As everyone prepares for Wild Card weekend, it’s sinking in that I’d very much rather be getting ready for a game against the 49ers this weekend. (It’d likely be a snow game as well, in ridiculously poor conditions; the kind of game that people remember for a long time, regardless of result. Not that I’m bitter.) Hopefully next season is a different story. The Bears have made the playoffs just 5 times over the past 20 years. I’m really hoping their rate of appearances starts to sharply improve; with the talent they’ve managed to accumulate on offense, it’d be a sizable disappointment if it did not.
- One of those offensive pieces underwent surgery on Friday. Though he’s not the biggest name, rookie offensive tackle Jordan Mills gave the Bears an upgrade at right tackle, and was healthy all season until he apparently injured his foot while running onto the field against the Packers. That’s from ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright, who also notes that Mills is still on track to participate in the team’s offseason activities.
- I know there have been a few conflicting reports as to the actual cap hit from the Jay Cutler deal; apparently someone on The Score contradicted the earlier Pro Football Talk story, among other reports. With conflicting reports it’s tough for me to throw my weight behind anything, and the details of the Cutler contract haven’t exactly been laid bare. I will say that I don’t think cap rules allow for anything other than signing bonuses to be prorated over the length of the deal; if he doesn’t have a signing bonus, his guaranteed base pay in 2014 would be the cap number. With the earlier reports putting that at $22.5 million, I don’t see any way that’s not the cap number, but it’s still tough to say, and I could end up being wrong.
- One of my favorite working analysts, Matt Bowen of the Chicago Tribune and Bleacher Report, offered his take on the Jay Cutler deal, and what it means for the Bears going forward. Matt is in favor of the signing, and he notes how Bowen is a former NFL safety, and I thought this quote was telling:
“I don’t believe you need a shut down defensive unit to win in today’s game. In fact, I’m not sure if there ever will be a defense that will dominate again in a league that is so tilted toward offense. But you still need a defense that can make some key stops, create turnovers and hand the ball back to your quarterback.”
The 2013 Bears sort of proved this point; despite a very good offense, a woeful defense held them back. The defense doesn’t need to be a top-5 unit, but imagine a league average group, with a top-3 offense? That’s a tough team to beat.
- It came down to the wire, but the Colts, Bengals, and Packers all sold out their home playoff games, avoiding a potential local blackout. The league had extended the window for ticket sales in an effort to prevent any blackouts from occurring (Green Bay received two extensions; not surprising that the NFL would bend their own rules for this, as a playoff blackout would have been an embarrassment to the league) and in the end the day was saved by the white knight of corporate sponsorship. As mentioned in that ESPN.com article, Meijer bought the final 1,200 Colts tickets, Kroger and Proctor & Gamble combined to buy thousands of tickets in Cincinnati, and a regional bank bought the final tickets to the Packers game.
- Why did these teams struggle to sell out playoff games? ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert dove into that on Thursday, before the teams beat the clock. He theorizes that the relatively draconian ticketing policies NFL teams impose on their season-ticket holders play a very large role, along with the general complaints about the gameday experience. It’s an interesting read.
- There are two Wild Card games today, if you’ve recovered from the Bears loss to the extent that you can be excited for playoff football. I’m not sure I’m there yet, to be honest, but I’ll probably watch anyway. You only get so many hours of football a year, and both of today’s games have entertainment potential. The Chiefs visit the Colts at 4:35 E.T., followed by the Saints visiting the Eagles with a scheduled start time of 8:10 E.T. Both games will be on NBC. The Colts beat the Chiefs 23-7 at Arrowhead just two weeks ago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much; after all, the Vikings defeated the Packers in Week 17 last year, only to be soundly rolled in the playoff rematch. I think it will be a fairly low-scoring affair, with the Kansas City defense frustrating Andrew Luck and Alex Smith frustrating the Kansas City fanbase. Give me the Colts, I guess. They’ve been decent lately. As for the nightcap, there could be some fireworks in frigid Philadelphia. The Saints aren’t going to start as slowly as Chicago did, and I think their defense is superior to Philadelphia’s. The Eagles have such a wealth of skill talent, though, and I think they’ll keep up. If I have to guess, I’ll take the Saints; they’re due to win a road playoff game. (They’ve not done that in franchise history; in fact, the only outdoor playoff game they’ve won was their Super Bowl victory over the Colts.)
Enjoy the playoff games, (or whatever else you have going on today; stay warm if possible) and let’s hope January 2015 is full of meaningful Bears football.