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Good morning, frents!
It's officially Packers Week and the Bears are opening as 13-point underdogs for next Sunday night's game in Green Bay. Our friend Joe Ostrowski notes that might end up as the largest line in Matt Nagy's four-year history.
And yet are we sure it's big enough?
Cardinals 33, Bears 22
Hawks 3, Islanders 2 (SO)
Northwestern 67, Maryland 61
Illinois at Iowa (6, FS1)
Nuggets at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)
Friendly reminder: This is Ryan Pace's mess, too
David Montgomery deserves better.
So do Roquan Smith, Robert Quinn and a handful of other Bears.
All deserve better than the team Ryan Pace has built around them.
While the "Fire Nagy" chorus experienced another soggy round at Soldier Field, I thought Sunday's 33-22 loss to Arizona was a bigger indictment of Pace.
Let's review if you were among the smarter ones who avoided the game:
Andy Dalton threw four crushing interceptions, leading to 24 Arizona points. The performance should shush the insane pro-Dalton crowd, but it won't quiet those of us who wondered why Pace handed Dalton $10 million to be QB1 before Justin Fields became available in the draft. Nick Foles couldn't have done the same thing without adding another sunk cost to the cap?
Dalton's interceptions didn't do the defense any favors as each gave the Cardinals the ball in Bears territory. But the D still couldn't make one big stop when called upon. The secondary has been a season-long concern, but the absence of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks has put even more pressure on a unit of Jaylon Johnson and a bunch of guys. (Yes, I'm lumping Eddie Jackson in there.)
The receiving corps is similarly weak going forward. Credit to Jakeem Grant for having a nice game in the absence of Allen Robinson and Marquise Goodwin, but 2022 will feature Darnell Mooney and ... who, exactly?
The offensive line was the offensive line. It remains Pace's original problem and its future hopes rest with Teven Jenkins, who wasn't in the rotation for his debut on Sunday and has a history of back problems.
Of course, all of this is overseen by an ineffective and deeply unpopular coach who represents Pace's second coaching choice.
It's also going to be hard to improve any of it since the Bears currently have all of five draft picks in next spring's draft.
Remind me why any of the Pace fans among the base and media (they exist!) want him back to collaborate with his choice of a third coach?
This brings me back to the lead of this section.
Pace's people will point to his record in the later rounds, where he's found players like Montgomery, Mooney, Jackson (used to be true), Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and Kindle Vildor (just kidding).
He's also made some splashy acquisitions in Robinson, Quinn and Khalil Mack. He also finally hit on a first-round pick with the emergence of Roquan Smith into a Pro Bowl-type talent. The trade-up for Justin Fields was a bold choice that needed to be made.
There's no doubt there is talent on the roster and maybe even the start of a young core that can turn into something more if Fields is the real deal.
But every GM has their victories and the fact that Pace hasn't been able to turn his into a single playoff victory is telling. Running an organization is about so much more than the draft's final days.
It's about building a team capable of beating a Baltimore team without Lamar Jackson at Soldier Field. It's about taking some equalizing Chicago weather and using it to upset a Super Bowl contender and its quarterback in his first game back from injury.
And yet the Bears did neither as they moved to 4-8. Lose two more games and they'll be left with double-digit losses for the fourth time in Pace's seven seasons.
Whenever the McCaskeys and Ted Phillips convene to talk about the franchise's future, they only need to ask a straightforward question: Has Ryan Pace moved the Bears any closer to a Super Bowl championship than when he started?
It seems pretty clear the answer is 'no.'
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Bowl season is upon us
Alabama ruins everything about college football. So it only makes sense that its win over Georgia in the SEC Championship keeps us from seeing new coach Marcus Freeman and a jilted Notre Dame squad try to clown Brian Kelly by winning a natty in his absence.
Instead, the Irish will have to settle for a date with Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day. NIU's MAC championship (above) gets them a trip to Orlando the week before Christmas and nine Big Ten teams will be going bowling. (Maybe next year, Illinois and Northwestern)
Here are all 11 contests:
- 🍊 Orange - Michigan vs. Georgia (Dec 31)
- 🌹 Rose - Ohio State vs. Utah (Jan 1)
- 🍋 Citrus - Iowa vs. Kentucky (Jan 1)
- 🎉 Fiesta - Notre Dame vs. OK State (Jan 1)
- 🦘 Outback - Penn St vs. Arkansas (Jan 1)
- 🍑 Peach - Michigan St vs. Pitt (Dec 30)
- 🃏 Las Vegas - Wisconsin vs. Arizona St (Dec 30)
- 🎸 Music City - Purdue vs. Tennessee (Dec 30)
- ⚾ Pinstripe - Maryland vs. Va Tech (Dec 29)
- ⬇️ Guaranteed Rate - Minnesota vs. West Virginia (Dec 28)
- 🩺 Cure - NIU vs. Coastal Carolina (Dec 17)
Thanks to Brendan Stiles for the emoji idea
News and results
Minnie Minoso finally gets into the Hall (Dick Allen still waits)
Great news for the White Sox legend, who will be posthumously inducted into the Hall in July with Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, and Negro Leagues legends Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler. Jim Margalus has more on Minoso's honor.
- Dick Allen disappointingly fell one vote shy of induction a year after his death. The Golden Days Era committee will meet again in 2026 and there's a decent chance he'll pick up that missing vote given that voters were restricted to voting for only four candidates.
Hawks: Two points salvaged on Long Island
The Islanders blew up a tightly-played Hawks win in regulation when they tied the game with just under three seconds remaining. But Patrick Kane's goal in the shootout and Marc Andre-Fleury's three saves kept Derek King undefeated in five overtime contests since taking it over. The 3-2 shootout win was an excellent tonic after falling to the Rangers in Manhattan on Saturday night.
Next: The Rangers are at the UC on Tuesday night.
1. The guy from the Arizona newspaper is taking entirely way too much stock in Kyler Murray beating the Bears. Arizona Republic
2. The Bulls had an epic sweep of the Knicks and Nets. Plus Zach LaVine got to troll Stephen A. Smith in person. Bleacher Nation
3. Three observations from Loyola's win over DePaul on Saturday. NBC Chicago
4. How old Loyola coach Porter Moser has made Norman, Oklahoma "feel like home." Daily Oklahoman
5. Meet the Chicago architecture firm that decided to open its own bar for happy hours. Eater Chicago
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