Bright spot in Bears loss to Packers

I’m not going to dogpile on the Bears. Lord knows there is enough of that going on around town. They played “down” to the 4-4 Packers, who were without Aaron Rodgers, and had lost their previous 3 games. The Bears were favored by 5-6 points, depending on where you looked. I still saw a thing or two worth being positive about.

Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky didn’t turn the ball over. He took some needless hits. He came close on one particular play that zipped through the fingers of a packers defender. For the most part, he made some good throws when he had to. Probably the lone bright spot was the trade Ryan Pace made to acquire Dontrelle Inman from the LA Chargers. Inman clearly was the most talented receiver on the field for the Bears. He showed quickness, ability to separate, and some real agility. He caught the majority of balls thrown his way. He did drop one late in the game that went right through his outstretched hands. One that had a lot of zip on it.

The good, the bad, and the ugly: No major injuries was another “good” point. The Bears offensive line was particularly bad. I think they made the Packers defense look better than it was. The challenge of Benny Cunningham’s lunge to the pylon turned out to be really ugly. I saw it on the first replay. Sadly the Bears replay official didn’t. I’m sure the Packers would have challenged had the Bears quickly lined up to run a play. Either way, the Bears had their chances after that.

What we really saw was how far the Bears are from being a seriously playoff team. Their margin for error is paper thin. It’s the tiniest of packages underneath the Christmas tree. The focus now should be getting Trubisky though the season a) as healthy as possible, and b) develop him as much as you can with the current roster.

The fate of John Fox will be another story as the Bears move through the back-half of a pretty easy schedule. I have become more of a “Fox fan” this season, and feel he should be able to play out the last year of his contract. Not sure who is even out there that would be a quality replacement. If someone comes available (hot coordinator, or perhaps Jim Harbaugh) Ryan Pace might have to consider that.

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Brawl of the Week: The Great Summoner Competition

This week’s Tavern Brawl marks the long awaited return (for me) of: The Great Summoner Competition. I don’t remember if this brawl came out before or after the card: Summoning Stone. Either way, this is perhaps my favorite brawl.

First of all, mage. Second, it’s pretty awesome to be able to cast a spell, and have a minion equal to the spell cost be summoned. It’s also damn fun beating a fellow mage at their own game.

As you can see, I loaded up on spells. In this brawl you really want to be mindful that you balance the mana cost of your spells. A bunch of 1-cost spells might seem nice, but when you have a board full of 1/1 minions, the battle might not end up the way you wish.

You also want to limit minions. Include ones that will have a big impact, get you more spells, and have synergy with what you are doing.

So, load up your deck with some killer spells, and get that free pack! Be prepared to play vs many mages. See you next week!

Don’t have a lot of mage spells? I have you covered: Back to basics: The Great Summoner Challenge. I made a deck with only basic cards, that should hold it’s own.

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Brawl of the Week: Miniature Warfare (again)

This week’s Tavern Brawl is one we have had once before: Miniature Warfare. It’s a doosey! Create a deck. All minions are 1/1, but only cost 1 mana to play. You can see how crazy this can get. Be prepared to have 1/1 versions of legendary minions fill your opponents board. It’s also a Wild brawl, so you can use every card–past and present.

So, I went with the mage, because that’s what I do. I also love the card “Duplicate“. For reasons.

I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it. I did put a few key ingredients together. Took me two brawls, but I got it done. It was a little fun. I definitely could have done better. So go on and get in there, and grab that free pack. See you next week!

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1st and 5

Week 9 is here and the hits just keep on coming. There have been some wild trades. Let’s see if we can unpack some of this madness.

QB: Josh McCown, Jets- He might not win you a championship, but he could take you there. Last 4 weeks he has 10 TDs (one rushing) and over 1000 yards passing. If you need him for a bye, or your QB went down in the last couple weeks, he’s there in almost 75% of ESPN leagues.

RB: Kenyan Drake/Damien Williams, Dolphins- Flip a coin with this one. With the trade of Ajayi to the Eagles, a hole opens up for one of these backs. Personally, I think Miami’s offense is probably not worth it. I’ve been wrong before. Keep an eye on: Marlon Mack, Colts- who seems to be getting more looks in a RBBC (Running Back By Committee) with Frank Gore.

WR: Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, Steelers- Busted out in a big way, but is on a bye week. He is probably going to be the most picked up player this week. There were a few names out there, including Redskins pass catcher Jamison Crowder who finally put up some numbers we expected him to. Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson showed he has consistent big play ability. Will he be able to maintain it through week 16?

TE: Jack Doyle, Colts- Was probably dropped by many, and is now fully lathered up. He is still there in over 60% in ESPN leagues.

D/ST: Bills and Lions are still out there at 32% and 47% owned, respectively. If you want to stream teams vs the Colts, you have a 25% chance in ESPN leagues. Good luck!

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NFL: “Process of the catch” needs to go

We have seen what a catch is in the NFL change from year to year, and throughout the years. Some teams have benefited by this. Even though my own Chicago Bears have been gifted this (vs the Lions) they have also been robbed by this. No later than this weekend vs the New Orleans Saints. I am sick and tired of seeing great plays negated by “The process of the catch” rule.

A few years ago, they changed the rule where if the football touched the ground, it was an incomplete pass. There was a playoff game involving the St. Louis Rams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A Buccaneers player had total control of the ball as he went to the ground, the ball touched the ground, the player maintained control the whole time. The play was reviewed, and deemed incomplete. The Rams ended up winning the game. In the offseason, the rule was changed. This needs to happen for the process of the catch.

I have three examples for you to consider. The last, really hitting home, because Bears tight end, Zach Miller suffered a devastating knee injury WHILE maintaining control of the football.

At the time, I felt Calvin Johnson’s catch was incomplete, following the letter of the rule. Let’s face it, this rule sucks. Calvin Made a spectacular play, and at the end, let the ball go before he got up. Simple as that. Bears got the win. Lions got screwed. As a Bears fan, I was all good.

Dez Bryant’s catch vs the Green Bay Packers may have been one of the most spectacular post season grabs. At least in recent history. If you look at it frame by frame, you can see he actually maintains possession throughout. You can kind of see it looks like it hits the ground too. Keep in mind, it was ruled a touchdown on the field. If you have to watch it frame by frame to determine if it’s not a catch, shouldn’t the call on the field stand? I say yes.

Then there is Sunday’s game at the Saints, where Bears tight end Zach Miller catches the ball in the endzone as he brutally dislocates his knee. He maintains possession throughout, even hitting the ground. He then rolls around, the ball secured. Finally as he realizes he is injured, and tries to get up, he puts the ball on the ground. Let’s focus on that a little, Like Calvin Johnson, he puts the ball on the ground. That’s a third football action. He caught it, hit the ground and rolls, then put the ball on the ground. He didn’t drop it. He let it go. I might be splitting hairs here, but to me, it’s as clear as day.

The one thing I can’t understand is, by rule, the play should be over when you break the plane of the end-zone with control of the ball. Going to the ground should be moot. Same thing with going out of bounds. If you take the ball out of bounds with control, the play should be dead the second you touch out of bounds. No? This is also echoed when an offensive player and defensive player share possession, it automatically goes to the offensive player. It is instantaneous.

I feel once you secure the catch with two feet down, you have possession. Period. End of story. The grey area comes in when possession isn’t clear. It needs to be REALLY clear though. Not a slight move. Let’s give these players who are bigger and faster a little slack. If it looks like a catch with the naked eye–in real time. Why not make it so? It’s 2017. We should not have this continuous debate on what a catch is in the NFL.

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Does Joe Maddon put too much pressure on his starting pitchers?

I started to think about this after the Cubs were unmercifully bounced from the NLCS. One of my pet peeves–maybe my only pet peeve about Joe is his “quick hook” on starting pitchers. It mostly happened with Kyle Hendricks in 2016, but it carried over to 2017, and spread to the entire pitching staff. Last year he had a much better bullpen, and a closer he knew wouldn’t be around the following year. Silly question? You tell me.

It made a little more sense with Hendricks in the 2016 regular season. In post season, I thought he might let Hendricks go a little more. I am all for saving pitchers arms for the playoffs, and that’s exactly what Joe did in 2017. So why the quick hook then in the playoffs? I felt the players bailed out Maddon a little, especially in the NLDS vs the Nationals. However, his fortunes would not hold out vs a stingy LA Dodgers team.

I know, I shouldn’t be questioning the manager of the 2016 World Series champions, but I can’t help it. I think it is a legitimate one. Let’s ask some former players!

@JimDeshaies, @Plesac19, @daviddejesus3 @stevestone

In case these fine individuals will not respond to me (a high probability), I shall ask (beg) Marc Silverman of @WaddleandSilvy to ask his (team of monkeys) listeners. Perhaps he can get Dan Plesac or someone of that caliber to mull it over on-air.

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Don’t cry for the Cubs

The 2017 campaign has ended for the Chicago Cubs with an 11-1 pounding from the World Series bound LA Dodgers. It was an up and down year for the Cubbies, who played their best ball after the All-Star break. Sadly, for Cubdom, it was not enough.

I’m still floored that Joe Maddon led the Cubs to their 3rd National League Championship Series in a row. Let that sink in for a minute. Lou Pinella got them to back-to-back playoffs, but they got swept both seasons. What Theo, Jed, and Joe have built here in Chicago is quite an accomplishment. I’ve been with the Cubs since 1984, when they baptized me inĀ  a pool of my own tears, getting knocked out of the playoffs, just one victory away from the World Series. A brutal lesson in sports fanaticism for a 13 year old boy. One I would revisit in 2003, as a 32 year old adult. Finally, 13 years later, I and all Cubdom, was rewarded with the sport’s pinnacle–the holy grail: A Cubs World Series championship. Once they got to the NLCS this year, I was more than content.

2017 is in the books now, and my hunger for post season glory returns. Admittedly, I was still content in 2017, fresh off the World Series championship. I mean, it was a 108 year drought. It was akin to not having sweets for 5 years, then suddenly landing face-first in your favorite dessert. My heart was kind of numb from the emotional rollercoaster that was game 7 of the World Series vs the Cleveland Indians. The pins and needles are telling me it’s ready to beat strong again.

The offseason is here; Theo and Jed have their work cutout for them. First and foremost, they need to make a decision on Arrieta. I would not be surprised if they told him to go out and see what he can get. Personally, I hope they can sign him for 2-3 years. In my heart, I feel like another team will throw the contract out that he will seek. Jake has proven to be a resilient pitcher, who is fully battle tested. He could easily command $20+ million for 5+ years. That would probably take the Cubs out of the running.

The Cubs clearly need another starter–even if Arrieta stays. They need a few arms in the bullpen, possibly a new closer. For that, it will take a combination of money, prospects, and perhaps a key player. By my estimation, Kyle Schwarber might be the odd man out. He has the highest value, and is probably better suited for the American League style of play. The Cubs are well stocked with outfielders with Ian Happ, and Albert Almora. They could afford to trade one to fill their needs.

Schwarber has not reached full potential, and could wind up being a perennial All-Star with his bat alone. Having said that, he might be closer to his ceiling. It will be interesting to see Happ and Almora continue to develop, and get 140 games or so in the event Schwarber does get moved.

Last year during the offseason, I was still pretty much stunned. Honestly, I didn’t care what the Cubs did. I paid attention, but nothing really sank in. I was actually more excited for the White Sox, when they traded Chris Sale away for prospects. This year will be different. There is a slight sting from them getting knocked out of the playoffs. Especially the 11-1 pounding, and the memory that they barely put up a fight. The excitement for me is back. Don’t cry for Cubdom. We will be back and stronger than ever in 2018. We will be hungry for another World Series. Until then, enjoy this year’s fall classic!

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