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The Importance of a Backup Quarterback in the NFL

In the NFL, quality backup quarterbacks are like spare tires to a car: if you have one, you’re going to go a lot farther than those who don’t have one. Unfortunately for the hometown Chicago Bears, the car they’re travelling in is missing its motor in running back Matt Forte, and a few tires in Jay Cutler. To anyone who’s seen a drive or two of the Caleb Hanie-led offense, there sure-as-hell isn’t a spare tire anywhere in site.

The Bears organization may finally be learning a tough lesson when it comes to quarterbacking. Once a 7-3 team looking like a playoff lock, the Bears have now fallen flat, losing all four of their games in which Caleb Hanie has started. You can pretty much blame Hanie for all of the losses, as he has thrown for only three touchdowns and nine interceptions so far. However, the problem lies deeper than that.

Quarterback problems have always seemed to be a thorn in the side of the Bears. Before Jay Cutler arrived from Denver, the Bears virtually went through almost two decades starting back-up quarterbacks. Now, when you’d think that the Bears are set at quarterback, problems arise once again.

Let’s face it, Jay Cutler is not made of steel. He’s human, he’ll get hurt. It just so happened that he managed to get hurt at one of the most pivotal times of the year, on two separate occasions. If Cutler doesn’t get hurt during the 2010 NFC Championship game against the Packers, he might will us to a comeback victory and probably doesn’t throw a pick-six to B.J. Raji to put the game out of reach. If Cutler doesn’t get hurt this year, the Bears are looking at a record that has at least nine to ten wins, if not eleven, as well as a playoff berth.

That’s two seasons down the drain. It really makes me wonder what could have been if the Bears had a little bit of foresight to develop a serviceable backup quarterback. Looking around the NFL, almost every great team has a serviceable backup that they drafted specifically for that role, or even as a starter in the future. In 2005, Green Bay drafted a quarterback in the first round you might have heard of: Aaron Rodgers. This was a full three seasons before the legendary Brett Favre began the great comeback debate every offseason. The Patriots drafted Matt Cassel in 2005 (who went on to win 11 games in 2008) and even spent a third round pick on Ryan Mallett in this year’s draft, with Tom Brady there for the long term.

Maybe Nathan Enderle (who was drafted in the fifth round in this year’s draft) will be that guy someday, but the fact of the matter is is that the Bears needed a backup now. Either way, this season just proves that the backup quarterback position is much more important than once thought. Teams like the Texans were prepared, and are well on their way to seeing the field after Week 17, while teams like the Bears, Chiefs, and Colts were not and are now the laughing stock of the league.

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Fantasy Football: Week 14 Waiver Wire Pickups

The waiver wire will now be relied on heavily as the fantasy regular season is coming to an end. Unfortunately, the wire is looking sparse this week, with the only significant injury happening to my favorite player, Matt Forte. Here are my picks for the week:

Marion Barber, RB, Chicago Bears

Barber is the pickup of the week this week, as he is now the lone back for the injury-riddled Bears. With the way QB Caleb Hanie is throwing, look for Barber to be getting plenty of carries.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions

Starter Kevin Smith’s ankle is looking iffy, potentially opening the door for the pass-catching Morris. Morris is capable of easily getting 120-130 total yards, but touchdowns have been the problem though.

Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Tate has scored two of his three touchdowns on the year in the past two weeks, which is a positive sign. However, his yardage totals remain alarmingly low. Keep him on the radar this week.

Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders

Schilens may be a good play depending on the status of both Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. If they aren’t able to go, Schilens looks like a guarantee for at least 70-80 yards and a possible score. Keep an eye out on the injury reports.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

Thomas is coming off of a spectacular week of four catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas has all the skill to be a perennial fantasy play, but with Tim Tebow at QB, he’s always a risk. Tebow rarely throws over a single touchdown per game, so I recommend you keep Thomas on your radar before hurrying him into your fantasy lineup.

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers

Floyd has now reached 100+ yards in three of his last four games, including two touchdowns. He is possibly the best WR pickup of the week off the wire. We just have to hope QB Philip Rivers keeps throwing like he did on Monday night.

 

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Fantasy Football: Week 13 Waiver Wire Pickups

Week 13 looks to be another slow week for the wire. No significant injuries occurred, so there are not many likely fantasy game-changers that can be had on the wire. Here are my picks:

Kyle Orton, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Orton steps into a much better situation, receiver-wise, in KC. Moving on from Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker, Orton gets access to talented wideouts Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jon Baldwin. We’ll see if Orton can pick it back up with a change of scenery.

Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit Lions

Morris has a shot to be the primary back this week against New Orleans. Kevin Smith is listed as questionable with a high-ankle sprain. If Smith can’t go, Morris looks like a solid flex play option for most teams.

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Brown has had one of his best stretches of his career during the last three games. He has averaged 77 yards per game and has scored three touchdowns. However, he has a few tough tasks ahead of him in Baltimore and Houston coming up.

Johnny Knox, WR, Chicago Bears

Knox and QB Caleb Hanie looked to have a nice rapport going against Oakland, leading to Knox’s game high 145 receiving yards. He has also scored a touchdown in the last two weeks and looks to be one of the top players off of waivers this week.

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Starter Sidney Rice looks to miss this week’s game against the Eagles, leaving the door wide open for Baldwin to pick up the slack. Baldwin only had 60 yards, but also had 10 targets. Look for Baldwin to have a nice week this week.

Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns

Little finally found the endzone last week. QB Colt McCoy’s favorite target looks like a solid WR3 on most teams, as he’s been averaging about 50 yards a game over the last five weeks.

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers

Before getting hurt, Floyd has 243 yards and a touchdown in the last three games he played. He’s looking to come back this week, and looks to be an interesting fantasy play. QB Philip Rivers has been anything but good this year, so I suggest you watch Floyd’s progress.

New England Patriots Defense/Special Teams

Nothing much can be said other than they’re the lucky team playing the Colts this week.

Denver Broncos Defense/Special Teams

The Tebow Effect seems to have taken ahold of this defense, which hasn’t given up more than 13 points in three straight games. Don’t take them lightly anymore.

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Fantasy Football: Week 10 Waiver Wire Pickups

Just like last week’s waiver wire, this week does not have any major pickups that will make a significant impact on your fantasy team. The good thing is that there are officially no more bye weeks, so looking to the waiver wire will not be needed as much as previous weeks. Here are the picks for the week:

Donald Brown, RB, Indianpolis Colts

Brown has been playing relatively well for a player on the Colts. He notched 70 yards on 16 carries against the Falcons in Week 9. However, he is a Colt, which means he’ll probably never get a touchdown.

Laurent Robinson, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Starting WR Austin Miles went down once again with a hamstring injury, leaving Robinson to take the starting job from him. Robinson is probably the best value on the wire right now, catching a total of 10 passes for 135 yards and two scores in the last two games. He’ll likely start for the next 2-3 weeks in place of Austin.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders

Making his second appearance on this list, Moore and fellow Oakland wideout Jacoby Ford have been benefitting greatly with QB Carson Palmer tossing them the pigskin. Palmer threw for a hefty 332 yards last game, which is nice looking for any suitors of the Raiders WR corps. It also helps that Moore returns punts, giving him the possibility of another way to score a TD.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders

 See: Denarius Moore.

 

Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago Bears

Bennett and fellow Vanderbilt product Jay Cutler seemed to have a nice connection during last Monday’s Bears-Eagles game. Bennett caught a team high five receptions for 95 yards (also a team high) and a score. Stash Bennett for further progress.

Austin Pettis, WR, St. Louis Rams

Pettis is thrust into the starting role due to the ridiculous amount of injuries the Rams’ receiving corps has suffered this year. In addition to losing Danny Amendola earlier in the year, Greg Salas also went down with a season-ending injury last weekend. Pettis should get a fair amount of catches, but don’t expect too much out of him from here on out.

Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Miller has a combined 158 yards on 12 catches over the last two weeks, ranking him the number three tight end over the past three weeks.

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2011-2012 Chicago Bears Season Preview

The good old days...

Last season: The Bears finished last season far above expectations, losing to the rival/Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. I can recall pundits predicting the Bears to win between four and seven games last season, finishing below the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. The Bears, however, proved the doubters wrong and finished with a solid 11-5 record. But will a virtually better team repeat that record?

Key Acquisitions: RB Marion Barber, C Chris Spencer, S Brandon Meriweather, WR Roy Williams, TE Matt Spaeth, DT Amobi Okoye, P Adam Podlesh

Key Losses: C Olin Kreutz, TE Greg Olsen, RB Chester Taylor, TE Desmond Clark, DE Mark Anderson, DT Tommie Harris, S Danieal Manning, P Brad Maynard

Prime Games: Week 2 @ Saints, Week 3 vs. Green Bay Week 9 @ Eagles, Week 16 @ Green Bay

The Offense: Things are still looking bleak for the Bears’ passing game. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times last year, and management did little to improve the line to a sufficient level. Center Chris Spencer and right tackle Gabe Carimi (2011 first round pick) are upgrades over their formers, but what about the rest of the line? Cutler’s blind side has 2010 seventh rounder Jamarcus Webb and 2008 first rounder Chris Williams guarding it. Both are relatively slow and less-than-stellar at what they do, which means trouble once more. The Bears might get a little more blocking support at the tight end position, where 260 pound Kellen Davis takes the reigns away from the pass-catching Greg Olsen, who was shipped to Carolina.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz will need to continue running more run plays to keep the opposing defense honest and keep the pressure off of Cutler throughout the season. Martz needs to utilize the offensive line as the aggressors, because they sure don’t have the lateral quickness to be dropping back and defending the quarterback.

Former Dallas Cowboy Marion Barber looks to take place where Chester Taylor left off: goal-line duty. Taylor was somewhat of a disappointment, but in reality, I don’t think he was meant for the role. Barber is a big body, who will run over anything that touches him. We all remember this play, right? Starting running back Matt Forte will likely be the team’s best offensive weapon once again. Forte is lethal on the ground as well as through the air. It’s scary to think that he has only scored three touchdowns at the goal line in 28 attempts over the past two seasons, but still managed to find the endzone nine times all of last season. Can we say underrated?

The receiving corps looks meek, as usual. Number one target Roy Williams won’t scare away any opposing corners and neither will Devin Hester. It will most likely be Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett doing the brunt of the damage to teams second, third, and fourth string cornerbacks.

Offensive MVP: Matt Forte, RB

Forte will continue his great play in the backfield once again. Look for him to snag a bunch of catches once more, as Cutler will likely not have enough time to find an open receiver.

Offensive Breakout Player: Earl Bennett, WR

Yes, the Bears acquired wideout Roy Williams, but I think Bennett will be the Bears’ best receiver this season. Cutler and Bennett have an affinity for each other, and it will shine brightly this season.

Offensive Disappointment: Roy Williams, WR

Unfortunately, what is thought of as the Bears’ biggest signing will end up as one of their worst. Williams will likely never repeat his 2006 campaign which included 82 catches for 1,310 yards and 7 touchdowns, even with Mike Martz. Williams drops balls at an alarming rate, which won’t bode well with the fans. He also isn’t the most durable guy out there, so expect for him to miss a few games as well.

The Defense: Although weak in the secondary, the Bears are downright scary in the box. Management has done a terrific job of creating a ton of depth at the defensive line position to help out the Bears’ questionable corners. Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije teamed up for 16 sacks (eight each) last season, and that was with even less depth. Now the Bears have a fully-healthy Corey Wootton to clean up Peppers’ and Idonije’s mess. Don’t forget that they also drafted big Stephen Paea in the second round, who may or may not make an impact due to all the depth at the position. Also joining the tackles is former Texan first rounder Amobi Okoye. Okoye is a rare breed of human, as he went to Louisville at 15 years old and got drafted at 20. He’s in his fourth year in the league and is about the same age as most rookies and second year players. I think he can still mature into an even better lineman.

Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are becoming alarmingly older (Briggs is 30 and Urlacher 33), but both still have the wheels to create havoc for the opposing offense. Both of their quickness really benefits the rest of the defense and really complements the zone defense employed by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Strong side linebacker Nick Roach can also fly and subtly play a bigger role than you think.

Besides cornerback Charles Tillman, the corners are young and inexperienced. Tim Jennings heads the opposing side, but he will need some safety help in the Bears’ Tampa Two defense. Behind him is Corey Graham, the young Zackary Bowman and D.J. Moore. Hard-hitting safety Chris Harris and Major Wright look to create turnovers if they don’t get frozen. Harris will be solid, but as stated below, I’m not sure whether Wright will live up to expectations. He hasn’t boded well in the preseason, which leads me to believe he will be replaced by former Patriot Brandon Meriweather shortly.

Defensive MVP: Julius Peppers, DE

Not much to say here… Peppers is a team-changing player as evidenced by his play last year. As long as he stays healthy and determined, the Bears defense will look great.

Defensive Breakout Player: Corey Wootton, DE

The Northwestern product should thrive whenever he gets a chance on the field. Julius Peppers will create double teams, allowing Wootton to rack up tackles and sacks. Israel Idonije benefitted from the Peppers effect, and so will the more talented and youthful Wootton.

Defensive Disappointment: Major Wright, FS

Major Wright isn’t looking like a what the Bears’ faithful have expected. Yes, he has had limited playing time in the regular season play, but he has been looking downright awful in the preseason. I expect new safety Brandon Meriweather to replace him by week 3.

Prediction: Third place finish in the NFC North (8-8)

It hurts to say, but I believe that the Lions will finally surpass the Bears this year and vie for their first playoff berth since 1999. The offensive line will kill us once again this year due to all the talent at the defensive line position in the division. It’ll be hard to reproduce last year’s record, unless there are a bunch of injuries to key players in the NFC North. This is the NFL however, so anything can happen. For all I know, the Bears can end up going 16-0. This is an unpredictable sport.

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Video: Chicago Bears’ 2011 NFL Draft Recap

The Bears made some decent moves on draft day, grabbing Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi with the 29th pick in the first round, then following up with Oregon St.’s DT Stephen Paea, who you may remember for setting a record at the combine with 49 reps of 225 pounds. Below is video of all of our picks.

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisonsin:

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St.:

Chris Conte, S, California

Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho

J.T. Thomas, LB, West Virginia

I’d give the Bears a C+. Good pick with Carimi and Paea, but the rest of it looks shaky.

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Chi Side’s 2011 NFL Mock Draft

I honestly didn’t even know the 2011 NFL Draft was today until yesterday. Like really, Roger Goodell? A Thursday? I could’ve swore it would be on the weekend, but oh well. I would have wrote a much more deep and in-depth mock but since it’s only hours away I’m leaving you all with the top 15 picks and what I think the Bears will do.

Click here to see the my picks

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