This was originally going to include a Thursday Night Football preview, but this week the NFL Network is beaming two terrible teams into our homes. So, unless Texans/Jags has gambling or fantasy implications for you, I’d consider looking elsewhere for your Thursday night entertainment. There’s probably a show about aliens on somewhere. Perhaps that would be enjoyable.
- I can name five owners off the top of my head who are actually crazier than Zygi Wilf (Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder, Jerry Richardson, Jim Irsay, and Green Bay fans) but that photo of the Vikings Stadium groundbreaking ceremony (tweeted by Glen Stubbe of the Minneapolis Star Tribune) certainly vaults him up the rankings. The fact that he originally wanted the stadium to be open-air (only relenting when that demand put public funding in jeopardy) is also not exactly a point in his favor. I urge you to click for the full size version; he might as well be twirling that mustache. Of note, have a look at the man to Wilf’s right, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton. That is the expression of a man who has been blackmailed into Zygi’s crazy scheme for world domination. He wants very badly to warn people before it’s too late, but he’s scared. Very scared.
- Who does Wilf remind you of? I struggled with it for awhile, but then it came to me:
- The Vikings travel to Baltimore this weekend, and as Ben Goessling of ESPN.com reports, they’ll likely do so with Matt Cassel under center in relief of Christian Ponder. As the Bears saw, that is not necessarily a good thing for Baltimore. Still, Baltimore’s rush defense ranks sixth in terms of yards allowed, on average yielding 53 fewer yards per game than the Bears. So if they can utilize one of their strengths and actually limit Adrian Peterson to a mere 100 yards or so, I think the Ravens have to like their chances. If the Ravens do win, they’d move to 7-6, which would put them in the driver’s seat for the second AFC wild card. (Oh, what I’d give for the Bears to play in the AFC…)
- The Packers host the Falcons at 1 PM Sunday, in a game that will be carried in the Chicago market. (So break out your Falcons gear, everyone! It’s your turn to be disappointed by the 2013 Atlanta Falcons! Just like real Atlanta fans everywhere!) Aaron Rodgers practiced yesterday, a major step on his road to returning from a broken collarbone suffered at the hands of Shea McClellin and Isaiah Frey back in Week 9. However, it sounds like “practice” meant doing individual drills for the first time; while that’s a significant step in the rehab process, it is not necessarily a precursor to starting this Sunday. Considering the length of the Packers playoff odds, it makes sense that Green Bay is considering shutting Rodgers down for the season, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. He doesn’t need the reps, and the potential of Rodgers sustaining a serious re-injury that jeopardizes his health for next season (or even his long-term effectiveness; quarterbacks kind of need their shoulders) would be enough to scare me into sitting him. (But, thanks to reader Mike Quinn, I can’t stop envisioning Rodgers returning in Week 17 to knock off a Bears team one win away from the postseason. So I might be a bit biased.)
- As to those playoff odds, Green Bay remains mathematically eligible, but they would need a fairly epic collapse from Detroit and a more normal, traditional collapse from Chicago. The Football Outsiders Playoff Odds report has Green Bay’s chances of capturing the division down to a mere 5.7%; Chicago’s sit at 16.9%. If it makes you feel any better, things can change quickly; why, just last month the Bears sat comfortably in the 60% range. (It doesn’t make me feel any better either.)
- Assuming Rodgers can’t go, Matt Flynn will likely get the start. I’m excited for Flynn to play well down the stretch; who knows which team will drastically overpay for his services and then bench him in training camp? (Note: I half-expect McCown to get a similar treatment from a team this offseason. If so, I’ll be bummed, because he’s the perfect backup, but I’d be happy to see him get paid.)
- While Green Bay has of late been folding like a cheap card table, their opponents haven’t fared much better. The Falcons pass for a lot of yards, and that’s about it. They’ve actually been more competitive over the previous two weeks, hanging with New Orleans and then winning in overtime at Buffalo. So I have no idea what’s going to happen in this one. I guess I’ll take the team with a healthy, decent quarterback; I think Matt Ryan still qualifies.
- Now, the big game. Detroit will travel to Philadelphia for a 1 PM kick. The Lions are just 4-4 over their last 8 games, but they’ve managed to open up a nigh-insurmountable lead on the Bears in the divisional race. As has been rehashed elsewhere, if the Lions go 3-1 down the stretch, they make the playoffs thanks to their seasonal sweep of Chicago. If the Lions go 2-2, that opens the door slightly for Chicago, who would have to go undefeated. And if the Lions were to collapse and finish 1-3, the Bears could get in by going 3-1. That might seem depressing, but I urge you to remember one thing: they’re still the Lions. If ever there was a team capable of self-destructing in hilariously over-the-top fashion, it’s the Detroit Lions. (Well, and the Cowboys, who we’ll get to tomorrow.)
- Good news on the “Lions self-destruct potential” front: their closing schedule is not that easy. The Eagles are playing inspired football, led by the infallible Nick Foles. (19 TDs/0 INTs) (Full disclosure: Foles is my starting fantasy quarterback. I’m on a playoff bye this week (#2 seed!) but our championship game is Week 16, when the Eagles host the Bears. I’m already dreading this conflict of interest.) Philly has won four straight, and like the Bears/Cowboys Monday night tilt, this game has the potential for an offensive explosion, as neither team really enjoys defending the pass. (Detroit is 26th in passing yards allowed, Philadelphia is dead last.)
- According to ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein, the remarkably healthy Lions (grumble grumble) had only three players miss practice on Wednesday: WR Calvin Johnson, S Louis Delmas, and RB Reggie Bush, who has a calf injury. It doesn’t sound like any of the players are likely to miss time. Let this serve as your reminder that health is an extremely critical component of team success over the course of a season.
- This is, obviously, a crucial game as a Bears fan. If the Lions win, they would need to go 1-2 over their final 3 games for the Bears to have a chance. Home games against Baltimore and the Giants aren’t walkovers, nor is the Week 17 road trip to Minnesota, but it’s not exactly a murderer’s row either. If the Eagles win, the Bears would very much be alive; Chicago’s postseason essentially starts Monday night.
- It should be a very fun and entertaining game, and I don’t really have a read on this one either. But if Foles continues to protect the ball, I think the Eagles have a very good chance in this game.
Of course, when Zygi Wilf”s nefarious plan to conquer the world comes to fruition, none of this will have mattered.