Good morning! I’m writing this in fear of my upcoming morning commute, which is projected to occur in the midst of a snowstorm. In my experience, there are two kinds of snow drivers (besides me): those who drive way, way too fast for the conditions, thereby endangering countless lives, and those who drive way, way too slowly, apparently thinking that they’ll lose all control at any speed above 11 MPH. As if Ford and Goodyear hadn’t considered the possibility of a slightly slick surface under a half-inch of snow when they designed their products. Frankly, I prefer the former. I hate long commutes.
- The Bears are 4-0 in prime-time games this season, and they’ll have a chance to move to 5-0 in two weeks when they travel to Philadelphia. The NFL announced yesterday that the Bears-Eagles game will be flexed to Sunday Night Football, replacing the previously scheduled Ravens-Patriots contest. Considering the potential playoff implications, as well as the (probably more important) market sizes of the teams involved (Chicago and Philadelphia are the third and fourth largest TV markets, respectively), the move makes a certain amount of sense, despite the NFL’s longstanding tradition of putting Tom Brady on national television as often as possible.
- Ravens-Pats is still an attractive game, though, and it will now air in the late afternoon window on CBS, which has the national double-header that day. Part of me wonders if a possible appeasement of CBS might be a factor, as the NFL had leaned on CBS to give up the first meeting between Kansas City and Denver in Week 9, despite CBS having originally protected it from being flexed to NBC. This move would give CBS a much better national window game, as the previously scheduled Pittsburgh-Green Bay contest doesn’t seem nearly as appealing as it probably did when the schedule was made. There’s a complex machination involved with flex scheduling; each network gets to protect a game (in theory), and there was a great article explaining it all, and giving great behind the scenes detail, that I couldn’t find despite copious searching. If you know what I’m referencing, feel free to share. The rules will only get more complex next year, when a new flexing system might mean some AFC games on FOX, and some NFC games on CBS.
- Pro Football Talk speculates that the Bears or Eagles might be flexed again in Week 17, since they could both very well be playing for a playoff spot; I’d think the Eagles have a much better shot at that one, since they’re slated to face the Cowboys, and that game could be a direct play-in game. The Bears and Packers might be as well, of course, in a scenario I touched on yesterday, but if the Bears are competing with Detroit, I think it’s much less likely that they get flexed, and much more likely that both the Bears and Lions kick at the same time. That prevents any appearances of cheating; not that I would expect the Packers to lay down, but what if (for example) Aaron Rodgers is a game-time decision and the Lions lose an early game? That means a Bears win on Sunday Night Football gets them into the playoffs. What if the Packers then decide to sit Rodgers? Even though all of those things would probably be happening independently of each other, I doubt the NFL wants to leave themselves open to conspiracy theorists.
- No updates yet on the status of Jay Cutler’s recovery, but SI’s Doug Farrar had a rundown of Marc Trestman’s post-game assurances that Cutler will be the Bears starter when he returns from injury. He includes Brandon Marshall’s statements of support for Cutler, and ESPNChicago has some quotes from McCown in a similar vein. (Personally I think Cutler should start, but I do appreciate the class that McCown has displayed, both on and off the field.)
- Also, I don’t want to pick on Doug too much, but in that piece he somehow comes up with this line: “Cutler is in the last year of his contract, and general manager Phil Emery has said that he will not place the franchise tag on the eight-year veteran.” That’s simply not what Phil Emery said (in his online chat from last week) at all. He was alluding to the salary cap burden that comes along with having a quarterback play on a one-year deal under the tag. It is a very, very large jump to “We will not be tagging Jay Cutler” and in fact, Emery goes a long way to ensure that he doesn’t expressly commit to anything, contract-wise. But it’s fun how these things get misconstrued so easily, isn’t it?
- With all of the Eagles talk at the beginning, it might be easy to overlook the Bears trip to Cleveland next Sunday. If you were hoping the Bears would get to face our old friend Caleb Hanie, you’re out of luck; Cleveland released Hanie Tuesday after just one week on the roster. Instead, the Browns will likely turn to our other old friend Jason Campbell, who actually played very well in Cleveland’s one-point loss to New England on Sunday.
- Grantland’s Bill Barnwell had much nicer things to say about Marc Trestman this week in his Thank You for Not Coaching column; not kicking a field goal on second down helps, I guess. He named Trestman’s decision to go for two late in the third quarter as the third-best coaching decision of the week, and he also noted that in his opinion, Trestman is “unquestionably” the best NFL coach in terms of knowing when to go for two throughout the game. He cites the Bears near-comeback against Detroit in Week 4 as a prime example. Dallas coach Jason Garrett’s third quarter decision to punt on 4th and 4 from the Bears 41, while trailing by 13, was his selection for the third-worst. Barnwell always does solid work analyzing coaching decisions and their effects, and aside from last week, he’s been unwavering in his praise of Trestman’s game management this year. Pretty cool. (Note: he was not such fan of Lovie Smith; I know that shocks you.)