This morning on my radio show, The Wake-up Call, on sportstownchicago.com I was joined by Russell Baxter, NFL writer/researcher with contributions to Athlon sports, NFL Magazine, FootballPros.com, NationalFootballAuthority.com NFL.com, and ThePostGame.com in addition to his work on his website at www.profootballguru.com.
I had Russell on to put his brain to work which is a veritable encyclopedia of all things NFL.
Rusell and I chatted about the Bears, the NFC North race, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the evolution of the running back position, and you can’t talk about the NFL without mentioning Tim Tebow.
A sampling of the Bears related questions I asked Russell included:
What should Bears fans expect to see from Cutler and Marshall this season?
It’s been awhile since Mike Tice has run an offense, so what type of scheme should we see this fall and how do you envision him and Jeremy Bates co-existing?
There was no player in the NFL that was a greater percent of his team’s offense besides Matt Forte last year, so what are they do to if he holds for any amount of time?
Is Michael Bush capable of being an every down back in the event of a Forte holdout?
How much will Bears first round pick, Shea McClellin help a Bears pass rush that was tied for 30th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate at 5.2%
To hear Russell’s answers to these questions and more, click here for the podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt
Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.
The NFL released the schedules for the upcoming season and upon first glance it’s easy to give a gut reaction to the games listen on the schedule. Prior to the draft and the addition of free agent rookies to the roster the predictions can appear to be a little askew.
With the draft in the rear view mirror and the picks having sufficiently been digested I will take a week by week look at the Bears schedule for the 2012 championship season.
Andrew Luck and the Colts invade Soldier Field and the Bears should have no trouble putting away the rebuilding Colts who finished with the team that tied for the worst record in the league last year. Bears win.
A Thursday night affair on NFL Network in Lambeau Field will be a tough test for the Bears. I give the edge to the Packers because they hold home field advantage in what figures to be a close game. Bears lose.
Home against the Rams, the second worst team in the league last year, in fact the Bears play 4 games against the three worst teams last season when you factor in the two games against division foe Minnesota. Another slam dunk even though the Rams should be improved with Jeff Fisher running the show and assuming Sam Bradford stays healthy. Bears win.
A Monday night tilt at Dallas will provide a test for the Bears and this is a pivotal game as I make my predictions. A win and this could be a very nice season while a loss could mean the Bears are fighting for a playoff spot. Playing a hunch, I think the Bears will win a game in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter and improve to 3-1
The Bears get a break after the short week and get the Jacksonville Jaguars who may challenge for the top pick in the 2013 draft. Although the game is on the road, the Jaguars should not present a stiff challenge to knock off the Bears. Bears win.
Bye- the one week I am guaranteed of not being wrong.
Playing their third primetime game in their first six games, the Bears welcome Calvin Johnson and the Lions to the Lakefront and this matchup has the makings of a high scoring clash of two division rivals. At home I give the Bears a slight advantage and win on a Robbie Gould field goal in OT.
Sticking at home for the second week in a row, the Cam Newton Express rolls into town and the Carolina Panthers may be one of the more improved teams in the NFL this season. I don’t think they have enough on defense to slow the Bears offense down. Cam Newton gets his yards, but not the touchdowns in this game. Bears win.
The Music City hosts the Bears as the Bears travel down South to take on the Tennessee Titans. The big question is who starts for the Titans. Will it be veteran incumbent Matt Hasselbeck or last year’s top pick Jake Locker? Whoever is taking snaps under center will have his hands full with a Bears defense, however this has the “trap game” feel to it, and the Bears coaching staff will have to anticipate this and get the players ready to take on a talented if not under performing team. Bears win a nail biter.
Hosting another primetime game, the Bears welcome Arian Foster and the Houston Texans into town and last year’s top defense led by youngsters JJ Watt and Brooks Reed prove too much for the Bears offensive line and force Jay Cutler in one too many mistakes. Bears lose.
On the road vs. last year’s team of destiny the San Francisco 49ers, the Bears are unable to fix the offensive line issues that cost them a win against Houston and SF does more of the same and sacks Cutler and forces too many bad throws as Jim Harbaugh gets the win over his former team. Bears lose.
Bears get healthy against the Vikings and take two weeks of frustration out on QB Christian Ponder and the Minnesota secondary gets torched by Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and rookie Alshon Jeffery who has biggest game of his early career with 6 catches for 105 yards and two scores. Bears win.
Seeking revenge against the team who ended wide receiver Johnny Knox’s season last year, the Seattle Seahawks run into a ferocious Bears defense and the Seahawks QB conundrum plagues them on a chilly November in Chicago. Bears win.
Heading into the fourth quarter of the season as Bears Head Coach refers to the breakdown of the schedule at 9-3; the Bears are poised to clinch a playoff berth and are in play with Green Bay for the division title. Facing the Vikings for the second time in three weeks is not enough time for the Vikings to solve the Bears offense or defensive front seven and the Bears leave the Metrodome, for perhaps the last time if Minnesota is successful in their bid for funding for a new stadium. Bears win.
The last home game of the reguoar season brings the team up north to the Windy City. The Packers and their fans decked out in their finest hunting garb and cheese blocks on their head have a long drive up I-90 as the Bears get payback for their defeat suffered at the hands of the Pack in week two. Bears win.
Heading out west to Arizona with a playoff berth already locked up, the Bears face another potential trap game. Will Kevin Kolb be under center or will it be last year’s revelation John Skelton? The bigger question is does it even matter? The Cardinals have a sneaky good defense and some talent outside in the form of Larry Fitzgerald and rookie Michael Floyd. But the Bears defense forces four Cardinal turnovers and Devin Hester runs back a punt for a score. Bears cruise to a win.
Finishing up the season in the Motor City and tied atop the NFC North with Green Bay the Lions face a must win to keep their playoff hopes alive in the NFC. The Lions come out and find Calvin “Megatron” Johnson for a big touchdown on the opening possession and sprint to a 21-7 lead at halftime. The bears mount a second half comeback and tie the game at 21 apiece as the fourth quarter begins, but the Bears run out of gas to a desperate Lions team and await the score to the Packers game to determine the division title. Bears lose.
Final regular season record: 12-4
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt
Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America. Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks since birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.
The NFL’s version of Christmas
Luck, Griffin III headline 2012 draft class
By Patrick Schmidt
On the eve of the biggest event the NFL has to offer which doesn’t take place on the gridiron is lacking suspense at the top much like when you peek into mom and dad’s rooms and peek at what “Santa” got you for Christmas that year.
That doesn’t mean it’s still not exciting and brings your levels of anxiousness and intrigue to all new highs.
The NFL draft is set to get underway with the first round on Thursday at 6pm (EST) and many General Managers and Coaches around the league are ready to find out what’s underneath the tree and rip off the wrapping paper and see what new toy they have to play with.
The top two picks are anti-climactic and if you’re hosting a draft party that would be the perfect time to make sure your snacks are out and prepared and that there is plenty of ice for the beverages that will no doubt consumed in high volume.
This week the Indianapolis Colts confirmed what many had known for months and said Andrew Luck will be their pick. Many have said Luck is the best prospect at his position since the man he is replacing, the legendary Peyton Manning, who was released this offseason following a series of neck surgeries.
The second worst kept secret after who the Colts would take atop the draft is who would go immediately after him. Once the Redskins traded with the Rams to move up four spots up to two, the cat was out of the bag and the ‘Skins were going to draft the Heisman trophy winner, Robert Griffin III and bring his unique skill set to the Nation’s capitol.
The real intrigue begins with the Minnesota Vikings who are essentially on the clock with the third overall pick. For weeks the prevailing thought was that USC left tackle, Matt Kalil would be the pick and give last year’s first rounder Christian Ponder protection for the quarterback’s blindside.
However, as the war room debates have heated up in Minneapolis, the thought is that LSU cornerback, Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State wide receiver, Justin Blackmon could be in play. Could this be more pre draft subterfuge?
Probably, but don’t discount the Vikings from trying to trade down to a team trying to trade up for Texas A&M QB, Ryan Tannehill or Trent Richardson.
The Draft is here and it’s time to celebrate the union of college football and the National Football League spread out over three days. I holiday of sorts for football fans across the nation.
The NFL Draft is full of big, fast, strong, and intriguing prospects that tantalize fans, GM’s, and coaches with potential and upside. Meanwhile striking fear into their hearts when words and phrases such as, one year wonder, tweener, low motor, off the field concerns and questionable character are muttered when referring to a prospect.
The one guarantee there is to the NFL draft is that a few teams will wind up with their version of a Red Ryder BB gun under their tree, and many more will end up stuck with a sweater knitted from grandma and the dread of waiting another year in hopes of finding that illustrious new toy.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt
Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from the greatest city in the world, Chicago, Illinois. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America. Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks since birth and is an avid college football fan. Patrick is the host of a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10.