Archive for category Chicago Bears

49ers – Bears Friday Recap

Due to some wild work crap, this is up a ton later than expected but despite that, here are my thoughts on the Chicago/San Fran stumble from Thursday night.

It was indeed a stumble – it was too lackluster to be called a ‘tumble’, ‘matchup’ or ‘brouhaha’.

I could have almost called it a yawn.

Jay Cutler must miss Denver. Not so much the city, coaching staff or even the AFC West – although that last one would be a lot more fun to play in.

No, Cutler is probably missing a good offensive line and competent wide receivers.

Most likely the offensive line. If you don’t believe me, take a peek at Matt Forte’s statline. His yards per carry is pretty abyssmal, although his overall stas are good thanks to the Bears finally using him in the pass game.

I suck at math but if I used the calculatron correctly, 20 carries for41 yards is a horrific 2.1 yards per carry average. 

I made a joke on twitter last night wondering if Forte was finally back from vacation and was gently reminded that it isn’t really him so much as his offensive line.

However, the counter point to that which – of course – I only just thought of is that guys like Steven Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson have at one time or another (or in Jackson’s case continue) to produce with shoddy offensive lines.

I guess all that means is, if you were ready to crown Forte as the next great running back after a fantastic year one, slow your roll. Doesn’t mean he’s not very good – it might indicate he isn’t great. Either way, it’s too early to call it, so let’s not.

Back to Cutler – apparently he cursed out a journalist in the hallways near the 49er lockerroom last night when said media dude said that forget fove interceptions, Cutler could have easily had seven.

I’m sure it’s not what you want to hear but honestly, was the guy wrong? Cutler made some poor decisions (for example interception number one) and floated some awful passes that could have been picked off, but weren’t.

No run game and poor blocking by the offensive line have put Cutler in a position where he feels the need to press and that’s not a good thing.

Especially when Devin Hester would make a nice number two wide receiver but isn’t quite in Brandon Marshall’s league. Or Brandon Stokley’s. Or Eddie Royal’s.

I see a trend.

Cutler needs to stop pushing so hard. He also needs more help.

Speaking of offensive lines, a better effort on the part of the San Francisco line than in recent games. I’ll point to the running back position again as partial support of my point.

Frank Gore’s 104 yards and touchdown on the ground added up to a very solid 4.2 yards per carry. 

Despite that, there is still work to do. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked twice and did throw a pick, but more telling was the fact that he looked like a skittish deer in the pocket.

He doesn’t seem to have much confidence in that offensive line right now. Not good.

The 49ers didn’t repeat last week’s mistake of putting Smith in the position of having to throw 45 times and that’s a good thing given his propensity for interceptions.

Still, 118 yards and no touchdowns is too few for both stats and the 49ers need to do something about it. Getting him back to the confidence level he seemed to have his first game or two is a must.

Despite the better play on the defensive side of the ball and the good ground game, the Niners didn’t take this game over or impose their will on the Bears.

At some point they may fall behind an opponent and at that point they need to find a way to move the ball through the air.

We can argue Smith’s long term viability as the starting QB for this franchise (I don’t think he has one, unfortunately) but he has had a turnover in every start and the more he throws, the scarier it seems to get.

Where did Vernon Davis go? If the Bears did one thing well, it was shut the up-until-last-night red hot tight end down. Meanwhile Greg Olsen has found his stride and his seven catches for 75 yards was a real bright spot.

Back to Forte for a second – 120 yards on eight catches is pretty sick. In reality, throwing to Forte would be the other thing the Bears did well.

Johnny Knox is pretty fast. I mean, there is speed and then there is NFL speed. Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com mentioned how impressed he was to see the speed he and the guys at Draftguys.com saw at Texas vs. the Nation still effective against NFL level players.

There’s a huge difference between College and NFL play – Knox seems to have shifted pretty well from one to the other.

So has Michael Crabtree for the most part. He stumbled on the smith interception and perhaps a more veteran wideout and a more confident quarterback might have adjusted on the fly to the huge cushion Crabtree had but neither did.

Crabtree still looks much better than expected though and I think he’ll succeed in the league, a relief to Niner fans I am sure.

Overall, this game was hard to watch. Neither team really seemed to want to win it, and there was a lack of intensity that marred what I expected to be a hard fought game.

Both teams needed this win badly. The 49ers stay in contention for both the Wild Card and the NFC West title with the win while the Bears are heading the wrong way and will have a fight on their hands for a slot in the playoffs if they don’t figure out how to fix what’s wrong and soon.

It sure wasn’t a case of ‘who wanted it more’ though – more like a case of ’who played slightly more competently’.

Not exactly what I was looking for during the first week of Thursday Night Football.

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Thursday Night Football: Chicago Bears

In what is a pretty important matchup for both teams, the San Francisco 49ers welcome the Chicago Bears to Candlestick Park for the kickoff of NFLN’s Thursday Night Football Series.
 
As always for a Fantasy Football Owner it’s a blessing AND a curse. On the one hand, early football = YAY! On the other, make a mistake by starting a player you shouldn’t and you put yourself in an early hole.
 
Every Thursday we’ll break down both teams to make sure your Thursday night is more ‘Yay’ then ‘Crap’. If you prefer audio, check out the podcast from Wednesday night and we have you covered as well (or go ahead and download via ITUNES and carry it wherever you go).
Let’s start with the visiting Bears.
 
 Jay Cutler
Cutler faces a 49ers team which has allowed over 250 yards and a TD over their last four match-ups while only generating an average of .5 INTs a game. Cutler has been over 200 yards in every game but one (ironically against Detroit) and has scored multiple touchdowns in five out of eight games. Against this defense, I expect to see another 200+ game (I’m guessing 250 plus) and a pair of touchdowns this week.  
 
Matt Forte
Forte definitely heads the list of ‘guys who have busted hard’ this season. He has struggled behind a shaky offensive line and been ignored quite often in the passing game. Also he has flat out just not looked great this season. All that said, I think he’s an ok start this week as a RB2 or flex, moreso in a PPR league. Last week against the Cardinals, the team finally got him consistently involved in the pass game and I think that continues this week against a weak pass defense.
 
Is he a great start? No, he’s nowhere near consistent or safe enough. Is he an OK RB2 or flex? Yes, I expect good, though not great, production tonight.
 
Devin Hester
I was thinking on my comments from last night’s show and I think I underrated Hester a bit. Sure, he’s not hitting the end zone nearly enough.
Since week 6, Hester has had more than 80 yards and between six and eight catches each week.
 

That’s not perfect but it has become pretty consistent. He has been playing well and seems to be flirting with WR2 status. I’d rather assume WR3 numbers but against this defense – which has been struggling – he could be a nice start in a PPR. Less so if you just get yards.

 
Johnny Knox
Knox has cooled considerably although he is consistent in that he has caught about 4 passes a game for around 40 yards the last few games. I don’t expect big things from him this week, though the match-up is nice. As a flex or WR4 with upside Knox has potential but look your roster over and if you have more reliable, more productive or higher upside guys, go with them.
 
Greg Olsen
Olsen is not having the season people envisioned in back in August and there are a bunch of reasons for that. Bottom line though is he has been a disappointment. He FINALLY performed well last week with five catches for 71 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Mind you, the last pair was in a desperate fourth quarter when Arizona had eased back the throttle a bit.
 
Still, I think Chicago remembered they had a great receiving tight end to play with and he should see a slight uptick in production. Still, I don’t expect him to have another huge game so I would start him only if I am struggling at the position and don’t have a ton of options. I’d like to see some more from him consistently before I automatically plug him in.
 

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Twitter Roundtable Vol. 2

roundtableWelcome to the second edition of the Twitter Fantasy Football Roundtable. As is the case last time, a bunch of Fantasy writers who met on Twitter have gathered together to debate and discuss a current topic – today’s group consists of:

Matt Schauf  (@mschauf63) started writing about football for the expansive audience of metropolitan Oneonta, N.Y., back in 2002. After a couple of years of catering to his three readers there, he got picked up by ProFantasySports.com to be an IDP specialist. Soon after, Matt became the lead football writer for PFS and SportsBuff.com. You can now find his work there or at RapidDraft.com, where he also provides the strategy for the “Hollywood” character in the industry’s first single-player fantasy football game. His IDP writing can also be found at SportingNews.com and in preview magazines for Sporting News, Rotoworld and Football Diehards. In addition, Matt runs the industry news site FantasySportsBusiness.com, which was named best new site of 2008 by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Joshua Torrey (@jmtorrey) is an Electrical/Computer Engineer working out of Austin, TX. A die hard Steelers fan & fan of not just football but football strategy, Joshua enjoys breaking down game tape and team schemes to predict long term fantasy success. He is also a contributor to FantasyDC.com. He has 5 tattoos, showered yesterday and is eating meatloaf for lunch.

Andrew Garda (@ThunderingBlurb ) has been writing about football for the last eight years, covering everything from Fantasy to College to the NFL. He’s written for such sites as Draftguys.com and BleacherReport.com, but for the last year and a half has also had his own site at ThunderingBlurb.com. He’s also been podcasting since before they had a name for it and despite that making him feel quite old, continues his own weekly show The Thundering Blurb Football Show every Wednesday (10pm EST) on BlogTalkRadio.com.

Mark Gram (@FF101) Along with Adam Stark and Eric Pedigo, Mark begins the 5th season of Fantasy Football 101 with a fantasy draft special on Aug 13th on www.sportsradio1450.com WFMB am.

 Jim Day (@Fantasytaz) is a retired Biotech Engineer who has been playing Fantasy Football since 1992. Seriously addicted, Jim plays in about 30 Fantasy leagues a year, with most of these being large roster IDP Dynasty leagues. He has been writing for FF sites since 2000 when he started with Xpertsports.com. Jim started Fantasy Football Whiz in 2007 just as a place to have some fun and conversation with fellow league mates and any other fantasy fanatic that wanted to talk FF. It’s a small site, but is growing every year. Besides The Whiz, he also owns and acts as head engineer for Ultimate Recording, a 96 track, fully digital recording studio (im’s other love).

Steve Wyremski (@retiredrookie) is a CPA working in NYC.  He’s a big time New York Jets and Boston College (alum) fan and has been playing fantasy football since 1996.  His primary focus is to reach out to NFL and NCAA players for interviews in an effort to bring the players closer to fans.  Dynasty leagues are a huge focus of his, but general football strategy is his love.

Parag Gheewala (@vote4parag) is an average guy with a day job who loves fantasy football and is also the mastermind behind Mockumentary, which started as his Twitter commentary on the first Twitter Fantasy Football Mock Draft. It quickly lead to Top 10 Fantasy Football Tweeter status. Parag loves the interactive and instant nature of Twitter, but the blog allows him to provide more in-depth comments when needed. Follow him on Twitter and via Mockumentary.

Jared Ferree (@WYFShow ) hosts the “What’s Your Fantasy” radio show/podcast on Blogtalkradio’s Fantasy Sports Channel with Raymond Summerlin.  He is also a frequent contributor to www.lindyssports.com with both fantasy player rankings and general fantasy football articles. 

And now the question of the day.

 

Last year saw a pretty much unprecedented amount of rookie running backs who turned in stud performances: Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson were the class of the class – and all things being equal Kevin Smith looked pretty darned good as well.

Which of these guys is most likely to see a dip in numbers their second year and why?

 

Matt Schauf – RapidDraft.com:

Steve Slaton topped out at 248 carries in college and twice carried fewer than 215 times in his three seasons. The Texans know that they have to be careful about overworking him — as evidenced when they basically sat him (four carries) for the Baltimore game last year. He can’t average 22 carries like he did over the final six weeks of 2008. If more short-yardage carries go the way of Chris Brown and/or Ryan Moats, it’ll chip away at the nine rushing scores Slaton had last year.

That said, I think all of these players belong in the first two rounds of any draft (unless you have some funky scoring system).

 

Josh Torrey – FantasyDC.com:

I think all of them stand a very likely chance to see a drop in Fantasy production this year. But I agree with Matt, Steve Slaton is one of the ones that stand a better chance. His small frame is what people were holding against him and Slaton proved us all wrong for one year.

 

But this is the NFL & Slaton is seeing more looks and hits from big time NFL linebackers, injury concerns my come up this year. Injuries can wreck Fantasy seasons and Slaton owners need to understand that one healthy season does not translate into a healthy career.

The other player I see being brought low is Chris Johnson. The kid is a blazer but he really is a one trick pony. Willie Parker lit up the league his first couple seasons as NFL Defenses still were not prepared for such potent speed rush attacks. LenDale White helps Chris Johnson in that opposing Defenses have less time to sub in a better defense for the battering ram that is White or the roadrunner that is Johnson.

 

Both Titan RBs saw great production increases last year, but if the Titans do start to favor Johnson, he could be in for a long season. My prediction is that the Titans will keep things balanced and Johnson will see some TDs lost to a better passing attack (not by much granted) and White.

 

Andrew Garda – ThunderingBlurb.com:

Everybody already knows I consider Forte a guy who will slip in year two. But as I’m merely pointing out that I expect him to dip a bit (and remain a top 10 back) I’m not sure I would characterize it as a sophomore slump & I don’t know it will be the biggest.

I agree with Josh that Chris Johnson is a prime candidate for a stumble. My biggest worry is that he is going into the season with no real passing offense. While that didn’t seem hamper him much last year, defenses weren’t as prepared for the speed he brought to the table.

Take a close look at his last few games – he struggled (but scored) on the ground against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. He caught just two catches for a measly 1 yard versus the Steelers. But he also struggled terribly against Houston.

If you let the Ravens game go as he was hurt and left the match, but look at the other two you’ll note that in both cases, teams pinned him against the line, allowed him no cutback lanes and generally hit him early and often.

It didn’t help that Collins was off his already unimpressive game.

If a team like Houston (ranked 23rd vs the run in 2008) can figure this out, more than likely others will too. It’s especially worrisome since it happened late in the season and was replicated by Pittsburgh.

And look at that early schedule – Steelers, Jets, Jags (twice), Pats – it’s not pretty.

Let’s also not forget LenDale White stealing short yardage work, though if it balances like last year that won’t hurt too much.

I like Johnson, but I think this year a season’s worth of tape along with the mediocre pass game may hurt him more than people expect.

 

Mark Gram – FF101 on Sportsradio1450.com:

I had a tough time deciding between C. Johnson and S. Slaton. While I Johnson coming back to the pack just a little, I feel that Slaton will be the guy whose numbers may drop the most.

Good points have already been made as to why Slaton may struggle a bit this season. First, the NFL is not stupid; Slaton will not sneak up on opponents this year. Defenses will be prepared.

Second, as Matt mentioned, the Texans aren’t going to give him the workload that he had last season. With C. Brown and R. Moats as the backups, I think Slaton will see fewer touches at the goal-line.

He’s still a fine option in fantasy drafts, but I’m going into my drafts not expecting the same #’s as last year.

 

Jeff Terfertiller – Footballguys.com:

I see Slaton and Johnson having a decent chance of wearing down.  Both are “smaller” and there is talk of both having a big role this season.  Hard to believe the Titans will give Johnson too many carries. 

 

With White being used to close out games in 2008, he saw extended action as the Titans led many games.  What happens if more games are close?  Will the Titans give Johnson 20-25 touches per game? 

 

Also, what happens if Collins is hurt or ineffective?  I think last year was a perfect storm of good fortune for Tenn.  In Houston, this is the year for Slaton to prove he can handle the load.  If he has two great seasons, he vaults to a perennial Top 5 pick. 

 

Josh Torrey – FantasyDC.com:

Andrew said ‘I like Johnson, but I think this year a season’s worth of tape along with the mediocre pass game may hurt him more than people expect.’

 

I like Chris Johnson in the 2nd Round. But I don’t think I will ever get a chance to even sniff at him.

 

Parag Gheewala – Mockumentary:

I like all three RBs and don’t foresee a major stumble out of any of them.  I expect Forte’s numbers to decrease from last year because of fewer targets and carries, but he’s good enough not to bust.  Until I see signs that Slaton can’t handle the load, I’ll believe what I saw last year.  Same goes for Johnson – I think he’s got elite skills.  Slaton and Johnson are great values.

 

Jared Ferree – What’s Your Fantasy Podcast:

One thing that really annoys me about Matt Forte is that I feel people are over valuing him based on the value he represented last season.  Forte went undrafted in some leagues and if you did draft him, you probably picked him up very late.  So based on what he did last season, he was a tremendous value and has people all in a tizzy about him.  The guy did less with 300+ carries than anyone I have ever seen, 3.9 YPC, and 8 rushing TDs, are you serious? 

 

His value was in the passing game and I don’t think that was planned it was due to Kyle Orton looking to check down.  Cutler thinks he can hit a guy with 2 DB’s draped on his back and if there is one thing I can guarantee in fantasy football this season, it is that Matt Forte won’t come close to his reception totals last season. 

 

If you watched some of the games that Forte played in last season, there were times he sat out for a long stretch and then got brought in at the one yard line and got a TD, and his stat line was decent.  He was average at best running the ball and better than people thought catching the ball.  I think he doesn’t carry more than 265 times, and doesn’t catch over 40 balls.  That means his production drops quite a bit. 

 

I don’t predict injuries, so I am assuming Slaton stays healthy and Johnson is a threat to go deep every time he touches the ball, so to me, this one is easy, if you take Forte top 5, you will be disappointed, because I don’t think he is a top 10 fantasy back this season. 

 

Jim Day – FantasyFootballWhiz.com:

I have to agree with Jared on this one, I think Forte falls the furthest. That being said, I think all of these kids (outside of Kevin Smith) will remain top 10 at the position. I just don’t think Forte come out on top of this group.

Hate to reiterate what has already been said, but it has been said that his touches will go down partly due to a healthy Kevin Jones looking quicker than he has in the last couple of years according to Chicago beat writers and also the fact that Cutler will look to throw the ball further downfield more often.

Ultimately though I think these things help Forte and allow him to remain fresher longer into the season and maybe even extend his career some, I’m just not sure I see top five in his future in 2009.

 

Josh Torrey – FantasyDC.com:

While Kevin Jones might be healthy with the pads off, I don’t expect Jones to make it 2 weeks without getting injured. I think the other Adrian Peterson will steal more carries from Forte & is the handcuff to own.

 

Jim Day – FantasyFootballWhiz.com:

I am not a fan of Handcuffs and don’t draft that way, so I really don’t care who takes his carries, just that they will be taken.

 

Steve Wyremski - retiredrookie.com:

Forte is my guy.

Chicago was a game managing team last year with a ton of dump offs and clock management.  Add a gun slinger and I see two changes:

1) Less dump off passes to the RB;
2) More tossing the ball around.

This all equals fewer opportunities for Forte.  Let’s face it… Forte was the Bears offense last season.  While the addition of one of the best young QuarterBacks in the league may help keep the safety out of the box, he’s not going to see the same number of touches.  The Bears are also more likely to get a second RB involved this season based on recent news out of Chicago.

Forte’s big time overrated right now.

 

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Quarterback Blurb Breakdown: Jay Cutler

 

Can Jay Cutler make it in the Windy City?

Can Jay Cutler make it in the Windy City?

On the surface, Chicago sure seemed to get the better of the Orton/Cutler trade. Denver got some nice draft picks, Orton and a bag of chips while Chicago got something it hasn’t had in an incredibly long time:  a Franchise quarterback.

Or did they?

There has been a ton of discussion about Cutler’s off-the-field issues and attitude and how it could affect his play. And from what I hear, there is some truth to the rumors out there.

Put that aside though, the more important question is: who will he throw to?

The crux of that might come down to whether you think Cutler made Marshall/Royal or they made him?

I think the truth lies in the middle. It’s not the cop-out it may seem, if you look closely.

Cutler throws a lot. It’s the way he rolls and he has the arm to back it up, although sometimes his accuracy is a tad skittish. He’ll throw a ton and it’s one of the worries I have for Matt Forte – the dump offs he got last year won’t be there as Cutler forces the ball downfield.

But back to Cutler: We know the Bears will have him throw the ball. They didn’t trade the house to have him hand it off.  And we know he can throw the ball well and far.

He just isn’t throwing to quality wide receivers.

Two things are often mentioned when this comes up:

1)      Devin Hester is JUST about to break out this year. I know people said it would happen last year but it WILL happen this year. Listen, I didn’t say it last year and I won’t this year. Hester is fast and deadly with the ball in his hands.

But getting the ball into his hands – well, he hasn’t shown me he can make the tough catches needed to be a top wide receiver. Marshall was able to adjust to some of Cutler’s ‘special’ balls. Hester? We’ll see.

2)      Cutler knew Earl Bennett at Vandy – instant chemistry! I wouldn’t be my house on it. Sure, they know each other but they haven’t played together in a long time. Not saying they won’t click – but counting on it is a little risky.

The rest of the receiver corps is a collection of also-rans and rookies.

Now if this is the case, how is he currently 10 on my list?

Simple – he will elevate that group more than they pull him down. While I don’t think Hester is close to elite, he’s more than serviceable and his vertical game matches up well with Cutler’s.

Cutler also has Greg Olsen, a young tight end who can also stretch the field as well as make shorter catches.

Now while the Bears will run the ball, they won’t run it exclusively. I very much expect Cutler to throw more than hand off. In fact, Forte’s ability to run the ball will help open up the secondary for Cutler.

Still and all, you have to assume there will be some issues. So while I think he could put up very good numbers, I’d be leery of depending on him and only him for most of my season.  

Cutler brings out some real emotion in many corners, as evidenced by my intense debate with Greg Kellogg on The Thundering Blurb Show recently. Somehow, you’re either with Cutler or against him and there is little in between.

If you can put aside your Bronco or Bear colored glasses, I think you’ll see a player who is a very good quarterback. Remember – regardless of the whining and less-than-distinguished manner of his departure from Colorado – that this is a Pro Bowl quarterback who can excel.

I believe that as a portion of your quarterback by committee – even the main part – you would be more than happy to have him.

But I also believe if you reach for him expecting top five numbers, you run the risk of being disappointed and struggling this season at your quarterback spot.

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Running Back Blurb Breakdown: Matt Forte


Matt Forte
Another guy who people will argue should/could be in the top 3 but I can’t go there.

Yes, fantastic first year. And the offense looks like it is about to step it up. But that doesn’t mean Forte will get even better.

Why? Well, for several reasons. First of all, his YPC was a pedestrian 3.9 and he’ll need to improve that to continue to put up numbers, especially since his carries will probably drop as Cutler throws more than Orton did.

Speaking of Cutler – while his arm will open things up for the run game (even with mediocre wide receivers) a ton of Forte’s 63 receptions were checkdowns by the quarterback. Cutler doesn’t play that way – he much more often forces a throw down-field.

So I think it is hard to expect close to the receiving numbers He threw just 61 TARGETS to backs in 2008. Not receptions – TARGETS. (In fairness to the ‘numbers’ game – he threw at running backs 81 times in 2007.)

The Bears’ offensive line is not as good as Denver’s, his receivers aren’t close and the defense should keep it close. Still, they didn’t trade the house for Cutler to hand Forte the ball, regardless of the young RB’s talent.

Once again, this points to at least a slight dip in Forte’s production. I just don’t know how big it goes.

If the Bears defense cannot hold the line, it could be a big dip as Cutler throws to his less-than-stud receivers to come from behind. Or it could just be a little regression as the team transitions into a more passing team.

But until I see the offense in action – and by action I don’t mean t-shirts and shorts – I can’t say what it will look like. So I don’t want to invest a huge risk by grabbing him before some of the guys prior to him on the list.

He’ll land in the top 10. I just don’t expect a repeat of his top 3 ranking from 2008.

Thursday Game Breakdown – Saints at Bears – Bears Breakdown

BEARS
Kyle Orton – Isn’t knocking it out of the park but has played all right since he came back from injury. This isn’t an awful matchup – the Saitns are 16th vs the pass, and have given up 20 TDs and only have 11 INTs. So he won’t turn the ball over (not really his problem most weeks) and will probably throw for @ 200 or so yards again. But he won’t blow your opponent away and unless this is your best matchup and QB, I would rather pass on him. But it depends on your alternatives and Orton won’t lose you the game which might be important.

Matt Forte – Why are you even wondering? START HIM. Lock him into your RB2 (maybe RB1 depending). The Saints give up 112 yds per game and have allowed 10 TDs on the ground. Oh and he catches – if Orton has a TD, it is likely Forte catches it. Should have an excellent day as he is involved even if they trail as he catches the ball well.

Chicago WRs – You can stick any one of them in, but Hester is getting the most targets of late. Has the best chance as a flex or WR3/4 but don’t hold your breath.

Greg Olson – Olson is very much up and down – there are more stable TEs – BUT do you own them. He can get some looks from Orton and is a risky play. Depends upon who else you have, but I’m not sold that he will add that much to your fantasy team.

Orton wins Chicago Starting Quarterback Job

According the Chicago Sun-Times, Kyle Orton will be the Bears’ Opening Day quarterback.

Which only tells you which Chicago QB you should not be drafting. Orton looked better than Grossman so far, but his yards per pass is awful and he doesn’t bring much upside to the table.

Still, he’s the guy right now and it should merely remind us that at the end of the day, Chicago will struggle to give us any fantasy value through the air. Hester and Greg Olson might break out, but I would suggest staying away. Even Matt Forte is shaky when he’s going to face stacked run D’s all season.

More later, but thought you might like the breaking news…

Wednesday Morning Stampede

So FAVREWATCH 2008 is far from over, but we knew that would be the case.

All that and some running back news below for the Morning Stampede…

Green Bay Packers
As was reported yesterday, Favre is probably close to being traded and soon. Both the Jets and Bucs are allegedly interested – the Tampa Tribune says Favre will be a Buc be days end, with Brian Griese heading to Wisconsin to back up Aaron Rodgers (which as I wrote last night, only made sense). Not so fast says Jay Glazer of FoxSports – the NY Jets have offered a much better trade package. Apparently, Favre currently prefers the Bucs, though he is talking to the Jets, and supposedly feels that the Packers are asking too much from the Bucs just because they are a NFC team.

I think this will clear up by Friday, maybe before, but it continues to be somewhat ugly between the Pack and their once favored son.

Both the Bucs and Jets would be good, not great fits, for Favre and neither is a Super Bowl contender though the Bucs seem closer on the surface. Favre may help them make a run while he merely makes the Jets an 8-8 team with Wild Card aspirations. That’s not a slam on Favre – the Jets are just farther away. But you never know.

Either team would put Favre back on the Fantasy radar and make him – at the very least – a #2 QB.

Chicago Bears
Kevin Jones is definitely healing well and while he might still open the season on the PUP list, he is supposedly running close to full speed. He’s been in pads, though sporting a heavy knee brace. It’s the brace that reminds you he is still coming back from a nagging injury and is a guy who the Bears probably picked up more for later in the season. Jones could be a pick during the last half or third of your draft, but you shouldn’t draft him for anything but bench depth. Matt Forte is still the starter and will be for some time, barring him struggling mightily.

San Francisco 49rs
Frank Gore could have a huge season if he is involved in the pass game the way I (and others) suspect he might, yet I still see him slipping late in the 1st round of drafts. Gore has worked hard to get into better shape, including dropping wieght. With the concerns for just about every running back pick after #3 (Westbrook or Peterson, depending on who you ask), Gore is someone to look at closely and consider for your #1 back.

Most of the 49rs have a long way to go to prove themselves fantasy worthy and Gore could still face 8 man fronts if Martz’s offense struggles. But Gore has faced them before and done well. Dropping the weight and getting into better shape will hopefully keep him healthier and get rid of nagging injuries that have plagued him for his career.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Just when we thought Fast Willie Parker had lost his goal line touches for good with the drafting of Rashard Mendenhall – not so fast. According to HC Mike Tomlin (by way of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ), Parker is once again under consideration for goal line duties. Now, I need to look into this but this may be a sign Mendenhall is struggling a little in camp. I’ll see what I can find out. Parker will get you the yards – but his touchdowns were completely absent last year and it killed his owners. If he can get even a few more goal line touches, it would really help his value to you. I have been, and still do, assume that the rookie Mendenhall will get a ton of short yardage looks, including in the red zone. Parker hasn’t got the size for it and concern still is he might wear down. But he has been effective on occasion and could be again if the offensive line is back on it’s game. That was the biggest problem last year – the Ol-ine struggled as much as he did.

He’s your rock solid RB2 – with a ton of upside if this plays out.

That’s all for now – more later.

More Training Camp Notes – now with 50% less Favre

Let’s get this out of the way:

  • Favre to Jets looks dead (rumor is Favre no likey Gang Green)
  • Favre to Bucs looks possible
  • No Favre at Packers Camp today

Now on to more stuff not Favretastic -

MRIs Around the NFL

Asante Samuel had one – the injury to his hammy looks ‘Mild’. (Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News) Good news for Philly – a ‘push’ for Lito Sheppard. Again, Samuel means better numbers (or more opportunity for Sheppard) but no Samuel means leverage in contract talks.

Deuce McAllister’s was negative – but like I said yesterday, it’s bad that he needs one already. Once again, I invite you to hop on board the Pierre Thomas Train before it leaves the Station!

I think that’s it for MRIs today – maybe we can do another turn tomorrow?

Bears Lock Hester Up
According to the Chicago Sun Times Da Bears have signed kick return monster and unproven wide receiver Devin Hester to a 4 year 30 Million dollar extension, $15 mill of which is guarenteed. Now, as I said the other day, they HAD to make him happy – right now he’s the whole offense. BUT – and this is critical – he has yet to prove that he’s worth the money they just gave him. I mean, on the one hand, he is, as he’s the most dynamic kick returner maybe ever. But on the other, what if he sucks out loud at receiver? Like the last phenomenal kick returner who was mediocre as a pass catcher – Dante Hall?

They had to pay him – but I don’t know this was money well spent. Hester has to put it together as a pass catcher now.

Of course if he does – will he back with his hand out again?

BTW – for Fantasy purposes, let me reiterate that no Bear WR is worth more than a flier, unless you get good points for kick returns in which case, Hester is your man.

Ashlie Lelie Does What he Does Best – Gets Hurt
For those of you hoping Lelie would be the #3 guy in SF and end up with some Sleeper value – the Santa Rosa Press Democrat is reporting that Lelie is Day-to-Day with a left calf sprain. The guy has never been sturdy and with Battle looking to be the guy behind Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson, Lelie had a huge hill to climb. Looks like he fell off it.

Every day is a day he loses ground. You want a sleeper, try looking at Jason Hill, who has done some damage in Camps. Of course, rumor has it the 49rs will not be using a lot of 3 WR sets (utilizing Frank Gore and Vernon Davis as targets instead) so looking for a productive #3 wide reciever in San Fran might be a little like spitting in the wind.

That’s all for now – -

Comment below or email at ThunderingBlurb@gmail.com

Extensions and NON-extensions

Today one fellow got signed like I said he would a while back while another is threatening to boycott Training Camp if he doesn’t get shown the money very soon.

According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Sun Times, Kick Return Phenom turned wide receiver Devin Hester is unhappy with his contract and may skip training camp in a huff.

Now, what that means is, he’ll have to work hard to overcome Brandon Lloyd and self-proclaimed #1 WR Marty Booker later on.

Considering the two names I just typed, Hester’s threat is a real one. While I am dubious as to his value as a wide receiver Hester is the most dynamic thing in a Bears uni, so they need to get him into camp. I don’t think he should be asking for giant boatloads of cash, but making sure the only highlight you have had the last several years is happy, secure and a BEAR, is pretty vital. I think the Bears may need to blink here, though once the penalties for missed camp hit, Hester may have to get a job at Der Weinerschnitzel or White Castle to get by.

Maybe a team the Bears should look at would be the New Orleans Saints, who signed wide receiver Marques Colston to an extension which has locked him up through 2011. Adam Shefter reported on the NFL Network that the Saints were only too happy to keep Colston smiling. While he has been dinged up on occasion, he is a great target for Brees and with the addition of Shockey and the (hopeful) return to health of Reggie Bush, Colston could find a few less double teams coming his way. We haven’t heard the terms yet but whatever it was was worth it – you can’t put a price on your best target (well, clearly you CAN but you can’t always be cheap about it).

Colston has the potential to be a top 5 Fantasy reciever this year and if he’s healthy could challenge for the top spot.

Getting back to Hester – while the guy isn’t worth Colston money (again, whatever that is), he’s the best thing the Bears have offensively. If he blows town or really holds out, they could be in trouble.

I wouldn’t pay him like a top offensive weapon but I would make sure he leaves the table as happy as I could make him.

send thoughts, questions and complaints to thunderingblurb@gmail.com or post in the comments below as you see fit.