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  • Best bets: Bears-Saints, survivor picks and more
    by Sam Householder on October 18, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images The Bears are once again favored, but does it mean much against a resilient Saints team? The dynamic duo is back after the bye and ready to make some more correct picks. Last week was no bye for Jeff and Sam, as they waded into the waters of picking NFL games league-wide and found some winners. Sam hit on the Cardinals, the Cardinals/Falcons total (over) and Jeff hit on the Patriots, although it looked like it could be close for a hot minute. Although the Eagles dropped the ball for him, which must mean the Eagles are officially bad, using the law of Kirk, right? They did both safely stay on the right side in the survivor pool by sticking with New England. Overall, we eliminated one more player this week for a total of 15 as Jacky tried to be sneaky and took the Dolphins. There are 17 teams on the verge of elimination heading into this week while nine teams are still in a good spot with only one strike. Amazingly enough, seven teams are still working off a clean sheet. Three teams earned a strike last week betting on Dallas to take out the Jets while three teams were lucky to escape without a strike after taking Washington. Overall, Week 6 only brought nine strikes to the picks. In pick ‘ems, the leaderboard hasn’t exactly gained any clarity as we now have a five-way tie for first place with a record of 48-44. Blowfish, Monster Hicks Picks, t4m8shn, WhiteH20, and CoachClem02 now share the lead with another three players within two picks. Sam remains the top WCGer with 44 correct while Jeff and Lester are down at 42 right. This week we move back into the Bears picks and Sam looks to stay alive in the survivor league with a lot of the ‘sure thing’ teams gone for him. Bears (-3) vs. Saints (O/U 38) Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CT Sam: Looking at the Bears, this is a tough game to pick. I would rather stay away from it, if I’m honest, because the Saints just don’t seem like a team that should full field goal underdogs, but they haven’t lit the world on fire either. The Saints have covered as road underdogs twice this season in three away games, only losing at the Rams, in a game where they lost Brees. Overall the Saints are 4-2 against the spread and in their four-game win streak are 4-0 against the number, including 3-0 as underdogs. However, now they’re down Alvin Kamara and Brees and Chicago should be the best defense that Teddy Bridgewater has faced. Will that be the difference? The Saints defense is what complicates things because they’ve been shutting down opponents and allowing Bridgewater to keep the Saints in low-scoring affairs. For that reason, I am picking the Saints to cover the number, I think it’s going to be a close game. If you can get this game at 3.5, do it because this is a game that could easily push on 3. On the total, this is an easy under for me, I know the Saints have kind of see-sawed but these two defenses are going to be the big players this weekend. I can’t see the winner scoring more than 20. Survivor: This is a tough week for me, as I’m still at two strikes and there’s not a lot of teams I’m absolutely confident in. Sure, I could knock the Bills off, playing at home against the Dolphins, but do I really want to trust that offense? For that reason, I am rolling with the San Francisco 49ers, even though they’re on the road against Washington. I think defense travels and Washington doesn’t have enough offense to begin with to hang with them. Picks: Saints +3, under 38, 49ers (survivor) Jeff: I went 4-1 in my betting article over at the QB List last week but my one loss was that Eagles game that I used here too. Shame. Let me start with the survivor pick because I am absolutely rolling with 70 percent of the Yahoo survivors in taking the Bills. Buffalo is a good team and this is the one game I feel really good about them comfortably winning. Sam is still holding out hope that his pick of Dolphins over 4.5 wins will start to come true so he’s avoiding a good thing when it’s staring him in the face. The 49ers look great too, don’t get me wrong, but they are traveling to the east coast for an early kickoff and as bad as Washington has been, they at least have a gunslinger as their trigger man. But who am I kidding, either one is fine! As for the Bears picks, I don’t really want to pick this game at all. I think the defense comes out fired up, trying to make amends for the failed European tour. So I’m going to agree with Sam on the under as I can see the Bears defense making it difficult for Teddy Two Gloves to break double digits. On offense, the Bears simply have to have something figured out and I think people are underestimating the bump that Trubisky can bring to this unit. I’m envisioning a 16-6 type of contest so I guess that means I’m taking the Bears -3. Look for a big game from Tarik Cohen out of the backfield and for Eddie Jackson to make a big play on defense. Picks: Bears -3, under 38, Bills (survivor) What are your best picks of the week? Tell us in the comments or hit us up on Twitter @samhouseholder and @gridironborn.

  • Fantasy Football Forum Week 7: Mahomes Panic
    by Jeff Berckes on October 18, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images You place for all things fantasy football My lead for this week was going to be Michael Gallup and we’ll get to him in a minute, but let’s talk about Patrick Mahomes for just a second. Mahomes appeared to dislocate his knee cap on a QB sneak in the Thursday Night Football game against the Broncos. Painful, indeed, and early reports by some Twitter doctors (surprisingly reliable) say best case scenario is that he’ll miss a few games, worst case is that it will be season ending - it all depends on the MRI. Looking at the Chiefs schedule, it would seem to be a wise course of action to hold him out the next four games before the bye week, giving him five plus weeks to heal up if the injury is something he can return from this season. Looking at this purely through a fantasy perspective, here are some things to consider: Obviously, Mahomes is a hold unless and until we hear that he’s done for the season. Assuming he’s back after the bye, you want to hold onto him. Hopefully you have an injury slot (if not, have your league add one or two for next season) but even if you don’t, you have to keep him. I’m not sure I’d want to pick up Matt Moore as a replacement assuming there is something more attractive on waivers. However, assuming Moore makes a few starts, this is a high powered offense with great weapons and that can sometimes be enough in the right matchup. Because this injury happened on a Thursday night, as a Mahomes owner you can make a free agent claim now for a replacement QB next week. Beat the rush. This downgrades Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce off elite status in the near term, but not enough to do anything about it. I have two shares of Kelce and what am I going to do, sell him? He hasn’t had a great year to begin with and to be fair, a backup QB might lean on him in the passing game. You’ve got to roll both of these guys out. The rest of the WRs and the RBs I’m a little more concerned about. On the one hand, you expect Andy Reid to run the ball more, but that also means the Chiefs will face more stacked boxes. I think McCoy is the one guy I’d want in that backfield but I’m not sure I want to start any of the WRs not named Hill. I have Mecole Hardman in a few spots and I can’t imagine starting him without Mahomes. Gallup I had some poor planning in the WCG League of Champions as I drafted Mike Evans, DJ Moore, and Odell Beckham Jr. on the same team who are all on bye this week. Normally, I’d be scraping the free agent pool, but I’m fortunate enough to have drafted Will Fuller V and Michael Gallup while adding Hollywood Brown after Week 1. Fuller is who I thought he’d be but Gallup has been a pleasant surprise. He’s missed two games to injury earlier in the year, but has been an important target for Dak Prescott when healthy, compiling a 24-387-1 line in four games. That workload should increase as it appears Amari Cooper might miss some time, moving Gallup into the lead role in this offense. What’s more, the Cowboys draw the Eagles this weekend who can’t cover anyone. Long term, I think Gallup can be an every week starter on your fantasy team - someone who you can sit in the WR3 slot and be happy about. Unless the Eagles have miraculously fixed their secondary, he could win you the week. WCG Daily The leader board hasn’t changed much at all with BoomShakUrlacher holding onto the top position. I wasn’t able to check my team Sunday morning and started Hollywood Brown, who was out with an injury so took a zero there. Still, I managed to hold onto the 4th spot and within spitting distance of third. This is the week I make my move. I’m taking a running back that is familiar to this page for a whole $13. Tarik Cohen has yet to have a big game but I have a feeling his services are going to be needed against the Saints. In my exchange with Canal Street Chronicles, Chris Dunnells called out Cohen specifically as a guy he fears will tear up Saints linebackers. In a week where I’m pushing more money at the WRs, I’ll happily roll out Chicken Salad on a discount. What’s going on in your world? Bring your start/sit questions, trade offers, and general fake team needs to the comments below or hit us up on Twitter. Jeff can be found @gridironborn and Whiskey Ranger is found @whiskeyranger29.

  • Bears vs Saints Injury Report: Trubisky, Nichols, and Larsen all questionable
    by Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. on October 18, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images Here’s the full injury report for the Bears and Saints in advance of Sunday’s game in Chicago. When the season schedule was announced, it seemed like the Chicago Bears’ bye week was coming too early, but with a few injured players benefiting from the week off it has proven to be right on time. Both wide out Taylor Gabriel (concussion) and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring) are off the injury report and good to go for Sunday. The Bears should also be getting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (left shoulder) and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols (hand/knee) both back for this Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. Trubisky is officially listed as questionable, but he practiced in full all week. And in fact, he took all the first team reps all week, so unless there’s something drastic that happens between now and Sunday morning, he should be getting the start. Nichols also received the questionable designation since he was limited toady, but he was a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday, and today was just his usual “limited” with the Bears practicing indoors on Friday. He should be back on the starting d-line, and with Akiem Hicks on injured reserve, Nichols needs to make an impact. Offensive lineman Ted Larsen, who was limited earlier this week with a knee injury, was a full participant today and is listed as questionable. Either he or Rashaad Coward should be in line to start at right guard for the recently IR’ed Kyle Long. It’s also interesting to note that kicker Eddy Pineiro stretched with his teammates at Halas Hall today before leaving to work out at Soldier Field. For the Saints, it was already expected that quarterback Drew Brees would be out with a thumb injury, but they’ll also be missing running back Alvin Kamara (knee/ankle), tight end Jared Cook (ankle), wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (ankle), and defensive end Trey Hendrickson (neck), who have all been ruled out of the game. The Saints will be without nickelback P.J. Williams who was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

  • A Bridge to sell: Three keys for a Bears’ win against the Saints
    by Robert Zeglinski on October 18, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images The Bears will have to construct a sturdy Bridge across Water to nab a needed win. The last time the Bears faced off against the Saints, Mitchell Trubisky was but a wide-eyed rookie attempting to make a name for himself. (In the present, he’s a wide-eyed veteran attempting to make a name for himself) Zach Miller, reliable receiving tight end that he was, came down with a contested catch in the end zone in a tight fourth quarter battle. Unfortunately, according to officials, he actually hadn’t. The Bears not only lost an egregious officiating review that wiped away an obvious touchdown, they also lost Miller, permanently so, and fell 20-12 in a Halloweekend game that should’ve been far closer in the end than the final result indicated. The Superdome, for three hours, was a temporary House of Horrors from which the Bears had no escape. Two years later, a budding heavyweight fight of defenses—with an already ailing quarterback on one side—awaits. In a devious twist of fate, it might be the Bears who can spook their counterparts. And they better be prepared. Another Bears’ defeat to the Saints this Sunday would begin the spelling of certain doom. In a deep and daunting NFC, any loss from this point forward might mean the difference between an eventual second straight playoff berth and an unrelenting off-season of questions. Any and all victories will continue to build up a growing shield against the agony of missing out on what could’ve been, what should’ve been, but what never quite happened. The loss of Akiem Hicks for the foreseeable future not withstanding, a rested Chicago has the pieces in place to overcome a battered, bruised, and pureed Saints’ outfit. The jury is out as to whether the plan comes together. Here’s what has to transpire for the Bears to leave Soldier Field with their heads triumphantly held high on Sunday. 1. Stay a steadier course Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images Picking one scapegoat to figure out what’s wrong with the Bears’ offense would be ignoring necessary context. Aside from a glowing Allen Robinson, none of the sum of these parts are working well. Their failures are stacked on top of each other in a glorious flourish of ineptitude. The offensive line can’t block well. Receivers, talented and boisterous as they might be, can’t get open. And the quarterback and head coach rarely appear to be on the same page. Everyone is to blame. Everyone has a hand in an offense that has yet to get off the ground. One of the main aspects of basic offensive football the Bears have particularly struggled with is in sustaining drives. Only the Steelers, Jets, Dolphins, Washington have created less first downs per game than the Bears. The reason the Bears struggle to get first downs is simple: most of their drives begin with little fervor. On first and 10 plays, only Washington and the Dolphins have worse explosive rush rates. Add in the fact that the Bears have been penalized on eight separate first and 10 plays and the recipe for disaster becomes clear. When you’re among the company of at least three of the verifiable worst NFL teams, there’s something off. The mission for the Bears’ offense against the Saints can really be applied through the rest of the 2019 season. They can’t continue to shoot themselves in the foot with ill-advised penalties and minimal to no gains on first down. If the Bears don’t improve on clean first down plays, they’ll never become an offense someone could comfortably watch without putting their hand over their face. In opposition of New Orleans specifically—who has the most pass pressures of anyone in football—they’ll not only be doing themselves a disservice on latter downs if they can’t start drives with a pip in their step, they’ll be putting their returning quarterback in unnecessary harm’s way. 2. Take pole position Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images As actively constituted, the defensively-oriented Bears are a different team when they have the luxury of playing with a lead. Look no further for two prominent examples to both extremes on opposite ends of the spectrum. In Week 4 against the Vikings, the Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their first possession and channeled that energy. Kirk Cousins could never get a stable footing as he overthrew talented receiver after talented receiver, and the Bears eventually wound up grinding him into a fine paste of six sacks en route to a 16-6 win. Across the pond in London the ensuing week, Oakland had the surprising jump on the Bears with a 17-0 halftime lead. The Bears would eventually come back and temporarily overtake Oakland, but not without some good fortune involved. Two of Chicago’s three touchdowns drives that afternoon came after turnovers and were less than 20 yards. If asked to carry the load on their own entirely, it’s likely the Bears would’ve faltered more than a final three-point margin in a 24-21 defeat. Chicago wasn’t built to win on the strength of its offense. This is the predicament they find themselves in until further notice. Sunday’s match-up against the Saints has the underlying prospect of playing out horrifically for the Bears if they can’t get an early lead. Asking a struggling Trubisky and his teammates to come back against perennial All-Pro Cameron Jordan and a dynamic pass rush is asking for trouble. Making New Orleans play from behind as quickly as possible flips this situation on its head. It makes Teddy Bridgewater indirectly ask for trouble against perennial All-Pro Khalil Mack and the Bears’ similarly dynamic pass rush. 3. Zoning out Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images There’s a tried and true adage about how to beat less than able quarterbacks. Play zone defense if you want to put the onus on the quarterback to beat you. Play some variation of man coverage and it’s the quarterback’s play-makers who have now increased pressure on them. The reason the greats such as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers continue to play and the reason they’ve carved out extended careers, is because simplistic zone defense’s don’t phase their gathered experience and awareness. To use zone against superstars who played football professionally for a decade or more is asking them to humiliate your defense. They’ll eagerly and patiently pick you apart without a second thought. Against lesser quarterbacks, using zone is never a bad idea. Teddy Bridgewater is arguably the NFL’s premier backup quarterback. That the Saints have only managed one defeat in his stead should be seen as admirable for a player who once had his career in doubt after a traumatic knee injury. But Bridgewater doesn’t strike fear into opposing defense’s, and he shouldn’t. He’s a limited passer with limited abilities. He’s good enough to take over for Drew Brees over an extended hiatus, but not adept enough to consistently throw lasers against any respectable defense. He’s the definition of a game manager. Someone who not only seldom takes risks, but can’t maximize any he does take either. Playing zone against Bridgewater with the knowledge of the storm the Bears’ pass rush can unleash places a limited quarterback on thin ice. It affords Khalil Mack and Co. more time to get to Bridgewater and flummox him past the threshold of insanity. It could even lead to the Bears closing up the folds of this Bridge altogether. Robert has a Bridge to sell you. It happens to be over a serene body of Water, making it very valuable. Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski. You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.

  • Thomas Jones’s Fond Farewell
    by Jack M Silverstein on October 18, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images Thomas Jones was traded a month after Super Bowl XLI, and never got to say goodbye to teammates, Bears fans and the city of Chicago. A new highlight reel gives him that chance. “You have these memories,” Thomas says. “And you have to erase them quickly.” On February 4, 2007, Thomas Jones was exactly where he was supposed to be. He was playing in the Super Bowl, and doing so as the starting running back for the Chicago Bears, just like his childhood idol, Walter Payton. He was a team leader both in the locker room and on the field. On that day in Miami, in Super Bowl XLI, he was a star: 112 yards on just 15 carries, and the 5th longest run in Super Bowl history. His yardage total would have been a franchise single-game postseason rushing record, if he hadn’t set it the game before with 123 yards in the NFC championship. Those two games made him the first — and still only — player in franchise history with multiple 100-yard rushing games in the playoffs. None of that mattered, of course. The Bears lost 29-17. And Thomas Jones would never wear the Bears uniform again. That wasn’t his plan. When he signed a four-year, $10 million deal with the team in 2004, he found his home. But he also outplayed his deal. So he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus came to GM Jerry Angelo to restructure it. The Bears wouldn’t bite. Instead, they traded Jones to the JEts, giving him an unwanted place in history as the only running back to be traded immediately after rushing for 100 yards in a Super Bowl. His career was forever altered. “I felt like once I had to transition from a Bear to a Jet, everything else from Chicago kind of got lost,” he says now. “And I never really had a chance to have any kind of closure from a relationship perspective to a football perspective. “Because my career changed in Chicago. Everything clicked. I felt like, ‘Wow, I’m living my dream.’ But when you get traded so fast, everything fades away.” He never returned to Halas Hall. He had movers clear out his home in Grayslake to put his belongings in storage in his home state of Virginia. He began preparing for the season ahead with the Jets. There was no big goodbye with teammates and coaches. No closing press conference. The dream was over. Since winning the 2006 NFC championship in front of the home fans, Thomas has only been back to Soldier Field once: as a member of the visiting Kansas City Chiefs in 2011. And he’s only been back to Chicago once since then: as an actor in 2013, filming an episode of Shameless. His break from the game has been absolute. Yet he still loves Chicago. He still loves the Bears. He still loves his teammates — his brothers, as he says. Twitter has helped him reconnect with his brothers, and stay close now that they no longer share a locker room. Jason McKie, Adrian Peterson, J.D. Runnels — the men who with Thomas and Cedric Benson coined themselves the “B-Unit.” “Best backs in the league!” they would chant. He’s also stayed close with Olin Kreutz; an interview last month in which Kreutz, Patrick Mannelly and Hub Arkush had Thomas on their show on 670 The Score was a sports radio highlight. Twelve years after his departure from the franchise, Thomas’s presence is widely felt. Many former teammates, including Urlacher, Kreutz and Charles Tillman, have pointed to Thomas’s departure as a key turning point in franchise history. He was not invited to the team’s 2019 Bears 100 reunion this past June, yet his teammates couldn’t stop talking about him there, and the fans couldn’t stop cheering him. The fans still cheer him. I see it everyday. Thomas does too. And he wants to soak it in again. “A couple of years ago, I was looking through all of my old football tapes and highlight reels, and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t have a Bears highlight reel,’” he says. “And once you’re finished, you look back at your career and say, ‘The one place that changed my career, I have faint memories of.’ It just really motivated me to want to get something like this done.” “This” is a highlight reel. And since this summer, videographer Robert Schmitz and I have worked with Thomas to produce a reel that encapsulates his time in Chicago, which you can watch on WCG’s Facebook page. Thomas Jones: Always a BearA highlight reel for Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Nominee Thomas Jones. - Video by Robert Schmitz - Curated by Jack Silverstein - Written by Jack Silverstein and Thomas Jones - Footage from Thomas Jones, Alex Brown, Jason McKie Music: Audiomachine - Dauntless Audiomachine - NinurtaPosted by Windy City Gridiron: For Chicago Bears Fans on Friday, October 18, 2019 On one level, we wanted this video to be a standard highlight reel, something that would let fans bask in Thomas’s Bears greatness. But we also wanted it to be something else — a piece that honors the connection Thomas felt with the city, the franchise and the fans, and that honors the connection that the fans felt to him, #20. The bond that Thomas and his brothers felt cannot be overstated. Both Jason McKie and Alex Brown mailed to Robert a boatload of game DVDs from 2005 to 2006, and it’s with those, with Thomas’s DVDs from 2004, with existing footage and with Thomas’s narration that we made this tape. It is for Bears fans, and it is for Thomas. “I was traded pretty quickly after Super Bowl XLI to the Jets, and I never really got a chance to actually say goodbye to my teammates or the fans in the city of Chicago,” Thomas says in the reel. “But I’m forever grateful for the experience. The only regret that I have in my whole career is that we didn’t win that Super Bowl in Miami, and that I didn’t stay for a couple more years to possibly win one. “But, listen, I had the chance to play for the Chicago Bears. To play running back like my idol Walter Payton. And I’m grateful that I had that chance.” We are too, Thomas. We are too. - - - Jack M Silverstein is Chicago’s sports historian, Bears historian at Windy City Gridiron, and author of How The GOAT Was Built: 6 Life Lessons From the 1996 Chicago Bulls. He is the proprietor of the Chicago sports history Instagram “A Shot on Ehlo.” Say hey at @readjack.

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