Shout out to Myles and AB for holding down the Michael Jordan Return Jersey Number episode of Talkin’ Toros while I took some much-needed time off. You can catch the pod here, follow Talkin’ Toros on Twitter, and check out the website for more.
• Based on Football Outsiders’ DVOA Strength of Schedule, the Bears had it ROUGH:
Playoff Team SOS:
9. CHI #DaBears
10. LAR #RamsHouse
11. TB #GoBucs
16. NO #Saints
19. SEA #Seahawks
21. BUF #BillsMafia
23. GB #GoPackGo
25. KC #ChiefsKingdom
26. TEN #Titans
28. WAS #WashingtonFootball
29. BAL #RavensFlock
30. CLE #Browns
31. PIT #HereWeGo
32. IND #ForTheShoe
— Butkus Stats & Analytics (@ButkusStats) January 7, 2021
• Looking at this strength of schedule ranking and thinking back to the Bears season has me nodding my head and saying to myself: “This tracks.” Because not only did it feel like Chicago’s football team played three different seasons, games so often felt like a taffy pull. So many games felt like a great struggle to gain a yard, move the chains, and get into field goal range. There were so many times where the defense bent, and bent, and bent, but didn’t break.
• I love Khalil Mack’s perspective entering Super Wild Card Weekend. The Bears’ star pass-rusher sees new life in the team’s playoff appearance. He views this upcoming game against the Saints as an opportunity for redemption. No one strives to go 8-8. But everyone strives to win a Super Bowl. And because the Bears qualified for the postseason, they get a chance to go out and play their way into the biggest game on the schedule. And he’s definitely embracing the underdog role, via Nathan Smith of the Bears’ official website:
“Me personally, I always feel like an underdog. It’s just in me. A lot of these guys do as well, man. It’s a lot of disrespect that we have been hearing. So you have to use all of that to your advantage.”
• Sure am glad Mack and friends are up for the challenge, because it’s not going to be a stroll down Bourbon Street when the Saints offense takes the field:
See y’all Sunday ❤️
— Alvin Kamara (@A_kamara6) January 8, 2021
Or perhaps the rib injury, which occurred the week before. But he said there were a "few" weeks. He's battled a lot of stuff this year. I think you see a clear difference in how he's throwing the ball now. It is obvious.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) January 7, 2021
• A healthy Alvin Kamara and healthier Drew Brees won’t be easy to take down. However, I can’t not think about how the Saints needed overtime and two offensive possessions to beat the Bears by just a field goal earlier this season. I understand Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were out. And I realize their availability for Sunday’s game shifts things. But not only was that game close, I could make an argument the Bears should’ve won had they not squandered some key moments. If the swing moments go their way this time, we could see an upset out south. Not saying it’ll happen, but there’s a blueprint out there.
• Some unexpected love from Bob McGinn of The Athletic, who hands out All-NFC North awards and has praise for several important Bears. On the field, cornerback Jaylon Johnson picked up Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He certainly earned that award, even though he missed the final three games with a shoulder injury. Linebacker Roquan Smith shared Defensive Player of the Year honors with Green Bay’s Za’Darius Smith. The Bears’ Smith is the first inside linebacker to win the award since Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs tied for the award in 2006. Meanwhile, the Packers’ Smith won the award outright last year. That’s been quite the find for Green Bay.
• On the coaching side, Chuck Pagano shared the Defensive Coordinator of the Year with Green Bay’s Mike Pettine. Chris Tabor landed Special Teams Coach of the Year honors. And finally, receivers coach Mike Furrey shared the Position Coach of the Year with three others. See … it wasn’t all bad for the Bears in 2020.
• For your listening pleasure:
— Picks for Pace (@PicksForPace) January 8, 2021
"There's a better chance that Aaron Rodgers plays for #DaBears than Deshaun Watson." 👀@AdamHoge & @adamjahns bring your Watson trade ideas to the air & welcome @Kat_Terrell to preview the Bears-Saints playoff matchup.
— The Athletic Chicago (@TheAthleticCHI) January 7, 2021
• The Deshaun Watson stuff sure is nuts. And it’s not like it came out of nowhere either:
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 8, 2021
• We can disagree about how much pull players should have when it comes to hiring coaches and general managers. However, words matter. And that Watson was told something, only to watch the organization go back on it isn’t a good look.
• Who am I to argue with a two-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion?
If I’m Saints , 49ers or even Chicago…… I’m all in on this Watson news….
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) January 7, 2021
• A potentially important day for the Jaguars’ future has arrived:
No deal is imminent and the team has at least one other interview scheduled. But an important step in the process.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 8, 2021
• Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, Charles Woodson, and Jared Allen are among the 15 modern-era player finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021. Johnson and Woodson were long-time Bears tormentors during their respective careers. Manning’s first Super Bowl win came at the expense of Chicago’s football team. And then there’s Allen, who played 18 games over two seasons with the Bears before being traded to the Panthers for a 2016 sixth-round pick.
• Meet the forwards who will be lacing ’em up for the Blackhawks this season:
Getting to Know the 2021 Chicago Blackhawks: Forwardshttps://t.co/FT3OQuSIZf
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) January 7, 2021
• 🎵 Coby doin’ work, 0 on his shirt … 🎵
The best game of Coby's young career so far? https://t.co/LQySVZIN35
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 8, 2021