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Posts Tagged ‘AFC’

Chicago Bulls Limp Into All-Star Break

Posted by sportsmaven on February 15, 2007

I wanted to write this post last night immediately after the Chicago Bulls game ended last night, but I decided to wait before expressing what I thought about the Bulls performance and the loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, 100-85. The Bobcats are one of the league’s worst teams, entering the game with an 18-33 record. Again, I note that this is a team that the Bulls should beat 9 times out of 10, but the problem is that when the Bulls plays these teams, they tend to play them on the 10th time, typically getting saddled with a loss.

Bulls Lose to Bobcats, 100-85
(AP Photo/Rick Havner)

The Chicago Bulls are not playing with a lot of confidence at this point and are limping into the all-star break on a low ebb. Even teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, on any given day when your confidence is low, can take the wood to you. Now, I know that the Bulls flight was delayed due to weather in Chicago and they didn’t get to their hotel until 3am, but that is how life in the NBA works. Life poses situations where it’s not always ideal and cozy. It’s called adversity and the Bulls are getting it in large doses. Yes, it would have been nice to get into town earlier, especially after coming off a the first night of a back to back situation. It would have been nice for the Bulls to get their rest, do their shoot around and be mentally and physically in peak performance for a game against a weak opponent like the Bobcats, but the Bulls again, came out sluggish and forgot how to play defense and gave less than maximum effort, from all appearances.

The margin of error for the Bulls is very small. They cannot afford to take nights off, even against weak teams. They are simply not that good that they can turn it on and off and cruise to victory after victory, yet this is how they approach key games in their season. The Bulls need to win as many games as they can against the weaker opponents in the league and yet they don’t. Their record against quality opponents is actually pretty good, as I outlined in an earlier post at the beginning of the week. It’s games like the Bobcats loss that could make or break a season, especially in a weak Eastern Conference. This is very reminiscent of the NFC vs. AFC in the NFL. The Bulls could emerge from the weak Eastern Conference and to face any number of stronger teams from the Western Conference and get swept out of the NBA Finals, like the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. (Although, unlike the Bears, the Bulls are not the class of the conference)

Another thing to note, the Bulls were snubbed once again when G Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks was named as a replacement for injured G Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets for the 2007 All Star Game this Sunday in Las Vegas. Not to discount Joe Johnson’s production or resume (he is scoring 25.1 ppg this season, but for a team with a 21-31 record.) This should be a wake up call for the Bulls, who have some decent talent on their team, but no real breakout talent (although I believe Luol Deng is developing into breakout talent. He must develop more consistency, but he beginning to do that on a nightly basis now.) Whatever is ailing this team needs to be fixed immediately and the All-Star Break is a good place to start that deep reflecting.

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Top 5 Ways To Make The Pro Bowl Better

Posted by sportsmaven on February 12, 2007

Yes, I was one of the few who actually admit that I watched this year’s NFL Pro Bowl on Saturday evening. As I snuggled up to my 42 in. plasma television with carry out from my favorite Northbrook, IL eatery, Francesca’s (great Italian food, by the way!) I watched what was actually a very interesting and entertaining Pro Bowl game. Devin Hester took the opening kickoff to the 19 yard line where he was tripped up by some sketchy Honolulu astro turf sort of stuff. What a difference a week makes for Hester. Actually, I couldn’t believe that the AFC actually kicked away from Hester on their second kickoff of the game. Come on, this is the PRO BOWL, not the Super Bowl. I suppose you want to turn off the few fans watching by not letting the game’s most prolific returner actually return a kick. The other thing about the Pro Bowl is that it would have been nice to see some of our own Chicago Bears players actually playing in the game (or even showing up, for that matter.)

2007 Pro Bowl

Is RB Tiki Barber retiring just in time? He clearly has lost a large amount of arm strength as indicated by the INT he threw to Ed Reed in the 1st quarter. He is clearly washed up. (well, maybe not so much) Drew Brees injury is the poster child for why many feel that the Pro Bowl is not a good game to play.

So I was happy to see that the NFL actually took most of my Top 5 ways to make the Pro Bowl better, and we, as the fans, will be the better off for that. My Top 5 suggestions were:

1. Play the game on Saturday instead of Sunday. I think they ought to play the Super Bowl on a Saturday too, seeing as it usually takes another full day to recover, whether you are at the game or at home hosting a Super Bowl party. Either way, these games work better on Saturdays, for do we really want to take a vacation day for the Super Bowl? And do we really want to stay up until 10pm on a Sunday night to watch the Pro Bowl (and miss Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and all those other Sunday night staples that are as additictive as crack?)

2. Mike all the players, let the fans hear what really goes on in the huddle. CBS did a great job of doing this, but the mikes they had SUCKED. I couldn’t hear squat when the QB’s were calling the plays. Fortunately, they had the play callers on both sides miked and when they switched to that, it worked brilliantly. Next year, get better microphones so we can hear what’s going on. Also, loved that Dan Dierdorf and Phil Simms were explaining what the play terminology meant. That was the best part of the game in my opinion.

3. Introduce a Skills Competition. This was great to see at halftime of the game. The kicking competition between Robbie Gould and Nate Kaeding was priceless and very entertaining. The other skills competitions I actually watched on the NFL Network. They were entertaining as well, with a strong man competition (# of reps at 225 lbs.) a passing, receiving competitions and a gauntlet competition that was entertaining. How about the NFL Cheerleader Playoffs? In fact, the NFL should require all teams to have cheerleaders next season. Since my Bears don’t have them, here is a shot of what could be:

NFL Cheerleaders 1NFL Cheerleaders 2NE Pats Cheerleader

4. More behind the scenes video. I want to see what a practice is like. I also want to go into the locker room and see what a player has to go through to get ready for a game, what do they do, how do they get ready. Blooper videos are also fun. How do the players spend the week in Honolulu? How about players interviewing players and coaches? How about pulling a fan out of the stands or better yet, having a fan win one of those season long NFL contests and have them call plays for the playcaller for one or two series (10 plays) for each team?

5. Amend the rules for more action. I love what the NFL to the rules for this game. No blitzes, no rushing the kickers, rules promoting one on one coverage, no ruling challenges. That was fantastic. Those rule changes brought out some nice play, some great 1 on 1 challenges (Champ Bailey vs. Donald Driver was pretty good)

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Super Bowl? Miami Here We Come!

Posted by sportsmaven on January 22, 2007

Don’t let anyone tell you that the Chicago Bears didn’t earn this victory today against the New Orleans Saints. I have never experienced the energy, passion, the intensity contained in Soldier Field today. I have never heard it so loud. The snow fell all game…it was perfect. I refer to my January 18th post as the keys to today’s game with outcomes:

For the Bears:

  1. Third down conversions as a key stat this week. The Bears are at 31% in stopping 3rd down coversions, which is #2 in the NFL in that category. The Bears held the Saints to 38% in 3rd down conversions.
  2. Secondly, do not let Drew Brees get comfortable in the pocket. Change the looks he’s getting, use the blitz early, take him out of his rhythm. If Brees is allowed to get comfortable early, his accurate passing will pick the Bears secondary apart, especially with little to no push to the quarterback from the Bears front four. Brees was sacked 3 times today including once on the 3rd play of the game. He was knocked down about 100 times, and committed a key intentional grounding penalty in the end zone to swing the momentum back to the Bears.
  3. Finally, win the turnover battle and get very physical. The Washington Redskins did this in the regular season and held Brees to his lowest QB rating of the season (59.9). Saints committed 4 turnovers (3 by Brees) Bears had no turnovers. Bears were clearly the more physical team today.

For the Saints:

  1. The Bears actually match up with the Saints fairly well, so the keys for the Saints are to establish the run early to loosen up the passing game. Deuce Mc Allister and Reggie Bush combined for 10 carries for 37 yards as the Saints abandoned the run early and threw 49 passes.
  2. Secondly, the Saints need their rush ends, Will Smith and Charles Grant to get a push on Rex Grossman to protect their weak secondary. The Saints are prone to the big play and when they give it up, they give it up BIG. (ask Fred Thomas about that) Put the heat on Rex and the Bears offense slams to a grinding halt. Rex Grossman hardly felt any heat and wasn’t sacked today. Fred Thomas was burned for a 33 yd. touchdown reception by Bernard Berrian.
  3. Finally, win the time of possession battle. Keep the #1 rated offense in the NFC on the field as much as possible. The Saints lost the time of possession battle, 35:15 to 24:45.

In the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning finally got over the hump called the New England Patriots 38-34 to meet the Bears in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4th in Miami, FL. Tom Brady had a last gasp opportunity and threw and interception that essentially ended the game. The early line for Super Bowl XLI is Colts giving 7. The NFL Today crew on ESPN and the ESPN analysts are already picking the Colts to win. I suppose the Bears will be playing that underdog card again. No need for me to tell you who I like. Here we go again….

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The Chicago Bulls DO Play Basketball In January, Well Kind Of…

Posted by sportsmaven on January 21, 2007

With the focus of the Chicago sports scene on the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game and this weekend’s Cubs Convention, it is easy to forget that there are other Chicago teams in the midst of their season. The Bulls played the Utah Jazz tonight at the United Center before embarking on their NFC-AFC Conference Championship tour/roadtrip to Indianapolis to play the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. I’ve been trying to hold off on a Bulls post until after the NFC Championship game, but thought tonight would provide a great opportunity to ease into a long, somewhat ho-hum NBA season. I just wanted to see if I could work both the Bulls and the Bears into the same post successfully (I use the word successfully very loosely)

The Bulls, winners of three in a row coming into tonight, couldn’t hit the side of a barn. They shot 38.2% from the field, including 8.3% from three point range, and they did it ugly. They did out rebound the Jazz 46 to 43, mostly out of self defense. Utah got physical with the Bulls, turning this game into a half court scrum, as noted by the 54 fouls and 72 free throws combined.

This game essentially displayed some fundamental flaws of the current Bulls team. The Bulls lack an inside scoring presence, and it doesn’t look like that presence is going to appear anytime soon. When the Bulls perimeter game is off, like it was tonight, it makes it difficult to stay in games such as tonight’s. The Bulls also didn’t defend well down the stretch tonight. When it mattered, they couldn’t stop Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, or even Derek Fisher from scoring key baskets and grabbing key rebounds. Now the Bulls go on the road to play a Pacers team that underwent an extreme makeover. (wouldn’t Al Harrington have looked good in a Bulls jersey right about now) The Bulls are a work in progress at the moment, and it shows in their night to night performance on the court.

As for that roadtrip, the Bulls plan to leave Chicago, by bus, just after 2pm CT today to avoid the traffic from the Chicago Bears/New Orleans Saints NFC Championship game, drive the 3.5 hours on a frozen interstate to pull into Indianapolis just in time to hit the traffic for the start of the Indianapolis Colts/New England Patriots AFC Championship game. If the Bulls play more games the way they did tonight, these might be the only championships they experience this season. At least they can say they were involved in two in one day.

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