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Posts Tagged ‘Super Bowl’

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)

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Chicago Bears Let Super Bowl Slip Through Their Fingers

Posted by sportsmaven on February 6, 2007

I know what you’re thinking, that the Chicago Bears were thoroughly dominated statistically in yesterday’s Super Bowl XLI. I beg to differ with my own Super Bowl analysis — the Bears were actually in it until the end. So what did the Sports Maven see in the matchup between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts? I saw plenty to be disturbed about and things that are very encouraging for next season. My disturbing thoughts are:

1. The Bears played way too conservatively offensively. The Bears were 6 1/2 pt. underdogs coming into the game and had nothing to lose. When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, first time in Super Bowl history that has happened, and the fastest score in Super Bowl history, the momentum of the game immediately swung to the Bears. When Chris Harris intercepted Peyton Manning on the Colts first offensive series, the momentum for the Bears was off the charts. I thought Ron Turner’s offensive gameplan was too concentrated on running the ball out of the gate and not using the pass to loosen up the Colts 8-9 man fronts. In their most successful offensive games of the season, the offense started by going deep early and establishing the passing game early. Then it became easier to pound the ball. I felt that Turner played into the Colts hands with his gameplan. Too many 3 and outs (15 possessions, 48 plays, for the game, and average of 12 3 and outs and 3 drives of 4 plays.) The Bears offense should have attacked after the Manning INT. Instead, it was 3 and out, momentum leaving the Bears. All and all, a ridiculously poor game plan from the offense. This play to not lose mentality has got to go. Despite all this, the Bears are still only 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.

2. The Bears played way too conservatively on defense too. Bears played as though they were trying not to lose the game. My friends at dabearsblog.com said it best. Where was the blitz? When the Bears blitzed, Peyton Manning looked rattled. It was certainly effective, but problem was that it was rarely used. The bend but not break philosophy also has to go. Another game plan that played into the hands of the Colts, particularly Peyton Manning. Giving n Manning an opportunity to establish rhythm was the WORST thing the Bears could have done and they did it. This game was an opportunity to attach Manning, make him uncomfortable, but that never happened, as the defense played scared. I felt the Bears defense watched too many Colts players catch balls in front of them and then didn’t make plays. The Bears defense not stopping the Colts on third down was equally important as the Bears offense’s failure to run more than three plays at a time. Despite all this, the Colts couldn’t score offensive TD’s and the Bears are still 5 points down midway though the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl.

3. Third down conversions on both sides of the ball were not in favor of the Bears. The Bears couldn’t stop the Colts on third down. The Colts were 8 of 18 on third down, while the Bears were 3 of 10. Enough said on this one.

4. Turnovers and poor tackling hurts the Bears. The Bears committed 5 turnovers and missed more tackles than a Pop Warner little league team. Five turnovers in the Super Bowl? You gotta be kidding me….

5. Rex Grossman needs much work, more improvement, and some competition. Rex couldn’t hold the wet ball. Rex couldn’t take a snap, despite the fact that he took about 99.5% of all the snaps this season. Rex threw two costly interceptions, one with the Bears down only 5 points with most of the 4th quarter remaining. Rex is too much of a gambler. He wants to make the big play, and is very impatient. If there is one person Grossman should take cues from, it’s the guy across the sideline from him, Peyton Manning. Grossman is immature. He is immature in how he plays the game. He is immature in how he handles the media. He is immature in what comes out of his mouth. He needs to grow up. Shut up and play. Rex is too talented to be as wildly inconsistent as he displayed this year.

My encouraging thoughts are:

Davin Hester’s Touchdown in SB
Chris Harris Interception in SB

1. Bears return 19 of 22 starters. Nineteen of 22 starters under contract. The lone 3 are Pro Bowl OG Reuben Brown, who has expressed a strong interest in coming back, an interest shared by Bears management, Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs, who will most likely be “franchised” if a new contract is not worked out, and DT Ian Scott, who inherited the starting DT position when Pro Bowl DT Tommie Harris went down for the season with a torn left hamstring.

2. Mike Brown and Tommie Harris will be back from injuries. The jury is still out on how they will play after injury. Tommie Harris is still young and many notable players have come back from a torn hamstring and been effective again. (Ray Lewis being one of them). Mike Brown’s Lisfranc ligament tear on his right foot is the more concerning of the two injuries, as players who have historically injured that ligament have difficult time returning to a high level of play. Nonetheless, the two stalwarts of the Bears D should be back in time for training camp.

3. The NFC North Division should once again be weak — the Bears will still have the most talented team in the division. They will not be playing a last place schedule next season, but 6 games against division foes should ease that pain. Of course, the Green Bay Packers will be improved with the announcement of Brett Favre’s return, so if anything, show up for BOTH Packer games.

4. The Bears are $23.9 million under the 2007 Salary Cap — this is a good thing, as the Bears will have a short laundry list of needs going into next season.

Urlacher SB Disappointment

So the end of a good season cut short with a Super Bowl loss….lets finish the job next year for the bandwagon for Glendale, AZ begins today. Next up, the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (of all places) and the 2007 NFL Draft, where the Bears will have the 31st pick of the draft.

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Super Bowl XLI Predictions

Posted by sportsmaven on February 3, 2007

The Super Bowl brings the good, the bad, and the ugly in predictions from almost everybody who is somebody on the planet. From athletes, to the media, and celebrities, everyone is an expert when it comes to their Super Bowl picks. In an attempt to consolidate as many Super Bowl predictions as I could find and hear this week, the following lists are the “expert” opinions on who wins Super Bowl XLI on Sunday:

NFL Players, Coaches, Analysts Picks:

    • ESPN Analysts

      Len Pasquarelli – Colts 27-23

      John Clayton – Colts 27-17

      Chris Mortensen – Colts 27-20

      Gene Wojciechowski – Bears 27-26

      Gary Horton – Colts 31-24

      Jeremy Green – Bears 26-23

      Bill Simmons – Bears 33-30

      Jemele Hill – Bears 34-31

      Scoop Jackson – Bears 31-28

      Ron Jaworski – Colts 31-21

      Sal Paolantonio – Colts 31-20

      Eric Allen – Bears 21-17

      Mike Golic – Colts 31-23

      Greg Garber – Colts 30-21

      KC Joyner – Bears 31-27

      John Banks, Deputy Editor – Colts 31-14

      Peter Lawrence-Riddell – Colts 28-17

      Joe Wojciechowski – Colts 27-20

      Chris Berman – Colts 30-20

      Joe Theismann – Colts

      Merril Hoge – Colts

      HBO’s Inside the NFL Team

      Bob Costas – Colts

      Cris Carter – Colts

      Dan Marino – Colts

      Cris Collinsworth – Bears

      ESPN’s Around the Horn Team

      Tim Cowlishaw – Bears

      Tony Reali – Colts

      Jay Mariotti – Bears

      Woody Paige – Colts

      Jackie MacMullen – Colts

      Kevin Blackistone – Colts

      ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption Team

      Michael Wilbon – Bears

      Tony Kornheiser – Colts

      Other ESPN Personalities

      Jim Rome – Colts 24-17

      Andrew Siciliano – Bears

      Ray Ratto – Colts 31-16

      Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show Period

      Chris Rose – Colts

      Rodney Peete – Bears

      Leann Tweeden – Colts

      Rob Dibble – Bears

      John Salley – Colts

      Chicago Tribune Reporters

      Terry Bannon – Colts 27-23

      Mike Downey – Bears 28-26

      Brian Hamilton – Colts 27-23

      Ed Sherman – Colts 31-20

      Bob Foltman – Colts 24-21

      John Mullin – Bears 21-20

      Rick Morrissey – Bears 28-17

      Fred Mitchell – Bears 27-23

      Dan McGrath – Colts 30-21

      Melissa Issacson – Bears 28-24

      David Haugh – Bears 31-28

      Don Pierson – Colts 30-24

      Skip Myslinski – Colts 34-21

      Paul Sullivan – Bears 30-27

      Lew Freedman – Bears 27-21

      Mark Gonzales – Colts 31-27

      Teddy Greenstein – Bears 27-23

      Philip Hersh – Bears 30-27

      Ed Hinton – Bears 24-9

      Michael Hirsley – Bears 28-21

      KC Johnson – Bears 28-14

      Barry Temkin – Bears 31-27

      Dave Van Dyck – Bears 23-20

      Actors/Celebrities/Athletes/Politicians

      David Letterman – Colts 34-27

      Tom Dreesen – Bears 30-27

      Craig Ferguson – Colts

      Morgan Freeman – Colts

      William H. Macy – Colts

      Dennis Farina – Bears 23-17

      Joe Mantegna – Bears 31-21

      Gary Sinise – Bears 24-21

      Dennis Franz – Bears 24-13

      Bernie Mac – Bears 33-31

      Ashton Kutcher – Bears 24-20

      Paul Newman – Bears 21-20

      Dwayne Wade – Bears 28-24

      Sylvester Stallone – Colts 38-30

      Jack Nicklaus – Colts 34-24

      Arnold Palmer – Colts 31-24

      Serena Williams – Colts 17-13

      Sen. John McCain – Colts by 6

      Sen. John Kerry – Colts 34-27

      Al Franken – Bears 21-20

      Bill O’Reilly – Colts 31-10

      Larry King – Colts 21-7

      Charlie Sheen – Colts 37-33

      Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR – Colts 31-28

      William Shatner – Colts 24-17

      Haley Joel Osment – Colts 31-24

      Mickey Rooney – Bears 24-14

      Tony Sirico – Colts 21-14

      Pat Robertson – Colts 17-14

      Jerry Falwell – Colts by 14

      Duane “Dog” Chapman – Bears 35-28

      John Wooden – Colts

      Bobby Thomson – Colts 24-17

      Ralph Branca – Colts 41-24

      Jennie Finch – Colts 34-27

      Danica Patrick – Bears 31-27

      Molly Sims – Colts 31-24

      Kendra Wilkinson (Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend) – Colts 27-13

      Dick Vitale – Colts 28-21

      Tony Parker – Colts 25-20

      Phil Jackson – Bears 20-15

      Bob Cousy – Colts 37-12

      Leroy Nieman – Colts 24-10

      Ed Asner – Bears 27-24

      Elisabeth Shue – Colts 35-21

      Dionne Warwick – Colts 28-21

      Wayne Newton – Bears 21-7

      Dick Van Patten – Colts 31-21

      Connie Stevens – Bears 32-23

      Jack Valenti – Colts 28-27

      Tobin Bell – Colts 31-6

      Robert Loggia – Colts 35-29

      Buzz Aldrin – Colts 28-17

      Chuck Yeager – Colts 21-14

      Sen. Richard Lugar – Colts

      Richard M. Daley – Bears

      Mike Eruzione – Colts 31-21

      Michael Phelps – Colts 28-17

      Jermain Taylor – Colts 30-24

      Jeremy Wariner – Bears 27-10

      Kerri Walsh – Colts 27-18

      Ian MacShane – Bears 38-35

      William Sanderson – Colts 31-17

      Leah Remini – Colts 34-23

      Jesse L. Martin – Colts 31-24

      James Denton – Colts 26-16

      Jim Caviezel – Colts 31-20

      John Amos – Bears 24-17

      Marisol Nichols – Bears 24-20

      Stephen Root – Colts 27-21

      Robert Iler, Jr. – Bears 28-24

      Dawn Wells – Colts 24-14

      Barry Williams – Colts 27-17

      Florence Henderson – Colts 24-14

      Adam West – Colts 28-24

      Sam Hornish – Colts 41-14

      Matt Kenseth – Colts 34-17

      Jeff Burton – Colts 28-24

      Susan Anton – Colts 31-24

      L. Scott Turow – Bears 24-20

      Vince Neil – Colts 31-24

      Joan Jett – Colts 28-14

      Carrot Top – Colts 31-17

      Penn & Teller – Colts 28-17

      James Blake – Colts 27-17

      Reggie Miller – Colts

      Steve Kerr – Bears

      LeBron James – Colts

      Andy Roddick – Colts

      Bill Bellamy – Bears

      Anna Kournikova – Bears

      Enrique Iglesias – Bears

      Stewart Cink – Colts

      John Daly – Colts

      Davis Love III – Colts

      Brad Faxon – Colts

      Charles Howell III – Colts

      David Toms – Colts

      Justin Leonard – Colts

      Jeff Sluman – Bears

      Aaron Baddeley – Colts

      Fred Couples – Colts

      Camilo Villegas – Bears

      Tom Glavine – Colts

      David Wright – Bears

      John Maine – Colts

      Jose Reyes – Colts

      Vernon Wells – Colts

      NBC Staff – 3 of 5 pick the Colts

      USA Today – 5 of 6 pick the Colts

  • Zach Thomas, LB, Dolphins – Bears

    Roy Williams, S, Cowboys – Bears

    Drew Brees, QB, Saings – Colts

    Sean Payton, Head Coach, Saints – Colts

    Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals – Colts

    Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks – Bears

    TJ Houshmanzadeh, WR, Bengals – Bears

    Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – Colts by 14

    Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins – Colts

    Joe Montana – Colts

    Mike Ditka – Bears 28-24

    Jack Del Rio, Head Coach, Jaguars – Colts

    Curtis Martin, RB, Jets – Colts

    LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers – Colts

    Steve Mariucci – Colts

    Michael Strahan, DE, Giants – Colts

    Jarrett Payton, RB, Titans – Bears

    Troy Aikman – Colts

    Michael Irvin – Colts

    Media

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Oh My, Oh My, Miami

Posted by sportsmaven on February 3, 2007

Friday in Miami, what a spectacle. The NFL has been in town, in force, for two weeks now, bringing their biggest event, Super Bowl XLI with them. This is the first time since 1999 that the Super Bowl has graced Miami and you would think that the town had never seen the likes of the NFL, ever. The Super Bowl is a celebration of the NFL season, a reason to have ginormous, decadent, over-the-top parties with intoxicated, scantily clad women chased by men with a libido of a teenage boy, and oh, by the way, a championship game that rivals no other. Everyone who’s everyone is here in Miami, at least celebrity-wise. You can’t go a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean without hitting some sort of party event by the plethora of NFL corporate sponsors.

captfldb14702030630super_bowl_leather_and_lace_party_fldb147.jpgsuper-bowl-tickets-2-2-07.jpg

In case you’re wondering, Playboy is having a Super Bowl party at the American Airlines Arena on Saturday night. For a tidy sum of $5,000, you can purchase a ticket to eat gourmet food by Chicago’s very own Levy Restaurant Group with over 30 wonderfuly friendly and sexy Playboy Playmates and models. Not to leave anyone out, but Penthouse is also having a Super Bowl party in Miami, their Goin’ Deep Party on Saturday. Party with 28 Penthouse Pets until 5am. Shaquille O’Neal had his “Sexy 60” party last night at the Versace Mansion. Even Tony Siragusa is sponsoring a Super bowl Cheerleader party. I gotta go find this guy!

Other notable parties include Leather & Laces party with Carmen Electra, Jenny McCarthy and others. How about a two day, two site party Bauer’s Pure Rush Super Bowl party on Thursday and Friday night. The Maxim is tonight at an undisclosed location in Miami. There is a Prince concert tonight, A Jimmy Buffett concert tomorrow night, and Billy Joel is rumored to be sliding into a local haberdashery and doing an impromptu piano bar tickling session on a local Steinway piano.

Everywhere you walk, there are beautiful women, lots of food and drink, sports shows, media members, ordinary football fans, cars, celebrities, all drinking the Kool-Aid of the Super Bowl life. There is beach, surf, fun, and sun. A $100,000 Pepsi Can for a giveaway, plus two tickets to the Super Bowl for life (or 60 years, which ever comes first.) And then, there are the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears. It amazes me how these two team can be right in the middle of all this temptation and stay out of trouble. It takes intense focus and commitment to a higher team goal and a overpowering realization of what exactly is at stake.

Both these teams possess that focus and commitment, taking the lead of their perspective head coaches. This has to be the most harmonious, lovefest of a Super Bowl between two opponents in the history of the NFL. Both coaches are virtually best friends. Both teams had nothing but good things to say about each other. Lots of handshaking, backslapping, smiling, laughing and cajoling with intermingling players from both team. It’s hard to hate anyone with the Indianapolis Colts, I try, but I can’t bring myself around to it. They are likeable guys, no TO’s, no Bill Romanowski’s in this crowd. They are both teams with midwestern values, coached by two respectable, low-key men.

r254894783.jpg

If I were Lovie Smith, I would be pulling all the motivational stops out, playing every disrespect card I can play to whip my team into a frenzy. The Bears are underdogs in every way possible, and they seem to be relishing that role, as if they know something that virtually everyone else is missing. If I were Lovie, I would take the team on a midnight field trip to the Miami Convention Center and walk each player, individually, right by the Vince Lombardi Trophy, letting them know that they are “this” far away from bringing that baby home to Chicago. I would let the team know that they only people who believe in them are the 53 men in the locker room, the coaches and staff, and the 4th phase of their game, the Chicago fans, Folks, the pressures is off the Bears now. They weren’t even the consensus pick to be in the Super Bowl, and now, definitely not the consensus pick to win the Super Bowl. Lose is what everyone EXPECTS from the Bears. The Bears can come out loose and free, enjoy every moment, and play as though this is the last game of their lives.

The stage is set. Tomorrow is the last day, the last dress rehersal for Sunday’s big show and the players, coaches, and staff can’t wait. For everyone else, I hope the game is a half as good as all the parties I wish we could attend……

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