Chicago Bears of Thrones 2016

A tradition we started a year ago was casting the new season of Game of Thrones with members of the Chicago Bears roster. This came about after Pro Bowl lineman had declared Jay Cutler “The One True King of the North”.

I love comparing the two. The Bears are one of the league’s most storied franchises and Game of Thrones is filled with generational lore. It references the glory days of each House, and Winter is always looming.

Since the original list, a year ago, things have changed drastically. Departures and additions to the team have been very similar to the show. Characters have developed and players have evolved. So let’s look at the current Chicago Bears roster and see how they stack up on Game of Thrones.

Kyle Long / Jon Snow

Jon Long

The biggest debate since the end of Season 5 was “Is Jon Snow dead or not?” Besides the correlations of leadership, pedigree, and loyalty, Bears fans had wondered “Is Kyle Long a guard or tackle?”

Jon rose to the ranks of Lord Commander, killed a White Walker then briefly united the Night’s Watch and the Wildling armies while alive. Long was a 2-time pro bowler as a guard and was awarded again as a tackle, making him the first Bears offensive lineman to named to the Pro Bowl each of his first 3 seasons. Fans of both will get their answers in due time.

 

Alshon Jeffrey / Daenerys Targaryen

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After proving doubters wrong over the course of his impressive young career, the Bears placed the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery to hopefully work out a favorable deal for both sides. At full strength, he’s a devastating force down the field…like Daenerys is with her dragons. Daenerys’s reign is wounded for the time being, much like the questions to Jeffery’s health during the 2015 season. Reunited with her dragons, she can maker her move on the rest of Westeros. One hope’s a new deal with the Bears would have Jeffery poised to do the same in the NFL.

 

Jay Cutler / Jaime Lannister

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A year ago, we had Jay Cutler paired with Stannis Baratheon, “The One True King of the North”. Unfortunately, Stannis couldn’t keep his head. However, Cutler is still quarterback of the Chicago Bears and appears rejuvenated with John Fox’s staff. Jaime Lannister was referred to as “The King Slayer” having literally killed kings and also blamed getting them killed, like Cutler when he was once called a “coach killer”.

The two have had their ups and downs in the public eye. It seems they both needed some humbling, suffered setbacks and injuries, and have adopted antihero statuses for it. Much weirder on Jaime’s end, but being fathers has helped them both in their maturations. You’ll see myself and others Tweet #CuttyDoesIt when Jay slings touchdowns. Might have to start #JaimeDoesIt this upcoming season too.

 

Pernell McPhee / The Mountain (Zombie Mountain)

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Two words: He’s violent.

Pernell McPhee is also coming off an injury and hoping to bounce back even more violent. The Mountain is about to do the same now that he’s been brought back to annihilate everyone on behalf of Cersei.  I call him Zombie Mountain, because I’m very sure he’s 1/3 brutal strength, 1/3 rage, and 1/3 dead. McPhee is likely half and half of the former two.

 

Willie Young / Daario Naharis

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Willie Young had to switch roles last season and had to prove to coaches that he could still get to the quarterback doing so. Daario switched roles going from mercenary to trusted advisor to Daenerys, as well as actors. Both showed they are effective no matter what you do with them and are cold blooded killers…relative to their professions.

 

Tracy Porter / Tyrion Lannister

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Like Tyrion, Tracy Porter was very successful in the beginning. Porter was a Super Bowl champion and Tyrion served as Hand of the King. Porter was then cast off after injuries and playing on unsuccessful teams while Tyrion was disowned by his father (who he would kill for it). Porter got a fresh start and a new contract after a successful first season with the Bears, and Tyrion is now temporarily in charge of Meereen after dream-teaming up with Daenerys.

 

Jeremy Langford / Arya Stark

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Jeremy Langford had the opportunity to prove he can be a feature back during his rookie season with the Bears, and took full advantage of it. Arya got a similar opportunity learning the assassination techniques of the Faceless Men and ALSO took full advantage of it. The Bears seem to be in the market for a new running back, hesitant to give Langford the reigns of the backfield, and the “Many-Faced God” took Arya’s sight. I imagine both will only grow from their experiences.

 

Zach Miller / Sansa Stark

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Over the course of his career, Zach Miller has faced setback after setback when it comes to injuries. Sansa has had to deal with the same, in WAY MORE BRUTAL instances. They both now appear due after their struggles. Miller shined while healthy for the Bears last season and was awarded a new contract. Sansa escaped another evil asshole husband and should have some support waiting for her outside of Winterfel.

Kevin White / Bran Stark

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Well, there’s the obvious. Both Kevin White and Bran Stark sat out last season. White did so because of an injury that kept him off his feet and, well, Bran wasn’t walking around anyway. Both are returning with high expectations in their respective upcoming seasons

 

Eddie Goldman / Hodor

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Eddie Goldman came to the Bears with White in the same draft. While he did play his rookie season, it’s not like he had much to say…like Hodor. Hodor will also be returning with Bran Stark and like Goldman, he’s capable of kicking serious ass.

 

Danny Trevathan / Davos Seaworth

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These are two big time free agents from the offseason. Danny Trevathan comes over from Denver, where he won a Super Bowl. Davos goes to The Wall after helping Stannis conquer much of the North. They’re both somewhere familar, Trevathan reunited with his former head coach and Davos in a place that housed him for a short while. Both will be quality additions for whom they are aligned with, both on gameday and in battle.

 

Robbie Gould / Ser Jorah

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Robbie Gould is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and Ser Jorah is a decorated knight. Both lost some favor with their fan bases, Gould after missing big field goals and Jorah keeping secrets from Daenerys. They’re both fighting back to regain favor and trying to remind everyone of their accomplishments. Jorah also has a HUGE crush on Daenerys…I personally don’t know much about Robbie’s love life, but I do know the female demographic of Bears fans love him.

 

Kyle Fuller / Melisandre

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These two are being tasked with resurrecting the dead, in their own ways. I, like many, am very confident it will take Melisandre’s “Red Woman” voodoo to bring Jon back to life. I also believe it’s going to take Kyle Fuller showing his shutdown defensive back potential to bring the Bears defense back to life as well. In his first two seasons, Fuller has shown flashes of greatness. But like Melisandre, he’s also gotten everyone killed…in coverage.

Eddie Royal / Petyr Baelish

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Eddie Royal is a survivor in the NFL. Not the biggest or the most talented, but he has gets the job done and always has a home. Petyr Baelish is similar in the way that he’s adaptable. I don’t think Royal is necessarily scheming in order to watch the world burn, but he’s savvy and cunning like “Little Finger” that keeps him useful on most teams. He’ll have something to prove this season to remain so with the Bears, like Baelish will for Sansa Stark when they meet again.

 

Ryan Pace / Varys

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GM Ryan Pace is orchestrating this new era of Chicago Bears football and I believe Varys is subtly doing the same in Meereen. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Ser Jorah found Tyrion and brought him to Daenerys Targaryen. Varys has wanted that alliance to happen for a while and feels he’s on the winning team now, just like Pace after a seemingly successful Free Agent period.

 

Jerrell Freeman / Bronn

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Jerrell Freeman comes from the Indianapolis Colts as one of the league’s most consistent inside linebackers who is ready to make some noise with a new team. Bronn has done the same, joining Tyrion as a mercenary but eventually teaming up with Jaime on a rescue mission of his daughter. Both suffered injuries and are looking to bounce back and provide sold enforcement for their new teams.

 

Lamarr Houston / Theon Greyjoy

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Both Lamarr Houston and Theon Greyjoy took heavy blows to their hubris and were looking for redemption. After signing a big contract with the Bears, Houston injured himself for the season doing a sack dance. Theon was also hurt badly below the belt after getting too cocky (pun seriously intended). Houston was productive providing big sacks down the stretch and Theon FINALLY saved Sansa. Will things get better for these two or will their arcs go another direction?

 

Matt Slauson / Brienne of Tarth

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Slauson? Badass warrior. Brienne? Also a badass warrior. Both are tasked with protecting those who they promised to; Brienne has the Stark girls and Slauson has Jay Cutler. Both have also faced adversity to where they are now as Slauson grew up with a stutter and Brienne grew up a woman in seemingly a “man’s” world.

 

Akiem Hicks / Tormund Giantsbane

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Akiem Nicks was brought in to solidify the Bears’ front 7 against the likes of the Packers, Vikings and Lions. Tormund was brought in to do the same, uniting his Wildling people with other men to face off against the White Walkers…essentially the Packers, Vikings and Lions. In a Bears fan’s world, they are one in the same.

Bobby Massie / Giant “Wun Wun”

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Bobby Massie is also new to the Bears and he is a big bad 6’6, 316 pound man who is set to play tackle next to Kyle Long. Wun-Wun is a big bad 15+ foot, one ton (at least) giant who was set to fight alongside Jon Snow. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. What we do know for sure is that they both have a hell of a mean streak and will be prepared to kick some ass.

Wun Wun

Any other player/character comparisons you can think of? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter! Game of Thrones Season 6 begins Sunday, April 24th

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What’s Next For Both Matt Forte and Chicago Bears

Running back Matt Forte informed fans Friday morning that his time in Chicago has come to an end. He posted a photo and a nice message to Bears fans stating that the Bears plan to move forward without him.

Shortly after, Bears GM Ryan Pace released a statement on the team’s decision and what Forte has meant to the organization.

Pace isn’t wrong about Forte, especially as an all-timer. Forte ranks 2nd in franchise history in both career rushing yards and receptions. Walter Payton is the only player ahead of him in both categories.

This isn’t a shocker though. The writing was on the wall for Forte once he started splitting touches with rookie running back Jeremy Langford. When Langford had an opportunity to start while Forte was injured for 2 games, he proved to be more than capable of being a lead back. Langford totaled 145 rush yards, 179 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns in back-to-back wins against the Chargers and Rams. The Bears are also in a position where they need to dedicate resources toward improving other positions on the field, mostly on defense and along the offensive line. So what’s next for both the player and the team?

Forte may be 30 years old, but he’s still a very good, #1 quality back. He can give a team competing for a championship next season an upgrade in not just rushing, but also receiving and blocking as well. Forte’s strength has always been in between the 20s, although he has recorded 10+ touchdowns in 2 of his last 3 seasons. One would think he would be better suited on a team paired with a back who has a nose for the end zone, which makes the New England Patriots very attractive.

Bill Belichick should be licking his lips at the prospect of landing a multi-tooled running back with a history of endurance. The Patriots are already committed to Dion Lewis for 2 more years, but just for $2 million in base salary. They’ll be looking to replace LeGarratte Blount for 1st and 2nd down carries anyway and Forte gives Brady an excellent option in the passing game, where the Patriots thrive. Lewis is proven to have a nose for the end zone and would compliment Forte nicely when they threaten to score.

Other teams to consider as landing spots for Forte:

Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart is already in their backfield, with 3 years left on his deal, but he hasn’t played a full 16 game schedule since 2011 when he wasn’t the starter. Cam Newton almost counts as another running back, but I’m sure the Panthers would rather preserve their MVP franchise quarterback. Forte gives the Panthers the receiving dynamic that Stewart doesn’t really possess.

Denver Broncos – The Broncos are very likely entering the post-Peyton era. Whether Brock Osweiler is the quarterback or someone else, the Broncos offense needs a dependable back who can catch the ball. CJ Anderson bounced back strong down the stretch, Ronnie Hillman was meh, and Forte would be a great upgrade over both for a team wanting to stay competitive after winning the Super Bowl.

Dallas Cowboys – Darren McFadden was okay, but the Cowboys won just 2 games with him as the full-time back in 2015. Tony Romo is going to need someone to keep him alive all season long too if Dallas wants to compete in 2016. That means a running back who can block and catch, and also keep defenses on their heels. McFadden and Forte could make for a formidable duo behind one of the best offensive lines in football as well, which would be reassuring in the event Romo gets broken again.

Meanwhile, Langford should be getting first crack as the Bears starting running back. His game is very similar to Forte’s, as he can run, catch and block, but he also has breakaway speed that Forte always seemed to lack. They also appear to like Ka’Deem Carey for depth after he run much harder in 3rd down spots in his 2nd season with the Bears. A veteran on the cheap or a late draft pick would be valuable to provide competition and stability behind Langford. Keep in mind that John Fox loves using two running backs and giving the ball to the hot hand in games. See DeAngelo Williams & Deshaun Foster/Stewart with Carolina, then Knowshon Moreno & Ronnie Hillman/Montee Ball in Denver.

Free Agent RB options that make sense for Bears:

  • Chris Johnson (formerly Cardinals)
  • Bilal Powell (formerly Jets)
  • James Starks (formerly Packers
  • Matt Asiata (formerly Vikings)
  • Alfred Morris (formerly Washington)

Check back later for potential late round running backs the Bears could consider drafting. 

For more, follow along on Facebook or Twitter. 

All The Super Bowl 50 Storylines, So Far…

Conference Championship Sunday featured the #1 seeds from both the AFC and NFC showing exactly how they got to where they are now. The Broncos defense beat the crap of Tom Brady, hitting him more than any other quarterback was all season, and their quarterback did enough to pull off the win. While the Panthers were also stellar on defense, their offense continued to shred another opposing top defense. Cam Newton became the 3rd quarterback to rush for 2 touchdowns and throw 2 as well in the playoffs (after Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick).

For the next two weeks, we’re going to wait way too long for what can be very good game…or an absolute blowout (I believe it will be the former). What you can expect is a plethora of storylines because both these teams aren’t lacking at all for them. You may get a new one every 12 hours until kickoff.

Here are ALL the storylines I could think of so far.

 

1. Cam’s Arrival

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Cam Newton has fun. After yesterday’s 49-15 decimation of the Arizona Cardinals, Newton had compiled 50 total touchdowns for 2015-16 (regular season and post season combined). Newton has a patented pointing mechanic on first downs, dances after touchdowns, and hands the ball to a kid in the stands when he’s done. You may not like it, but you’re going to have to get used to it. The league has become his video game and everyone else looks like they’re on “Easy Mode” for him.

Newton came into the league as a Heisman Trophy winner with a bad rap. He was arrested at Florida for stealing a laptop. His time at Auburn was scrutinized due to an investigation into his recruitment, which the NCAA came away with nothing. He was still drafted #1 overall and now has a chance to win a Super Bowl after 5 seasons, very likely with an MVP trophy on his mantle as well. What’s scary is that he’s done it without his #1 receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, all season.

Football fans without a stick up their asses are loving it. Others will choose to be miserable, and you’ll hear plenty from them for the next 2 weeks.

Some people just can’t have nice things, and that’s fine. Newton fans, on the other hand, can keep enjoying the best player in the league right now. In his last 10 games, Newton has scored 31 touchdowns (24 passing, 7 rushing). Who else from Newton’s “generation” comes even close to his level of play? Maybe Russell Wilson, but that’s it.

2. Peyton’s Last Stand

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Of the 4 quarterbacks facing off on Championship Sunday, Peyton Manning had the most on the line in terms of legacy. A win would help change his narrative that he’s just the best “regular season” quarterback. Now he’s won more games against 4-time champion Tom Brady than lost (3-2), and could join an elite group of only 11 quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl rings.

While the Broncos didn’t necessarily win because of Manning (we’ll get to that in a minute), they weren’t going to lose because of him either. When the running game couldn’t get going, Manning made key 3rd down conversions with both his arm and even his legs.

Manning run

When Peyton Manning is successfully running boot plays on your defense, you might not deserve to go to the Super Bowl. In his 4th trip, Manning can do something that the president of the Denver Broncos, John Elway, accomplished before retiring…go out on top.

3. Defense Wins Championships

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Super Bowl 50 is going to feature the league’s 2 best defenses who clearly proved that on Championship Sunday. The Broncos halted the #1 passing team in the NFL (New England) and the Panthers did the same with the #2 passing team (Arizona).

As mentioned earlier, the Broncos defense just manhandled Tom Brady and Von Miller led the way with 2.5 sacks and an interception. Miller’s presence was the certainly felt but so Derek Wolfe and DeMarcus Ware’s, only allowing Brady to finish 7/23 for 73 yards and a passer rating of 37.0 when pressured. The most impressive part of the Broncos defense dominating a fully healthy Patriots offense was that they were able to do so blitzing Brady a season low 17.2% of the time.

Throwing to Rob Growkowski against the Broncos, Brady was 8/15 for 144 and 1 touchdown. Throwing to everyone else, he was 19/41, 166 yards and 0 TDs. Heads up, Greg Olsen.

The Panthers ranked 2nd in defensive efficiency in 2015 (according to ESPN), just behind Denver. While the Broncos pressure the quarterback like crazy, the Panthers defense is racking up points off turnovers. On top Newton’s insane scoring rate, the Panthers have added 9.5 points per game to their net margin of victory as a result of takeaways, 1.7 points more than anyone else. They forced 7 turnovers, 6 from Carson Palmer, on Sunday.

 

4. Coaches Have A Lot In Common

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Both Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak played on teams that went to the Super Bowl. Rivera won as a linebacker with the 1985 Chicago Bears. Kubiak went to 3, all as backup quarterback to John Elway, and lost them too.

Both Rivera and Kubiak went to the Super Bowl as coordinators. Rivera was the Bears’ defensive coordinator in 2006-07, losing to Peyton Manning’s Colts. Kubiak won three after his playing career, once as an assistant for the 49ers (1994) and twice more as Broncos offensive coordinator (1997 & 1998).

Now both Rivera and Kubiak will be standing on opposite sidelines of the sport’s biggest stage. They were also both successors for current Bears head coach John Fox.

5. Poor John Fox

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Actually, good new Bears fans!

John Fox went to the Super Bowl in each of his second seasons with the Panthers and Broncos. He didn’t win, but going is a nice improvement.

 

6. Other Bears Connections

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A few more former Bears you can root for in the Super Bowl, if you feel so inclined:

1. Greg, Son of Olsen.

Greg son of Olsen

2. Jared Allen (meh)

3. Charles “Peanut” Tillman (although on IR, but still a great dude)

Panthers Tillman

 

7. Unsung Heroes

Broncos Bench

The Broncos “Other” Defensive Linemen (above)

While Miller, Ware and Wolfe get all the sack glory, defensive ends Malik Jackson and Antonio Smith and nose tackle Sylvester Williams are teeing them up and destroying opposing running backs.

Ted Ginn Jr.

I love that Ted Ginn Jr. went from being the guy who drops everything to a 10 touchdown WR. A lot of that may be thanks to his quarterback, but somebody has to take the top off defenses and burn opposing safeties like Ginn has.

Emmanuel Sanders

Something I may have left out of Peyton Manning’s storyline was how Emmanuel Sanders made some of the BIGGEST plays on 3rd down for his quarterback. While Damaryius Thomas was off and on during the season, Sanders had 4 games of 8+ receptions. With Manning throwing more underneath and Josh Norman covering Thomas, Sanders will be a huge key against the Broncos nickel coverage.

 

The Panthers Team Picture Game

Exhibit A

Stay Tuned For More Super Bowl 50 Coverage on MichaelPiff.com. There will be more on the Halftime Show, Commercials, Media Day, and the annual “Everything But Football” piece as well. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter

 

NFL Week 4 Fantasy Mailbag

After 3 weeks into the season, it’s fun to see the rising Fantasy Football stars (and who you should be benching to send a message to your team).

Buffalo Bills backup RB Karlos Williams has scored a rushing touchdown every week so far, 3 total on the season. Starting running backs Jonathan Stewart, Justin Forsett and C.J. Anderson have all combined for 0.0…LeGarrette Blount matched Williams’ TD total in just the 2nd half against the Jaguars last week.

Do I seriously suggest you bench J-Stew, Forsett and Anderson?  If you have better options at running back, what have any of those 3 done to stop you? 

HEY LOOK! 

THE CHIEFS THREW A TOUCHDOWN PASS TO A WIDE RECEIVER FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE 2013 SEASON!

Maclin Touchdown

Can they make it two weeks in a row? Tune in to find out!

Quick Hits

  • Michael Vick starts tonight for the Pittsburgh, which I am *slow clapping* for because Steelers fans were so against him being on the team in the first place. Vick has a 2-1 record against the Ravens in his career, with 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and averaging 211 pass yards per game. He’s not the scrambler and Madden video game dream that he used to be, but he doesn’t have to be with Antonio Brown capable of catching anything you throw up and Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Both skill players help make Ben Roethlisberger a better quarterback. Vick becomes a decent option if you’re hard pressed at QB…especially with Le’Veon Skywalker doing his thing out there. 

(Insert “getting high” joke here)

  • Julio Jones was awarded the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for September, and rightfully so. He leads the league in receiving yards and has recorded the most receptions through 3 games (34) in NFL history. Jones is currently on pace for 181 catches, 2,346 yards and 21 touchdowns…It’s highly unlikely he’s actually record those numbers, but dammit, he’ll try.

Jones has missed some practice this week, but still a must start. He’s earned the rest.

  • Rant Time: If you have used the term “fire sale” regarding the Chicago Bears, STOP IT. If you continue to do so, I’ll be forced to reach through your laptop or mobile screen and slap you. Contrary to recent popular belief, the NFL is not Major League Baseball. Teams can’t eat money to trade away whoever they want to. The team taking a trade must absorb the contract of a player and it must fit within their cap space, unlike baseball where there is no cap. The Bears moved Jared Allen because he was owed bonus money to start the season. Nobody would have taken him if his $11.5 million bonus was actually base salary for the season…Regarding Matt Forte, a team would need $15 million in cap space to take on what’s remaining in his contract. Only the Jaguars, Titans, Raiders and Browns fit that bill and NONE of them are looking to make a playoff push by adding Forte. None of those teams would be willing to trade back resources to match his value either, especially when he is a free agent at year’s end. Stop worrying about that if you have him on your roster. End rant. 

Mail Time!

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I love…none of your options. If Derek Carr is out there, go get him. Especially for this week.

If I’m choosing among your options though, Ryan Fitzpatrick is oddly the most trustworthy. Brandon Weeden behind his offensive line and with his weapons has the higher upside against a bad New Orleans pass defense, but I feel better about The Beard in London against a reeling Miami secondary.

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If Davante Adams is out this weekend, Ty Montgomery becomes an excellent play this weekend…and would be by far the best of your options. If he’s still available, I would recommend getting Leonard Hankerson as Roddy White’s usage is quickly becoming non-existent.

For your flex, Ameer Abdullah is your guy…even against the Seattle defense. He’s the Lions best option out of the backfield and will get plenty of work, at least in dump off passes. Ravens new OC Marc Trestman apparently has no idea how to use Forsett, and Melvin Gordon has taken over as the true #1 back in San Diego over Woodhead.

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TY Hilton is healthy enough, and now an even better play against Jacksonville while Donte Moncrief helps stretch defenses more. Then I go with Jarvis Landry over Brandin Cooks, especially if you get return points. Darrelle Revis is dealing with a groin injury and becomes even less of a fear as he’s left slot receivers alone in recent weeks.

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If Arian Foster can go, he’s going going to get plenty of work doing so. Pay attention for the active/inactive list I put out on the Facebook page Sunday for his status. I’ll be making that a weekly tradition going forward…otherwise, go with Ryan Matthews.

Among your wide receivers, I can’t ignore James Jones any longer. He has 4 touchdowns in 3 games, and the Adams injury makes him all the more a priority play.

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Marshawn Lynch drove the country crazy on Sunday with his late entrance into the game against the Bears, and even more so when he left early. If he can go though, you have to start him. That’s why you drafted him. Otherwise, Abdullah is a nice play in the flex.

Among your WRs, Pierre Garcon sticks out going against a Philly defense, that he recorded 11 catches, 138 yards and a touchdown on in one game last year.

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I am going to echo my advice that I gave to Bucy…Start Foster if he’s active. Bill O’Brien is dying to use him. Just keep an eye out for the Facebook Page for the IN/OUT list prior to kickoff. Just have your backup ready to go.

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Gotta go with Derek Carr against the Bears. He’s been slinging it like a younger Rodgers as of late and the matchup is too good not to.

If Andre Ellington can go, start him. If not, then go with his backup….yes, that’s Chris Johnson.

Then Pierre Garcon, for the reasons I listed to Kirk earlier.

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For your long-term question (which I’m sure interests my readers), Yes, Derek Carr is the best option and I have been trying to drive that home since the question asked for this week’s mailbag. He’s the most talented of those options and the combo of Latavius Murray/Amari Cooper makes him even more dangerous.

With your Dolphins WR predicament, in a standard league you can’t put Rishard Matthews in the corner. He’s catching the most passes, despite Landry getting double digit targets each week. While I believe Landry is the better receiver. Matthews is scoring touchdowns, and you should play him until he stops…As noted earlier, Revis is nursing a groin injury. I anticipate Ryan Tannehill testing that plenty in London this weekend.

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Despite my appreciation for his wide receivers, Tannehill has taken a step back in his progress this year and I think it’s going to finally get Joe Philbin fired. If you’re looking for a spot start, roll with Carr against the Bears. If you are looking longterm, I trust Tyrod Taylor to sustain his production as a dual-threat quarterback. He’s proven himself through 3 games and against tough competition.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Your Chicago Bears: Preseason Week 1 vs. Miami

The Chicago Bears kickoff the John Fox/Ryan Pace era tonight at 7 PM CT off Lakeshore Drive with an exhibition matchup against the Miami Dolphins. For those who haven’t had an opportunity to make the trek down Route 55 to Boubonnais, this is will be your first look at the run-heavy Adam Gase offense and the Vic Fangio 3-4 defense…Albeit watered down, but still a first look.

The expectations for each year’s first preseason game are usually as follows. Maybe a series or 2 for the offensive starters. The first team defense may get a little bit more time as they are adjusting to a whole new scheme with players in new positions. Then it becomes time for backups and fringe players to show what they’ve got. Regardless, the players on both sides of the ball are going to carryout game plans from their respective coordinators for the first time, and that should be exciting for Bears fans.

Wednesday afternoon, the Bears released their first unofficial depth chart on the team’s website. Here are the different phases for the 2015 Bears squad, and what to look for while they get to hit someone else for the first time this summer.

The Offense

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Quarterbacks

Jay Cutler will start under center, as expected, with zero interceptions thrown all training camp. Gase has focused on running the ball in camp and playing to Cutler’s strengths which include rolling out of the box and throwing on the run. Cutler’s “see it, throw it” mentality works better when he can extend the play, and play-action should suit that better.

After Cutler exits, it will be his backup from a year ago Jimmy Clausen and undrafted rookie free agent Shane Carden from East Carolina. Clausen saw time in 4 games last season and 1 start before being concussed. The preseason is like the backup’s regular season with an opportunity to instill some confidence that he’s right for the job…or the general manager will look elsewhere.

Running Backs

As mentioned before, the emphasis of the Bears’ new offense will be on running the ball and Matt Fortesounds more than welcoming of that.

“When you run the ball, it’s more like an attack feeling,” Forte told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They like smash-mouth football, where you can bloody somebody’s nose and run and hit people.”

In contract year, Forte would much prefer that mentality as opposed to the RB-record 102 passes he caught last season. No surprise that veteran Jacquizz Rodgers is the second string back, but Jeremy Langford will have a chance to showcase his speed, pass catching, and third down strength. Daniel Thomas is the only other proven back and has out-shined both Ka’Deem Carey and Senorise Perry in camp.

Receivers

The Bears seem set at the position for the time being, despite 1st round pick Kevin White trying to return from a shin injury. Alshon Jeffery is the clear #1 receiver with Brandon Marshall gone, and Eddie Royal fills a need that has been missing for year as the slot receiver. Anticipate Royal to see a lot of targets during the season if Jeffery commands double teams.

With White on the sidelines, the stage is set for Marquess Wilson to try proving he can be a playmaker and also stay healthy. Josh Bellamy is a familiar name who will get plenty of snaps tonight, and return specialist Marc Mariani has impressed everyone in camp when he gets his reps with the first team.

Tight Ends

The Bears don’t have any fullbacks on their roster, so the tight end position gets two different slots on the depth chart. Martellus Bennett is the clear #1 while Dante Rosario gets listed first on the second line. Rosario will be in competition for second TE time against newcomer Bear Pascoe and 2014 preseason hero Zach Miller. Miller needs to prove he can make it out of the preseason in one piece, but could be an excellent red zone option if he can.

Offensive Line

The current starting offensive is the same as it was to break camp the past two seasons, with the addition of former Bronco Will Montgomery at center. Keep an eye on rookie Hroniss Grasu from Oregon, who ranked 2nd among centers in the draft and should get a lot of time with the twos. Jordan Mills is looking to bounce back from a bad sophomore season that was also plagued by injuries, but the massive Charles Leno will look to provide insurance to the tackle position. More than likely, Kyle Long will be mixing it up with somebody…because that’s what he does.

The Defense

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Defensive Line

It will be very different from what Bears fans have seen for the last decade and a half. There are no longer “defensive tackles” and defensive ends fill the 5 technique on the line. Slated as the #1 nose tackle is Jeremiah Ratlif, who is one of the few D-Linemen with 3-4 experience. While he is penciled in at the nose, he can also play DE. Eddie Goldman was highly regarded coming out of the draft from Florida State and was expected to make a run for a starting spot at either nose or DE. He should get plenty of snaps tonight, but will have to prove he’s in shape enough to handle it. Previously, he left the field early in both camp and OTAs because he wasn’t.

I’m looking forward to how the two DL rookies from last year transition to end. Early reviews say Ego Ferguson was one of the most improved players from offseason workouts while Will Sutton  seems to be struggling with the move. Jarvis Jenkins is slated as the other #1 defensive end opposite of Ferguson. Jenkins is the only other DE with 3-4 experience besides backend defender David Carter. He’s a better run defender but hopes to prove he can get upfield quicker to prove he can rush the passer in Fangio’s system. Cornelius Washington will be one of the most interesting watches tonight as he has hung around the roster for the past few years without seeing much regular season playing time.

Outside Linebackers

It’s funny seeing the two biggest defensive signees from last season not only in different positions now, but one slated ahead of the more expensive one. Jared Allen is currently the starter ahead of Lamarr Houston and both are trying to prove they can learn a new position. I have a hard time seeing either one drop back in coverage which is why I anticipate they are going to get more pass rushing snaps than anything.

Purnell McPhee is this season’s big free agent signing and he describes himself as “violent”. Tonight we get our first look at how violent he can be for the Bears and how much chaos he can cause for opposing offenses. Sam Acho is set behind Purnell in the depth chart, but he’s probably a better OLB than both Allen and Houston. Willie Young will have the most to prove as he has had the toughest time changing positions. He’s always played a wide DE position and it has to be awkward playing without your hand on the ground when you haven’t done it for your entire career.

Inside Linebackers

No, you read that correctly. Shea McClellin the Bears starting inside linebacker alongside last year’s undrafted rookie free agent signee Christian Jones. Jones has always looked like a player who deserved to be drafted and given more respect, but McClellin is auditioning for his 3rd different position. This is the Shea-Train’s last chance to prove he isn’t a draft bust and so far he has shown Fangio this may be his natural position. If not, Mason Foster has plenty of experience and skill to fit in better. Jon Bostic has missed most of the offseason due to injury and is still catching up to learn the scheme and his position.

Cornerbacks

The Bears secondary is currently their weakest position in terms of depth, and maybe talent as well. Kyle Fuller has a full year under his belt, one that saw a lot of success in the first month and disaster the rest of the way. The Bears hope he can emulate that first month for an entire season. Tim Jennings is a former Pro Bowler, but is also coming off a rough 2014 campaign. Jennings has always been best in man coverage though, so the scheme change should be helpful. Alan Ball was priority signing for Pace in the offseason and will get plenty of time to show why next to Tracy Porter. 

Safeties

Many were surprised to see 2nd year safety Brock Vereen as one of the starting safeties, not so much of a surprise with Antrel Rolle. Ryan Mundy was expected to be one of the starters and will have to earn that spot beginning tonight. Keep an eye on the rookie out of Penn State, Adrian Amos, who was one of the best coverage safeties in the Big Ten a year ago.

Special Teams

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There’s not much to say about the Special Teams units other than the fact that they can’t be worse than last year’s. And on the cover of tonight’s program at Soldier Field is punter Pat O’Donnell. 

Follow along for updates and conversation on Twitter. 

Bears of Thrones

As Free Agency kicked off a week ago, the Chicago Bears made it clear that Jay Cutler will be on their roster in 2015. Pro Bowl guard and 3rd year veteran Kyle Long went as far as declaring his allegiance to his quarterback…

And so, Cutler was dubbed the #OneTrueKingOfTheNorth.  It’s no secret that I am a huge geek…or obsessed with Thrones. So thanks to Long’s Tweet, I will take it a step further and align the 2015 Bears with characters from Game of Thrones (That’ll be stuck in your head forever). WARNING: MILD SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T CAUGHT UP ON THE SHOW. CONTINUE IF YOU DARE.

Jay Cutler / Stannis Baratheon

image1 Long has set the tone with his allegiance and it makes all the sense in the world (of Westeros). Cutler had knocked on the gates of a Super Bowl birth before he was knocked out with a torn MCL against the “Lannisters” of the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers. Sound familiar? Stannis Baratheon was dealt a similar hand at the Battle of Blackwater, blown away by a similar “Green” explosion.

Blackwater Packers

Neither Cutler nor Stannis are very likable to the public. Both can be viewed as underestimated to their opponents, but command loyalty from those closest to them. And you best believe Cutler has slayed some Wildlings in his day… (Picture this being the Vikings)

Slaying Wildlings

Kyle Long / Jon Snow

image2 Most Thrones geeks probably assumed I would have gone with Davos Seaworth, Stannis Baratheon’s righthand man, but I felt Long deserved a much more badass comparison…and there are some strong correlations. Long comes from a family rich in football prowess. While not a bastard, he is the son of a well respected warrior of the game (like Ned Stark). Kyle’s brother, Chris, built a reputation as one of the league’s elite defensive players before he came onto the scene. One hopes Chris doesn’t attend any shady arranged weddings in the near future. And Long has stepped up to lead his position group to protect his quarterback, much like the Night’s Watch at the wall.

Alshon Jeffery / Daenerys Targaryan

image3 Now hear me out, Alshon… Like Daenerys, Jeffery has proven naysayers wrong over the course of his young professional career. He was underrated in the draft, similar to when Daenerys acquired her Unsullied army from “The Masters” of Astapor. Jeffery’s skills and work ethic that helped him ascend to Pro Bowl status are like the Khaleesi’s dragons doing this to everyone in her path…

Jeffery has an opportunity to prove he is a #1 wide receiver like Daenerys, who is gunning for the throne of the seven kingdoms.

Alshon Browns catch

Matt Forte / Jamie Lannister

image4 Incest aside, Matt Forte and Jamie Lannister can be considered comparable for their accomplishments. Forte has always been a workhouse and a consistent weapon for the Bears offense and for multiple head coaches while Jamie served as captain of the Kingsguard under multiple kings. Both are getting up in age and have dealt with their share of injuries (Jamie losing his hand is a lot more severe than anything Forte has dealt with), but have plenty to offer still. Oh, and Bears…

Thrones Bear gif

Martellus Bennett / Tyrion Lannister

image6 Like Tyrion is to all of Game of Thrones, Martellus Bennett is a unique individual on the Bears roster. Both have a great sense of humor. Neither care what others think of them. And when the moment counts most, they can get the job done in the clutch. Bennett will come up with the big play against a division rival…

Marty GW TD

…and Tyrion will rally his troops against impending doom.

Eddie Royal / Barristan Selmy

image5 Neither Eddie Royal or Barristan Selmy are flashy names, but they are helpful pieces to their respective teams and both are quality free agent signings. I mentioned how Jeffery is like Daenerys already…Royal’s skill set can potentially make Jeffery better by forcing team’s to respect the slot more. That pulls coverage away from Jeffery that would allow him to shine, just like Barristan providing council to Daenerys. image7 Proven veterans who both could use a bounce back season. Jermon Bushrod is Pro Bowl left tackle who had difficulties blocking in year 2 of his Bears tenure. Sir Jorah was recently cast away by Daenerys for losing her trust. Both were meant to play big parts in achieving greatness, whether it be a Super Bowl or control of the Iron Throne, and both have the ability to make a comeback.

Jared Allen / The Hound

image8 Outside of similar appearances, both Jared Allen and The Hound are defectors of their longstanding teams. Allen (former Viking) and Sandor Clegane (formerly employed by the Lannisters) are also looking to return to form and regain the feared reputation they both once had.

Pernell McPhee / The Mountain

image9

In his Bears introductory press conference, Pernell McPhee was asked to describe himself.

“I’m violent.” And that was it.

Pernell sack

Also violent and a man of few words, meet Gregor Clegane…

The Mountain

Ego Ferguson / Hodor

image10 Transitioning to a 3-4 defense, the Bears need to identify a nose tackle to eat space up the middle. Hodor would be an AWESOME 0-technique…and Ego Ferguson also seems to fit the bill as well. I’d also like to hear Ferguson do an entire interview just saying “Ego.”

Willie Young / Daario Naharis

image11 In his first year with the Bears, Willie Young was a quarterback assassin. Daario is not very different, playing deadly mercenary for Team Targaryen. Hoping Young can return fully healed, and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 system, let’s hope to see more of this…

Daario GIF

Followed by this…

Willie Sack dance

Antrel Rolle / Davos Seaworth

image12 Antrel Rolle is another new Bears addition but there are two things he brings to the defensive side of the ball: Loyalty and Leadership. It’s been very cool to hear Rolle speak on his experience in New York and it sounds a lot like what Davos brings to Stannis Baratheon’s camp. Loyal to a fault, not afraid to speak his mind, a warrior, and adaptable.

Antrel Rolle

Kyle Fuller / Bran Stark

image15 Unlike Bran Stark, Kyle Fuller still has the use of legs. But LIKE Bran, Fuller has the potential for big things. After an excellent first month in the league, Fuller had a tough rest of the season. He was forced into a starting cornerback role after Charles Tillman was ruled out for the season and had a quick “Welcome to the League” experience against the league’s best wide receivers. Fuller has the skills and makeup to improve though, and you can’t help but get excited for what’s next…like Bran Stark.

Jon Bostic / Arya Stark

image13 Sure, on the outside the two are nothing alike…but think about it. Jon Bostic has been out of position for most of career, mis-casted as a middle linebacker and a strongside linebacker when he was best suited for weakside linebacker. Arya Stark was raised to be proper and in a world of aristocrats while she is truly meant to handle a sword. Both play with a chip on their shoulder and strike like they have some serious anger issues. Don’t be surprised if both have breakout seasons in new positions coming up.

Bostic hit

Have some more Football & Thrones comparisons on your mind? Or maybe you just want to geek out some more about sports and TV? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03