticisms of VH1 and their mind-numbing switch from “Behind the Music” type programming to mindless trapclap like “Brooke Knows Best” marathons, I must admit I watch a lot of their reality dating shows. I love the creatures that come out of their holes in the ground to proclaim their love for aging rock/rap stars. But the best analogy I can give involves the Vikings, Brett Favre, and Daisy of Love.

Daisy is (obviously) looking for love, but was shunned from her “true love” Bret Michaels in “Rock of Love 2,” and finished second to a mature girl with less baggage and much more potential. She didn’t get along with everyone on the show, and was very shady when talking about her living situations (she lived with her “ex” boyfriend). She was the Brett Favre to Bret Michaels (or Ted Thompson’s) Aaron Rodgers (Winner Ambre Lake).

Fast forward to the fourth episode of “Daisy of Love.” She has really taken a liking to a guy named London, who is a flashy rock star-type, but is also a big flake and whines for no apparent reason other than he isn’t getting his way. As a result, he leaves before elimination, leaving Daisy bawling in her room and unable to give out her Rock Star chains. This obviously upsets the house, since none of the other guys liked London because he was a cocky but waffling douche to her. As the show goes on, we get hints that Daisy is still hurt by London’s premature departure, and her chemistry isn’t as strong with the other guys. So, with four guys remaining in the competition, Daisy’s sidekick Riki reaches out to London and persuades him to come back and resolve the issues between him and Daisy.

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Obviously the rest of the guys hate his guts, and he knows it all too well. But he gradually makes it to the finale episode, and when faced with a decision between Flex, a guy that is much better for her and different than her usual drama-loving boyfriends, and London, who is like every other immature guy she has dated, Daisy says the following: “I need Flex, but I want London.” Thus, she chooses the guy everyone loved to hate, and they all learn to live with it even though everyone involved with the show (including Riki) thinks she made a mistake. I’ll leave you to fill in who is who between the Vikings organization, Favre, and the players. This analogy makes too much sense to me.
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SOXMAN

Cheaters staring Brett Favre.

When Green Packer Packer fans suspect their long-time boyfriend is cheating on them with another team, our cameras are there when the confrontation takes place.  Will Brett score with another team?  Don’t miss another great season on the NFC.

Flavor of Lovie.

Lovie Smith is in search of a wide receiver for his bachelor quarterback.  Will Lovie’s idea of ball romance agree with Jay’s desire to command an offense?  The balls will fly and players will run all season long in the most offensive show to come out of Chicago in years.

Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood.

Starring Aaron Rogers who teaches people it’s ok to be second despite the speedy deliveries of passes to Greg Jennings.  In the end, you will go to the land of make believe to see what life would have been like if Brett Favre was never born.

The Girls Next Door.

Starring the Detroit Lions offensive line.  Only Mathew Stafford will not be pillow fighting cuties.  He’ll be participating in the “Amazing Race,” trying to escape linemen out for his head.cedricbensonjersye

PAUL M. BANKS

“Elimidate” starring Brian Urlacher

He’s a man known to reap the “strange” out there in the Chicago nightlife; on a level even more intense than Kyle Farnsworth or Mark Grace. Everyone has an Urlacher story. Some even have a paternity suit.

“The Shark Tank” starring Matthew Stafford

ABC’s Sunday night series is probably the only reality series I actually like these days, but this show isn’t about aspiring entrepreneurs pitching panels of venture capitalists, it’s Stafford being put into open water surrounded by blood and chum (his 0-16 Lions teammates) as the sharks, opposing defenses circle around.

“Blind Date” starring Brett Favre

I always loved the little drawings, graphics and thought bubbles that comprise each episode of this series. My dream job is to be the person who gets to write the funny observations and insults of those who participate on this game show. Actually my dream job is any job where I get to rip on people. But what if John Madden who has the biggest man-crush in the history on man-crushes on Favre, also came out of retirement just to cover a few games featuring the man who complete him? He’d no doubt manipulate the telecast to draw hearts and write amorous sayings all over the screen, and somehow the show ends with Madden and Favre in a hot tub…ugh….

Most Overlooked NFC North Storylines

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By the TSB Staff

The NFC North will undoubtedly be a reality series this fall with the Brett Favre-Minnesota Vikings story likely to be “the lead” all year in most NFL content-producing mediums. #1 overall draft pick Matt Stafford helping rebuild the Detroit Lions, Jay Cutler bringing the Chicago Bears solid quarterback play for the first time since the Industrial Revolution will be huge as well.  But what about under-the-radar NFC North storylines? What interesting developments have been under-reported?

SAM SVOBODA

The Bears’ loss of safety Mike Brown.

Even though he’s had injury problems, I was shocked at how little I heard about the Bears letting him go. I thought maybe it was because I was in California at the time, but it turned out my brother (who’s been in Chicago the whole year) didn’t even know about it until seeing that Brown signed with the Chiefs in June. Yes, Brown has lost a step with his injuries and age, but he played 15 games last year and proved that he can still make plays. More importantly, he brought leadership and experience- Brian Urlacher has always gotten more press, but I really believe that Brown was the heart and soul of the Bears’ defense.

Perhaps the main reason that I think Brown’s departure is a big story though, is because of the safeties that the Bears kept. If the Bears had some great, established safeties then I would have had an easier time understanding letting Brown go. But the team’s current list of safeties reads like this: Kevin Payne, Danieal Manning, Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks, Al Afalava. I really hope some of the above guys can prove themselves as consistent NFL starters, but if the Bears’ safeties are repeatedly beaten this season, you have to wonder about the decision to let Brown go.


JAKE MCCORMICK

What’s missing? The answer is anything about the Green Bay Packers. As we’ve seen from even just the past week, ESPN will report every time Brett Favre involuntarily farts when he gets under center for the Vikings. It’s like a politician, where everyone is giving him advice on how to act, what he needs to do to gain his teammates trust, and the best way to overcome the doubts.

The Lions are a story because they are a team with a new image, the biggest being the new badass Lion on the helmet. The worst team in the league from the previous year always gets obligatory press coverage because it’s interesting to see how they change their approach on Sundays.

The Bears have a mini-Favre in Jay Cutler, who is a great talent but already a prima donna. And he doesn’t even have a winning record as a starter. How he responds to moving from a team with good receivers, a banged up running game, and a terrible defense to a team with a good running back, bad receivers, and an aging defense will be something to watch.bearstrainingcamp2

That leaves us with the Packers, and the biggest storyline that anyone can pick up will be the transition to the 3-4 and how Aaron Rodgers responds as a second-year starter. But honestly, name one story about the Packers that has made any sort of noise on ESPN or anywhere outside of Wisconsin. And no, the team’s reaction to Favre’s return doesn’t count. Green Bay has the talent and depth to be much better than last year’s 6-10 record indicates, and although Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy build the team through the draft, the fact that they only kept one coach from 2008 on the defensive side of the ball this season says something about the team’s sense of urgency. The whole Packer organization is an underreported and under-the-radar story, which is funny considering it is one of the top three most popular teams around the world. For proof, I offer this: My girlfriend spent a semester in Spain and her host brothers knew nothing about football, but they all had Green Bay Packer bobble-heads.

SOXMAN

The coverage of the Favre signing was to the sports world what the death of Michael Jackson was to the pop culture masses.

I’m actually more curious to see if rookie WR Percy Harvin can unseat Devin Hester as the next American Idol of the return game.  The kid can fly and actually might end up being a decent wide receiver as well.  Did you hear that #23?

What ever happened to Devin Hester’s return game anyway?  He is the Rueben Studdard of the NFL- minus about 200 lbs.bearstrainingcamp1

Other NFC North storylines- “My Tight End” sounds like the name of an alternative lifestyle reality show, but actually it’s a question.  With the exception of “the Packers,” (again, minds out of the gutter), all North division QBs have a new tight end.  Who will be the first TE to establish that “till free agency do we part” chemistry with their ball hurler?  Cutler and Olsen, who have already established chemistry on the Chicago nightclub scene?  Stafford and Pettigrew?  Both are NFL “first timers,” who only have each other in a world of potential pass rushers?  Or old man Favre and Visanthe Shiancoe?  Given Favre’s love of men who can go long, anything is possible.


PAUL SCHMIDT

I know, the Jay Cutler talk and the love affair with him is ridiculous right now, and it’s getting just as tiresome as the Brett Favre story.  Well…maybe not that bad…but it’s getting old.  The thing people need to be talking about with the Bears is what happens if they are bad?  I mean, there’s a lot of speculation about the receivers, and maybe it’s founded, but it would seem to me that there isn’t enough speculation about the defense.
What happens if Tommy Harris isn’t ok?  What happens if Brian Urlacher continues to slide as he ages? What happens if Lance Briggs’ ego continues to grow and it gets in the way of his performance?  What happens if Peanut Tillman isn’t ok, and doesn’t heal properly?  What happens if Danieal Manning doesn’t get better?  What if Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher sucks again this season?  What if no one steps up in the secondary?  What if the defensive line STILL can’t get pressure on an opposing QB this season?vikingsheadshadow

See?  There’s a ton of questions.  The defense isn’t a sure thing to be great.  The offense BETTER score a lot of points, because the defense just might be giving up quite a few…

The point is, if the Bears aren’t a playoff team, and end up .500 or worse, is Lovie Smith’s job on the line?  Jerry Angelo’s? Both have really put their necks on the line with the Cutler deal yet not bringing in any top WR (like Anquan Boldin). Shouldn’t they be on the hot seat just because of that?

SHAYMUS MCLAUGHLIN

In my opinion, it has to be Aaron Rodgers coming into his own as an elite QB in the NFL. He put up pretty ridiculous stats last year, especially for a first year starter (4,038 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs, and a 63.6% completion percentage). He managed to do it with the whole Brett Favre thing weighing down on him, which makes the feat even more impressive. While the mainstream media will be keeping an eye on Favre’s follies in Minnesota, Cutler’s conquest of Soldier Field, and Stafford’s starting gig in the Motor City, Aaron Rodgers will be quietly be amassing elite numbers for the green and gold at Lambeau Field.