Saturday, January 1, 2011
Learning to cope with good times.
It's amazing. I'm pretty sure as late as week eight or somewhere around that time, I seriously expected this team to sink possibly as low as ten losses or more. Here we sit, one week to go, and there really couldn't have been many ways for the post-bye-week 2010 season to go any better. Sure it would have been nice to beat up on the Bills a little bit more or for the team to not have its collective shit pushed in against the Patriots, but man, god damn. Just god damn. A 7-1 won-loss record, victories over actual playoff teams in the Eagles and Jets, a Division Title, and with the Eagles screwing the pooch versus the Vikings, the Bears have suddenly fallen ass-backwards into a first-round bye. And oh yeah, speaking of those guys, not only have the Bears scored two convincing wins over the Vikings, and not only struck down the Dark Lord in his final last clawing reach for playoff contention, effectively ending his relevance to those not employed in sports broadcasting, but also quite possibly even retired the sonovabitch a few weeks later, when Corey Wootton smote his ruin upon the frozen turf. It's like all of a sudden, everything is going right - almost too right - and I have completely forgotten how to deal with this sort of thing.
Sunday's game against the Jets was one of those completely unwinnable games I was looking at in horror a few week back, even at a point where it seemed to my pessimistic ass that the Bears might not completely waste the season. There I was, staring down a Murderer's Row that included the Jets, the Patriots, the Packers, a Vikings team that I really thought would have pulled some stupid shit and win both times just to piss me off, and a Detroit team that had already unofficially beaten the Bears once. I figured that would add at least four or five losses at one point, and as it stands now, the Bears have beaten all but one of those teams, and the Packers game barely even means anything now. And they actually came from behind against the Jets following an interception returned for a touchdown, and in my mind's own made-up statistics, I don't think that's ever happened in the history of this team. The torture-porn horror of the Pats game aside, the Bears are actually managing to fight back from situations that would have meant instant death in past years, or hell, meant instant death even earlier this year.
So here we are now, in a season that's about a million miles away from where I thought it would be in October. I figured Jay Cutler would be done for the year by the halfway point, but he's still sticking around, is poised to be the first Bear QB since the Blessed One, Erik Kramer did it like fifteen years ago, and has become the first bear ever to throw for 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons. Which, come to think of it, probably says a lot about why the Bears have mostly been a non-factor in the modern era of helmets with face masks and black people being allowed to attend games, but that's a whole 'nother rant entirely. Anyway, the Bears have finally decided to embrace the quarterback position as a Useful Thing, somehow managed to keep him alive behind their junior varsity offensive line, and as a result, Cutler is pretty much already no worse than the team's #2 or #3 all-time QB, and Johnny Knox is damn close to being the Bears first 1,000 receiver since a time Jim Miller was on the team and Marty Booker didn't blow dicks yet. And Matt Forte, the dude that Mike Martz refused to use as anything but a check-down receiver for so much of the year, is this close to the thousand yard mark himself, and is actually averaging over four yards a carry for the first time ever. And to magnify how huge all this is, all of this is with Cutler running for his life and Forte having to go into business for himself half the time with The Doom of 2010 blocking for them. Without the crippling O-line neglect of the last decade or so, this could be a goddamn 15-1 team, but hell, if the Bears finish 11-5 even, I'll take it.
TOMORROW: The Bears head to Green Bay to close out the season in an almost certainly pointless game against the Packers. The Bears have sworn up and down for like a week that they're going to play this just like any other week, but I don't think that even Lovie and the gang are that stupid, and the fact that a barely-dinged-up Earl Bennett is sitting this one out is probably a good indication of a lot of resting going on. There's a one-in-a-zillion shot that the Falcons could fuck up earlier in the day against the worst team in the NFL, but even with all the crazy horseshoe-out-the-ass breaks the Bears have been getting this year, I don't see it happening. If that did happen, though, the Bears would be playing for the #1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage, but seriously; not gonna happen.
But just in case the Falcons screw the pooch or the Bears Brain Trust is dumb enough to go all-out in a game with nothing to gain, the Bears should win. I know, Aaron Rodgers is the closest thing the NFL has to pre-2010 Payton Manning right now, and Clay Matthews Jr. is playing like Clay Matthews Sr. on steroids, (which isn't too far from the truth, probably) but this is the same busted-up team with the same busted-ass offensive line they had earlier in the year that would false-start every time Julius Peppers looked at them funny, and the Bears are a much better team than they were at that point in the year. Yeah, the Packers are a good team, but they ain't that fuckin' special, regardless of Michael Strahan's gap-toothed ass on the radio the other day, throwing them up as a possibility for the best team in the NFC. (And he didn't even mention the Bears, who seriously aren't as good as the Falcons or maybe even the Saints, but should at least get mentioned when they're the number two seed, you know? Of course, I shouldn't be too pissed-off about things like that, because I figure the second people start to actually acknowledge that the Bears just might be an okay team, that's when they'll lose by like 70 to someone like the stupid Rams.)
So, all things being equal, I'd say the Bears win this, possibly in a not-as-close-as-it-looks Eagles-style game, but most likely in a Jets game style shootout. HOWEVER - You have to remember that the Falcons will never, ever lose to the stupid Panthers, and this game - regardless of whether they rest the starters or not - will mean absolutely nothing for the Chicago Bears. They have the bye, they have the division; they got all they need. Meanwhile, the Packers must win this game to get into the playoffs. For them this IS a playoff game. As the saying goes, the rabbit always outruns the fox, because the fox is running for a meal, but the rabbit is running for his life. Thing is, the Bears already have their meal; they're just playing to get an extra scoop of mashed potatoes. The Packers on the other hand are playing for their lives - Win and play another day, lose and die, pretty much. And mentally, I don't know if playoff momentum or the bragging rights of sweeping the division will be enough motivation for the Bears to bring the thunder against a team that has its back to the wall and a machete in its hand, fighting for the last hope of survival.
...But then again, it seems like "we have to win this game or else" teams always fuck up somehow.
PREDICTION: Bears 24, Packers 21