coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 10/15/2013 10:19 AM in NFL

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins: Preview and Pick

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins: Preview and Pick

The reeling Washington Redskins have to start stringing some victories together or they will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the NFL post season. It does not get any easier in week 7 of the NFL season as they host the Chicago Bears. It is not too early to label this game a must win for Robert Griffin III and the Redskins.

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins Odds

The NFL odds for this game opened up with the Redskins listed as (-2.5) point favorites over the visiting Bears. This is due to the fact that they will have the home field advantage, but the early betting market favors the Bears. As of the writing of this article, over 85 percent of the early betting is on the Bears. This has shifted the point spread for this game and it can now be found at (-1.5) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks.

If the Redskins want to play better football they will need to get better play at the quarterback spot. Robert Griffin III had a Total QBR of 35.2 Sunday, and he doesn't have a Total QBR above 43.0 this season. Griffin finished last regular season with a Total QBR above 50.0 in his last 10 starts. His Total QBR in the 1st half this season is 15.1 (only Blaine Gabbert is worse) and the Redskins have scored 1 1st-half touchdown on offense this season. This is an area that the Bears have done well at.

Jay Cutler completed 9-of-10 passes when targeting Brandon Marshall, including two touchdowns. In the first five weeks of the season, Cutler completed 67% of his passes when targeting Marshall. They should be able to keep up that pace against a weak Redskins defense.

The latest NFL betting trends reveal that this game could actually favor the home team despite their recent struggles. The Bears are 1-4 against the spread (ATS) in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game, 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game and 0-5 ATS In the last five games against the NFC. The Redskins are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game and the Bears are just 1-4 ATS in the last five meeting against the Redskins.

Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins Pick

With plenty of time to go before kickoff of this week, I will wait to announce my pick when we get closer to game day. Check back the day of the event for my pick on this great game.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/15/2013 04:00 PM

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler acknowledged on Monday that he has changed for the better, and credited the new coaching staff headed up by Marc Trestman, in addition to teammates on the offensive line and at the "skill" positions.

Often described as petulant, Cutler hasn’t displayed the quality so far this season the way he did in years past.

Cutler“I think everyone changes over a period of time,” Cutler said during “The Jay Cutler Show” on ESPN 1000. “People change for the better, some for the worst. It just depends.”

Having moved on to a new staff led by an offensive-minded head coach, Cutler receives the best pass protection he has had as a Bears QB, and he is surrounded by multiple weapons on his side of the ball, which is a change from Lovie Smith, who preferred to bolster the defense.

In the 2013 regular season, Cutler has connected on 143 of 217 passing attempts, or 65.9 percent, and is on pace for a career high and highest for a season in franchise history. He has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in five of six games, and has thrown for 300 or more yards in two games.

With nine 300-yard passing games as a Bear, Cutler is tied with Billy Wade for the most in franchise history.

“I like the situation I’m in right now with the coaches. Marc Trestman, [Matt Cavanaugh], [Aaron Kromer], all those guys are doing a great job of getting this team offensively where we need to be. Offensive line, I can’t say enough about them. I think they’re the biggest byproduct of where we are offensively,” Cutler said. “We brought in Martellus Bennett, some other guys around us. We’ve got (Brandon Marshall), Alshon [Jeffery], Earl [Bennett], Matt Forte, [Michael] Bush, all those guys are playing well.”

In the final year of a contract that pays $8.47 million this season, Cutler also cited an enjoyable life off the field for the change he has experienced. Cutler and reality television star Kristin Cavallari married in June, and, the summer before that, Cavallari gave birth to the couple’s son, Camden.

“At home, life is good. Kristin’s actually here tonight with me. We’re gonna have a little date night, go downtown stuff, go to dinner. So that’s great,” Cutler said. “Cam is doing great. I’m in a good place right now. It makes it a lot easier when you have good guys to work around you. It makes my life easier.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/15/2013 04:01 PM

He targeted special teams, a good place to start after the Washington Redskins’ latest loss. Darrel Young, his voice going a mile a minute and full of fire, stopped with this unit, blaming them for the loss. He could have continued on to other aspects of the team. And nobody would have stopped him. When you’re 1-4 and you had designs on contending for a division title and perhaps the Super Bowl, there’s no simple reason you lost. Again. There’s no simple way to turn it around.

Play better? Of course.

The problem is there’s no one spot that’s consistently failing the Redskins. It’s all of them. The offense can’t generate points in the first half, constantly putting the team in a deficit. They’ve trailed at the half in each game. The defense struggled for the first three games, yet they did their job in Sunday’s 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. And there is the special teams. The woeful special teams.

“Every phase they kicked our butts [on special teams],” Young said.

“That was the worst special-teams performance since I’ve been here,” Redskins special-teamer Niles Paul, in his third season, said. “We were outplayed in every phase of special teams. Just a meltdown.”

But this isn’t just about the special teams. It’s about a team that can’t find its way, one year after it ended as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. If Robert Griffin III hadn’t gotten hurt in that Seattle loss. It seems so long ago. And it seems like more than an offseason between then and now. It feels like a lifetime.

“It’s definitely an awkward feeling,” Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said of their start.

Chances are, their fans are feeling something other than awkward.

It’s also tough to see it getting back anytime soon to that pre-Seattle-injury point, when they felt with a healthy Griffin they could have gone on a long run. It’s not just the 1-4 record; it’s the way they've gotten to this spot. Just overall sloppy play. Before the game, one Redskins team official said they just needed to go out and play well. That way, even if they had lost, they could see something upon which they could build.

What do they build off of this game? The defensive performance was solid, limiting Dallas to one legitimate scoring drive (the first one of the game). But they could not stop the Cowboys in the red zone. Yes, it was a better showing than the defense had in the first three games. Heck, they held receiver Dez Bryant to 36 yards and harassed quarterback Tony Romo into a 72.9 passer rating. They held Dallas to 213 total yards. You look at those numbers and you think one thing: Washington won.

Instead, the Redskins lost by 15. Goodness.

An offense that seemingly took a step forward against Oakland before the bye week regressed Sunday night. They couldn’t stop a Dallas pass rush despite the Cowboys losing end DeMarcus Ware. They couldn’t convert in the red zone. They turned the ball over twice, once inside their own 5-yard line. One step forward; two back. Griffin looked more spry; it didn’t matter.

“We’re close on offense,” Griffin said. “But close doesn’t do it in this league.”

No, it does not. Sure, the Redskins show signs of life at moments. But they’re not playing winning football. Sometimes that’s a tough term to define, but not when you watch this team. Too many penalties. Too many missed tackles. Too many breakdowns.

“I feel every week we’re getting better,” running back Alfred Morris said. “I’ll stand by that. But at the same time it seems like we get better in one area and we take a step back in another area. You can’t do that and win games.”

They’re not good enough to overcome 12 penalties for 104 yards, as they had Sunday night. If you’re good and you commit that many penalties you’re considered aggressive, and perhaps that undisciplined style is part of your charm. When you commit that many and you’re 1-4? They question your discipline and coaching and say you don’t do the little things well. It’s all true.

When you’re playing like the Redskins are now, you have an illegal-motion penalty on a fourth down, wiping out a punt that left Dallas at its own 16-yard line. So you kick again. And the returner, Dwayne Harris, takes it 86 yards for a touchdown -- and you lose one of your top special-teams players along the way in Bryan Kehl, who hurt his knee on the play.

“We found the enemy,” Young said. “It’s us. … It sucks. At the end of the day it’s unfortunate, but we have to move on from it.”

That’s all they can do. The question is, how do you fix this? The Redskins need to prove they can play well for an entire game. That, not the number of games, is the answer. If they don’t start doing that, they can play 20 games and still keep finding ways to lose. It's good for the Redskins that the defense is playing well; it'll have to play even better.

Not that they’re counting themselves out. They won’t do that, nor should they.

“I don’t feel like a team that can’t rebound,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I don’t feel like a team that is out of it. I definitely don’t feel like that. We’re going to go back to work. All the losses hurt. They should hurt.”

If they don’t turn it around soon, they’ll start to hurt even more. An entire season would then come crashing down.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/16/2013 02:48 PM

With the NFL's Oct. 29 trade deadline approaching, Bears general manager Phil Emery likely is receiving plenty of calls from teams interested in stockpiling draft picks.

The Bears have lost three defensive starters for the season, four if you count nickel corner Kelvin Hayden, who went down in training camp. The line has been decimated with Pro Bowl tackle Henry Melton lost to an ACL before the same injury claimed replacement Nate Collins two weeks later. Coordinator Mel Tucker has used a street free agent and undrafted rookies as Stephen Paea has missed the last two games with a sprained toe.

There has been a flurry of trades within the league already. In the first four weeks, four former first-round picks were traded, a group running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick in 2012, headlines. There likely will be more deals as the Oct. 29 trade deadline approaches.

It will be interesting to see if Emery swings a deal to fortify the front. Signing a high-priced free agent like Richard Seymour seems unlikely, at best. Seymour is holding out for a big pay day and expectations can go unfulfilled when teams pursue players sitting on their couch waiting for top dollar. Plus, the Bears are handcuffed with less than $3 million in salary-cap room.

If a trade is to be made, Emery will have to weigh the costs and benefits. Speaking at the start of the season, Emery identified future goals, one of which was to get younger on defense. He discussed building the roster from within and that requires draft picks. Getting younger through the draft will smooth out salary-cap issues that have hovered for two years.

"What we need to do in terms of continuing to improve our roster … is retain more of our own players," he said.

So Emery set a goal to acquire more draft picks. The Bears currently have seven for 2014. They own the Bucs' sixth-rounder from the Gabe Carimi trade and are without their own seventh after sending it to the Cowboys for tight end Dante Rosario. The pick for Rosario was conditional, meaning the Bears potentially could keep it. Terms of the deal are not known, but typically conditions are based on a player's time on the 46-man gameday roster. Rosario has been active for five games, sitting out only the opener.

To meet Emery's goals while helping the defense this season, he would have to acquire a player who could figure into the team's future — a lineman he was confident could be a part of the rotation into 2014, not a half-season rental. That is where it gets complicated because teams calling are unlikely to be offering quality linemen, not on the cheap anyway.

The one place the Bears can help their defense is on offense. They currently are third in the NFL averaging 28.7 points per game, a figure supplements with four defensive touchdowns. A sure fix for the defensive line isn't going to walk through Halas Hall's front door this month.

"We should hold up the slack no matter if the defense is there or not," tight end Martellus Bennett said. "It's always on us to do a good job, moving the rock and scoring points. We just have to keep the other team's offense off the field. Our defense is doing a good job. It's coming up with turnovers."

Quarterback Jay Cutler is eighth in the league with a 95.2 passer rating and running back Matt Forte is fourth in yards from scrimmage with 686. The Bears (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery) and Broncos (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) are the only teams with two receivers in the top 16 in yardage. There is reason to expect the offense will makes strides as the season unfolds. It has been a long time since the Bears were equipped to win high-scoring games, a product of Emery's roster overhaul with a focus on playmakers. That is the best solution for a short-handed front seven at this point while reserving offseason resources for a makeover of the defensive line.

"Our skill position guys are playing extremely well," center Roberto Garza said. "Jay is throwing the ball exceptionally well and our receivers are playing great right now. We're making plays down the field. We're running the ball efficiently. We can be better running the football."

The Bears are 4-2 and tied atop the NFC North, the only division with three teams above .500. There is no reason to think the team lacks firepower needed to remain in the race.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/16/2013 02:49 PM

Heading into their bye week in 2012, the Washington Redskins were at a crossroads.

Losers of three straight, they sat at 3-6, staring into the abyss of yet another lost season. Head coach Mike Shanahan’s record had sunk to 14-27, and he was resigned to using the balance of the season for player evaluation purposes.

The bright spots were two rookies: their dynamic franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, whom they mortgaged their short-term future for, and an unheralded sixth-round running back, Alfred Morris. These two made Shanahan’s evaluations much easier, and they also made the Redskins NFC East champions.

The Redskins reeled off an improbable seven-straight wins and entered the playoffs as the hottest team in the league. Then a twist of fate – and a knee – changed everything. Already hobbled, Griffin’s right knee gave out as he attempted to recover a fumble, tearing his ACL and LCL, giving this fairy-tale season a grim ending.

Adrian Peterson’s nearly inhuman recovery from reconstructive knee surgery established a new – and unrealistic – precedent for professional athletes in similar situations. Notwithstanding controversy, the plan was for Griffin to be under center for the season opener. Then again, the Redskins are no stranger to controversy, it’s seemingly followed them at every turn since Daniel Snyder took ownership in 1999.

But Griffin’s injury presented a unique challenge. He wanted to play in the preseason, but was held out for precautionary reasons. Yes, the preseason is largely meaningless and each team breathes a sigh of relief when their starters finish a game unscathed, but Griffin needed the reps, both from a physical and mental standpoint.

The proverbial “rust” was real. Griffin didn’t look like himself to start this season. His footwork was off, his throwing framework (lower body) was unstable, and he wasn’t driving into throws, rendering him inaccurate and ineffective.

The extra rest from the Redskins recent bye week looks to have paid off for Griffin. He once again looked like the dual-threat weapon that made him so difficult to defend as a rookie. Against the Cowboys, he was more elusive in and out of the pocket, beating defenders to the perimeter on scrambles.

A large portion of Griffin’s success as a rookie can be credited to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The Redskins were one of six teams to run the ball more than they threw it in 2012, deploying a zone-based running scheme, zone-read, and a passing game predicated on play-action. These schemes suit Griffin and Morris perfectly.

Play-action passes simplify Griffin’s reads and they also present him with the option to tuck it and run when his receiver is covered. Morris is a one-cut runner who can press the line, read his blockers, and wait for the cutback lane to develop.

However, the reliance on play-action to move the ball in the passing game requires a defense to be playing honestly. Slow starts have plagued the Redskins offense all season, allowing defenses to play dishonestly, not honor play fakes, and sit back in coverage.

This simplified decision-making also affects Griffin’s maturation as a pocket passer. The Redskins are still learning if Griffin can stand in the pocket, scan through multiple progressions, and deliver the ball accordingly.

To be fair, a large portion of their passing game struggles can be attributed to the talent-level at wide receiver. The talent Griffin worked with at Baylor – Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon, Terrance Williams – is better than what he works with as a pro.

In a run-first offense, a premium is placed on physical receivers who are willing blockers in the run game. However, there are trade-offs to procuring this sort of talent, particularly in the vertical-passing game.

Split end Pierre Garcon is their most complete weapon. Garcon is a physical receiver with strong hands. While he lacks suddenness, he has deceiving top-end speed in the open-field. Flanker Leonard Hankerson has the size-to-speed ratio teams covet, he’s just raw and an inconsistent route-runner. One-time speedster Santana Moss can’t stretch the field vertically anymore, and now works the underneath voids out of the slot.

An emerging target is rookie tight end Jordan Reed. Reed has elite athleticism and change-of-direction skills. Slightly built for a tight end, Reed has to put on weight to become a better in-line blocker, but for now, his skills will be utilized on screens, underneath routes, and in between the numbers in the passing windows between linebackers and safeties.

Another problem area for the Redskins is their offensive line. Other than left tackle Trent Williams – who is playing as well as any blindside protector in the league – this group has not distinguished itself, particularly in the middle.

Against a makeshift Cowboys defensive line, guards Kory Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester were unable to anchor at the point of attack in the run game and move the line. In the passing game, the interior of the line caved, preventing Griffin from climbing in the pocket. Without a consistent push up front, this offense – or any offense – can’t function as designed.

After the first two weeks of the season, the Redskins looked to have one of the league’s worst defenses. Their secondary was shredded, tackling was sloppy, run fits were poor, and teams moved the ball and scored at will. Over the past three weeks, this unit has turned the corner.

The Redskins run a 3-4 front, and have a solid pair of bookend outside linebackers: Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Orakpo, former All-Pro, may not have the sack totals, but his pass rush productivity has been there. Kerrigan is relentless in his pressure and pursuit off the edge.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett likes to bring blitz pressures and disguise his coverages. Haslett rarely asks his outside backers to drop into coverage, as such, he’s been creative in stunting them to confuse opponents’ protection schemes. The issue is, other than Barry Cofield, the defensive line isn’t capitalizing on single-block opportunities.

The Redskins secondary has been inconsistent, particularly at safety. Rookie Bacarri Rambo’s early season struggles forced lineup and schematic changes. Haslett has settled in on Reed Doughty and Brandon Meriweather. Doughty is a limited athlete, and Meriweather is a big-hitter, whose reckless style leads to lapses in coverage.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is a gambler. Hall can be undisciplined at times, but he’s an experienced vet who is physical at the line, and knows when to jump or undercut a route. Hall did a masterful job against Dez Bryant, limiting him to five catches and 36 yards on eight targets. When Hall rises to the occasion, he can neutralize an opponent’s top threat.

The Redskins special teams have been disastrous. They’ve had coverage lapses, penalties, and minimal impacts from the return game. On average, the Redskins offense has the second-worst average starting field position in the league. Complicating matters, they just lost their starting long snapper (Nick Sundberg) and special teams ace (Bryan Kehl) for the season.

Not much has gone right for the Redskins in 2013. Their 1-4 record is a reflection of their team as a whole, as each phase has contributed to their collective struggle. With the Broncos looming the week after the Bears, this Sunday’s game is a must-win. This team doesn’t look like it has a seven-game win streak in it, so their time atop the NFC East perch looks to be short-lived.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/17/2013 11:00 AM

The Washington Redskins won't sugarcoat the way they played in their latest defeat, or the entire season for that matter.

They hope to avoid going 0-3 at home for the first time in 15 years while trying for a fifth consecutive victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

A season removed from winning the NFC East title, Washington (1-4) is searching for a way to get back on track and make up ground in a division in which no team is above .500.

The Redskins rank fourth in the NFL with 399.2 yards per game, but 20th at 21.4 points per contest. They are also near the bottom of the league with 395.0 yards and 28.6 points allowed per contest.

Washington is last in the league in punt coverage at 19.1 yards allowed per return and 28th in kickoff coverage at 26.4. It gave up an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown during a 31-16 loss at Dallas last Sunday.

"This team is the defending NFC (East) champs and we're sitting here at 1-4 right now," quarterback Robert Griffin III said. "We have to take that medicine and move on to the next week, learn from it and not put us in the tank."

Washington outgained the Cowboys 433-213. Alfred Morris rushed for 81 yards and a TD and Griffin threw for 246 yards and ran for 77 - five more yards than he totaled on the ground in the previous four games.

However, Griffin was 19 of 39 without a touchdown pass and had turnovers on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter.

"You aren't going to get any excuses from this guy," he said. "We didn't play well enough to win in all three phases of the game. We have to go out and win as a team."

The Redskins now get the chance to do so at home, where they haven't started 0-3 since 1998. Their FedEx Field losses have come against Philadelphia and Detroit by a combined 13 points.

"In order to beat a team like Chicago, you've got to take it a day at a time and just concentrate on that football team," Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. "If you get better as a group, then you've got a chance to win and at least that's the formula that I look at."

Though the Redskins have won four straight over the Bears (4-2), those games were decided by a combined 16 points. Chicago's Jay Cutler was intercepted four times by DeAngelo Hall in those contests, with Hall returning one for a 92-yard TD in Washington's 17-14 road win Oct. 24, 2010 in the latest meeting.

However, Cutler, who played his first three seasons for Shanahan in Denver, is averaging career highs with a 65.9 completion percentage and 95.2 passer rating. He's thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions the last two weeks, passing for two scores in a 27-21 victory over the New York Giants last Thursday that ended Chicago's two-game slide.

Brandon Marshall, who also played with Cutler for Shanahan in Denver, caught a season-high nine passes for 87 yards and two TDs against the Giants. Marshall bounced back after voicing his frustration following a four- reception, 30-yard, one-touchdown effort in a loss to New Orleans the previous week.

The Bears' 10-game run of forcing at least one turnover ended against the Saints, but they intercepted Eli Manning three times, including one Tim Jennings returned 48 yards for a touchdown.

Chicago has gone 17-1 in the last 18 in which it's forced at least three turnovers.

"We see things each and every week that tell us we cannot just be good, we can be very good," coach Marc Trestman said. "But we also know there's a lot of work ahead."

That's particularly true on the defensive line, which has lost tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins to season-ending knee injuries. Those absences were likely a big reason the Giants' Brandon Jacobs rushed for 106 yards and two TDs in his first start since 2011.

The Bears also rank 30th with eight sacks.

"I believe the talent is there and we've just got to keep working on it," Trestman told the Bears' official website.

Marshall has 12 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns in two games against Washington.

Already struggling, the Redskins' banged-up kick and punt coverage units must try to contain dangerous return man Devin Hester. He has an NFL-record 18 returns for touchdowns, though he hasn't recorded one in his last 28 games dating to 2011.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/18/2013 04:08 PM

Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall hasn't been there for all 99 of Jay Cutler's games, but he was there for No. 1 with the Denver Broncos and he'll be there for No. 100 on Sunday in Washington. So Marshall is uniquely qualified to speak on the growth he has seen in his quarterback -- and friend.

While Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who coached Cutler and Marshall in Denver, believes Cutler has regained the Pro Bowl form he showed in Denver, Marshall has a different take.

"I think (Cutler is) better," Marshall said. "I think it’s more from a mental aspect. He’s locked in.

"Jay’s doing an amazing job of not only doing the things he needs to do, but he’s getting everyone lined up. He’s walking us through routes, showing us how he would like it. The trickle-down effect has been good from his leadership."

Leadership hasn't been a quality always associated with Cutler, but a reputation as a sometimes salty, aloof and pouting individual seems to be fading away.

“I have to be honest, sometimes I try to downplay it to have his back but this year it’s like night and day," Marshall recently told the NFL Network. "He’s unbelievable. He’s leading the way.

“I don’t know. Sometimes it clicks for guys and this guy, he’s unbelievable. I’m lost for words when I talk about him.”

Marshall caught Cutler's second touchdown pass, a 71-yarder against Seattle in 2006. The two were reunited last season in hopes of bringing the Bears the same type of offensive pop, and it worked as Marshall caught 118 passes for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Some credit the arrival of new coach Marc Trestman for Cutler's leadership growth this season, but Marshall isn't sure.

“Honestly, it’s more a credit to Jay," Marshall told the NFL Network. "Jay is a guy that is well-read; he’s always reading on how to be a better husband, how to be a better man. He’s always searching for answers; how to be a better father. He understands that he’s not supposed to stay the same, so I think there is some credit to coach Trestman but Jay is probably the smartest man in any room.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
10/19/2013 12:23 AM

Tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) and cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) are questionable for the Bears’ trip to Washington.

The Redskins are relatively healthy as well with cornerback David Amerson (concussion) the only player listed at anything other than probable. Amerson is questionable.