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  1. #1
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    Week 15: Chicago Bears vs Cleveland Browns

    The Chicago Bears might get their most important players on offense and defense back just in time for the final stretch of a playoff race and, of course, just in time to face the hard-luck Browns.

    With three regular-season games remaining, the Bears (7-6) are tied with the Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North, so they can’t afford to be upset by the Browns (4-9) in the final game this season at FirstEnergy Stadium.

    Even though Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler has missed the past four games with a high-ankle sprain, the offense has been rolling, as evidenced by a 45-28 thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. That’s because backup quarterback Josh McCown has been lighting it up and making some wonder if Bears coach Marc Trestman, an assistant for the Browns in the late 1980s who interviewed for the head-coaching job that Rob Chudzinski ultimately landed, should re-insert Cutler into the starting lineup once he’s ready.

    As for the Bears’ defense, it hasn’t dealt with the loss of its leader nearly as well as the offense has coped without Cutler. Starting weakside linebacker Lance Briggs has missed the past six games with a fractured left shoulder. In the meantime, the Bears tied an NFL record by allowing a 100-yard rusher in the six consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

    The status of Cutler and Briggs will become more clear as the week unfolds, but there is a chance one or both of them will return to action Sunday in Cleveland. Rich Campbell, who covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune, discussed those possibilities and more in the following question-and-answer session:

    Q: What’s the latest on Cutler?

    A: “The Cutler situation is really interesting because Josh McCown has played extremely well in Cutler’s absence. Cutler hasn’t played since Nov. 10. He suffered a high-ankle sprain in that game. Josh McCown, he’s a 34-year-old backup who I don’t think anybody expected to necessarily do much on the field. He’s a great locker-room guy, and the organization loves him because he’s very supportive, he’s very professional, he’s extremely upbeat, he’s a top-class teammate and cheerleader. But now he has come in and he’s got a passer rating of 109.8 this season, 13 touchdowns and one interception. He really does a great job running the offense, anticipating receivers, understanding where to go with the ball. He’s has a 67 completion percentage. Those are pretty good numbers, but I think the coaches will find that he’s inaccurate at times, maybe misses a receiver in the end zone. But ultimately he’s moving the offense. He’s developed some type of connection with Alshon Jeffery, and it’s very easy for quarterbacks to trust these two receivers, Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, because Jeffery’s 6-3, Marshall’s 6-5, and they can go up and get the ball against defensive backs. Both quarterbacks for the Bears will throw with a lot of trust and it helps also to have Martellus Bennett as a tight end and Matt Forte as a running back. McCown, as a backup quarterback, to step into that situation where you’ve got that good of a supporting cast, I think there are a lot of backups in the league who would like to get an opportunity with that type of talent around them. But McCown also is very, very professional. He’s a student of the game. He’s been at it a long time, so he knows how to prepare and how to conduct himself, especially as it relates to Cutler. McCown continues to defer to Cutler, saying he’s just keeping it warm while Cutler is getting healthy. But now with the win Monday night, the Bears are 7-6, they’re tied for first place, and it’s a three-game sprint to the finish here. The Bears are fourth in the NFL in yards per play, seventh in yards per carry, seventh in yards per pass and now they could have to change quarterbacks here. It’s sort of a dilemma that they’ve worked themselves into that if Cutler comes back this week, they will be making a change at the most important position when things are running fairly smoothly. As far as Cutler’s injury goes, we’ll find out on Wednesday morning whether he is going to practice, and Marc Trestman will talk to us. Probably we’ll get some clarity. But Jay hasn’t played since Nov. 10. It’s a really interesting dynamic. Throw in the fact that his contract is up at the end of this year, and it’s got the makings of such a juicy situation.”

    Q: Do you think Cutler will play Sunday against the Browns?

    A: “I’ve kind of gone back and forth on this and now to the point where I think he won’t, but Jay last month characterized the Cleveland game as a worst-case scenario for his return. So he seemed convinced that he would be back, and he did return to practice and quarterbacked the scout team last week. So that was a step forward for him. I think the Bears at this point can afford to be extremely cautious, even slow, with Cutler’s return, but Marc Trestman and other people in the organization, including Josh McCown, insist that as soon as Jay is cleared by the doctors that he is the starter and everybody’s behind that.”

    Q: Do you think Cutler will be back with the Bears next season?

    A: “Yeah, I do. I see McCown’s strong play as giving the Bears some leverage, so the better he plays and the more he sustains a high level of play, I think my level of surprise if Cutler doesn’t come back is sort of proportionately decreasing. But ultimately, McCown is 34. He’ll be 35 next year. You don’t know how his body would hold up as a full-time starter over the entire season, and Cutler has got the physical talent to play at a high level and be a consistent solution for the Bears for a longer period of time than McCown. Cutler is 30 right now. The key is the franchise tag for quarterbacks is going to be about $16 million, and the Bears are reluctant to have Cutler play under the franchise tag because that entire $16 million goes toward the 2014 salary cap, and they have major problems on defense right now. They’re at 32nd in total rushing yards allowed, 32nd in yards per carry and 23rd in yards per pass, overall, 30th in yards per play. So they’ve got an aging defense and a front seven that because of injuries and underachievement could be among the worse in pro football, and they might need every bit of their salary-cap resources to fix problems on that defense. If for some reason, Jay Cutler’s camp thinks that he’s going to get $16 million on the open market and that’s the number they’re willing to go after and they’re willing to leave the Bears to go get that number, then I think the Bears at least could say they see a plan B forming in Josh McCown as a placeholder starter and the option to draft a quarterback either next year in the mid rounds — because I think they’d have to spend their higher picks on the defensive side of the ball — and then maybe even if that doesn’t work out, you could still pick a high-round quarterback in 2015 and sort of look at the bigger picture that way.”

    Q: The Bears will come off a short week because of the Monday night game and they’ll be on the road. Aside from that, is there something they should be concerned about when they face the Browns?

    A: “Yeah, for sure. The Bears have already lost three games to last-place teams in the NFC. They’ve lost on the road to the Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings, so there’s no game on the schedule that you can comfortably say they’re going to win, and it’s because this defense has been so bad against the run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they tied an NFL record Monday night by allowing a 100-yard rusher for the sixth consecutive game. So it just kind of gives you an idea about how their run defense has been, and it doesn’t take Adrian Peterson to do it. Adrian Peterson ran for 200 yards against them last week, but the week before that against the Rams, they were gashed by Benny Cunningham, who’s an undrafted rookie, and Zac Stacy, who’s a fifth-round rookie. Add in Tavon Austin’s counter end around, and it was 261 rushing yards by three rookies. The Bears have such a problem up front basically because their front seven starts with injuries. They lost Pro Bowl tackle Henry Melton for the season in Week 3 to an ACL. A couple games later against the Saints, his replacement, Nate Collins, also suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Since then, they have just been trying to patch things together on the interior of the line. Then you have Julius Peppers on the edge who has not duplicated the Pro Bowl form of last year. He’s now 33 and has admitted that his body does not always do what his mind wants it to do. So he will have games where he disappears. He’s had games this season where he has not recorded a statistic. I think he had his best game of the year two weeks ago against the Vikings, 2½ sacks and was really active in run defense. Monday night, he was a little bit quieter. It really does seem like a week-to-week proposition with him right now. So if Peppers is up and plays well, it’s a very big boost for the defensive line because the defensive line really needs him with all the shuffling they’ve done inside. In early November, the Bears signed Jay Ratliff, who was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys, and Ratliff had a falling out with Dallas due to a groin injury that sounded like his camp and the Cowboys disagreed on the severity of and the nature of. They Cowboys ended up releasing him and the Bears took a flier on him because their line was just so decimated that it was a low-risk signing. And Ratliff came back in the Vikings game two weeks ago, and he started Monday night and actually had a sack. So if they can get something out of Ratliff the last three games, I think anything will help over what it has been. A huge piece of news that we’re watching leading into this game is the status of Lance Briggs. Briggs fractured his left shoulder in a game against Washington on Oct. 20 and he sounded optimistic after Monday night’s game that he’s going to practice this week and play. If that’s the case, he would replace rookie fourth-round linebacker Khaseem Greene in the starting lineup. You’re replacing a fourth-round rookie with a veteran who’s the best tackler on the team who’s been to seven Pro Bowls. In terms of recognition and calling signals and lining guys up — that’s Briggs’ responsibility as well — that would be a huge boost to the defense. More so than Cutler coming back would affect the offense, Briggs’ return I think is going to affect the defense.”
    http://www.ohio.com/sports/browns/fr...rowns-1.451482

    Still no updated on if McCown or Cutler are going to be starting but I see McCown ultimately starting.

    Should be a real nice game to see if Haden & Skrine are wearing down as it seems that way lately especially Skrine. Marshall and Jeffrey are some big bodied WR's so it will be good to see Haden go up against these type of WR's and see if he can matchup well.

    Sorry to see you go Wiggy. Should have went to FSU.

  2. #2
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    Also, it will be interesting to see how Chicago can turn around after MFL in the cold. Short week and staying in extreme temps/weather will be interesting. YEs the Browns played in NE but I do not think it was nearly as cold as it was in Chicago on the Lake at night.

  3. #3
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    According to ESPN, Willis McGahee (concussion) seems "very doubtful" for Sunday's game against the Bears.
    McGahee's likely absence leaves Chris Ogbonnaya as a potential starter against a Bears defense that has surrendered 100-yard rushing days to six consecutive opponents (Eddie lacy, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Benny Cunningham, Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray). Ogbonnaya isn't the runner that those guys are, but he's averaging 5.33 YPC on 42 carries this season and is a big part of the passing game (41 catches on the season). He'll get the Bears on a short week and at home. Owners in search of plug-n-play RB2 candidates could do much worse than gambling on Ogbonnaya.
    Willis McGahee (concussion) will not practice Wednesday.
    The Browns running back situation is normally a fantasy black hole, but there's intrigue this week because they have a home game against the Bears. Chicago has given up at least 100 yards rushing to opposing running backs in six straight games. McGahee was sent home from the facility Wednesday, suggesting that he's not on track to get cleared in time for Sunday. Chris Ogbonnaya is in line to draw the start, with Fozzy Whittaker and newly signed Edwin Baker in supporting roles. Ogbonnaya would have some desperation RB2 appeal, especially in PPR formats.
    Fozzy/Ogs and Edwin Baker.

    Brandon Weeden (concussion) has been cleared to practice.
    Weeden is on track to resume his role as Jason Campbell's backup.
    Thank the lord.

    http://www.rotoworld.com/playernews/...l-player-news/

    Sorry to see you go Wiggy. Should have went to FSU.

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    The pass rush will definitely have to be hot and heavy all game this week. Jeffrey and Marshall is a WR load the Browns defense hasn't seen this year.
    [/B]I am a Pit Puritan.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackAttackJack View Post
    The pass rush will definitely have to be hot and heavy all game this week. Jeffrey and Marshall is a WR load the Browns defense hasn't seen this year.
    Thats a great point. We have been spoiled that Haden has been able to contain #1s all year. Skrine/McFadden will have their hands full with Jeffery. He has been dominant lately.

  6. #6
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    Cutler to get the start for Chicago so hopefully he is a little rusty and like said previously the Browns pass rush can get him rattled. Kruger had a very nice game last week so hopefully he can continue that trend. Worried about Robertson against Forte out of the backfield as any team that has a legit recieving back should be taking advantage of that against CRob see Vereen last week, Bush earlier & Charles.

    Lance Briggs will be out for Chicago's D so I wouldn't be surprised to see this a high scoring affair probably like a 35-28 game where Campbell needs to be smart with the ball like last week and get Cameron and Gordon at least 10 targets each. Last week he did a good job of not making mistakes but once again was a check down king where even though he targeted Cameron and Gordon a lot there were multiple times that I could see those two and Little open 15 yards down the LOS but instead of putting the ball on them him checked down. I don't know if he doesn't think he has the ability to make the throws or not but those are throws that an NFL QB should be making at the intermediate level that it seems he has no confidence in. Man I can't wait to see what an actual QB looks like on the Browns especially with the weapons they have in Gordon and Cameron.

    Sorry to see you go Wiggy. Should have went to FSU.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ottograham14 View Post
    Worried about Robertson against Forte out of the backfield as any team that has a legit recieving back should be taking advantage of that against CRob see Vereen last week, Bush earlier & Charles.
    This scares me 100x more than their receivers. That's not taking anything away from their receivers either, they're absolutely lethal. I just think Forte is going to pick Robertson apart all day long. With Cutler working off some rust I'm willing to bet he'll use Forte as his comfort zone throughout a good portion of the game.

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    What's the weather suppose to be like? If it is cold and snowy then he edge goes to Chicago. I believe that we have a chance if the weather is decent and we can pass the ball around
    Here comes the NEW BROWNS!!!

  9. #9
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    High of 25 and a low of 13. Saturday is supposed to have some snow that ends early Sunday. It is right on the lake so who knows what is going to happen. It will be cold and windy (16mph).

  10. #10
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    Looking forward to this one, kind of a "traditional" , old style game ... Bears vs. Browns, in the cold.
    1985 Bears
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    1981 Sting

  11. #11
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    Not quite sure where Edwin Baker came from or if his success today was because he was playing the terrible Bears run defense...but, consider me intrigued.

    The game, as a whole, went about as I expected it to. There were ups, there were downs, and then we blow it in the 4th AGAIN. Hopefully in the offseason, we can find some free agents that can help this team learn how to finish football games.

    This season...we had a 2nd half lead against the Dolphins, Ravens, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots, and Bears only to blow them. Not saying that we should have won each of them...but I think with some veteran leadership with some winning under their belt would have helped win at least a few of them. I think that is the biggest problem that this team has had since coming back in '99....they are trying to learn how to win with a bunch of guys that have never experienced it in the NFL...yeah we bring in a free agent here and there that have won, but they haven't been vocal guys that come in and make a significant effort to change the culture in the locker room. I was hoping that Paul Kruger would have been that guy this year...but, he hasn't really done it in the locker room (at least that has been publicized) and his play on the field hasn't exactly done it either.

    There are young pieces on this football team that have me excited...Gordon, Cameron, Mingo, Gipson, Haden, Ward...but, there are obvious needs as well...RB, QB (although Jason Campbell has been leaps and bounds better than I expected and Brian Hoyer was exciting before he blew out his knee), G, CB #2, pass rusher, coverage LB. With all of the picks and cap room...they SHOULD be able to make a splash going into next year...I just hope that this FO is the right one.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by browniebuck View Post
    Not quite sure where Edwin Baker came from or if his success today was because he was playing the terrible Bears run defense...but, consider me intrigued.

    The game, as a whole, went about as I expected it to. There were ups, there were downs, and then we blow it in the 4th AGAIN. Hopefully in the offseason, we can find some free agents that can help this team learn how to finish football games.

    This season...we had a 2nd half lead against the Dolphins, Ravens, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots, and Bears only to blow them. Not saying that we should have won each of them...but I think with some veteran leadership with some winning under their belt would have helped win at least a few of them. I think that is the biggest problem that this team has had since coming back in '99....they are trying to learn how to win with a bunch of guys that have never experienced it in the NFL...yeah we bring in a free agent here and there that have won, but they haven't been vocal guys that come in and make a significant effort to change the culture in the locker room. I was hoping that Paul Kruger would have been that guy this year...but, he hasn't really done it in the locker room (at least that has been publicized) and his play on the field hasn't exactly done it either.

    There are young pieces on this football team that have me excited...Gordon, Cameron, Mingo, Gipson, Haden, Ward...but, there are obvious needs as well...RB, QB (although Jason Campbell has been leaps and bounds better than I expected and Brian Hoyer was exciting before he blew out his knee), G, CB #2, pass rusher, coverage LB. With all of the picks and cap room...they SHOULD be able to make a splash going into next year...I just hope that this FO is the right one.
    This is what the 4th year in a row it seems that it seems every other week the Browns just cannot close a game out. It seems that for the past couple years the Browns have had probably the worst record in 7pts or less games. It somehow continues to give Browns fans hope that they can play in games but still cannot finish games. The only reason I can continue to come up with for this issue is the lack of a QB. Hoyer actually was able to come back and build leads in the 4th quarters in his 2 wins this season but it seems for the past 3-4 years that McCoy, Weeden, Campbell, etc all cannot do this.

    Now there were a lot of issues yesterday whether it being the defense inability to get off the field on 3rd down, the secondary playing atrociously in the 2nd half (nice jump Gipson), no pass rush for most of the game (AGAIN), Gordon and Cameron looking like they just did not want to be out there yesterday (ALLIGATOR ARMS), and Campbell not being in sync with the recievers and throwing some lame ducks.

    Like you said I was impressed with Edwin Baker. It was pretty nice to see a RB finally hit a hole with some burst and not bouncing around like TRich and McGahee do. Don't think he really has a future with the Browns as I see them hoping to get Lewis back next season to go with Ogs and a Rookie Draft pick but excited to see this kid the next two weeks and see if he can play himself into a spot on another team.

    This team just does not understand how to close out games. They need a QB that can get 1st downs in the fourth quarter and not only when a defense is in prevent with only 2 minutes left in the game. They need a RB that can run downhill in the fourth quarter to kill clock. They need help in the secondary at the corner and FS position or at least better competition than they have now. If Haden is out for the rest of the season I am not too worried about next weeks game but it won't be pretty against Sanders, Brown, etc and Pitt in 2 weeks on the road.

    BTW how bad was the Cleveland crowd yesterday. I thought I was watching a Bears home game. Hopefully Jimmy heard that crowd yesterday and realizes that it was the crowd usually sounds like in December since the Browns are already not playing for anything at that point.

    Sorry to see you go Wiggy. Should have went to FSU.

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    Again, another tight game that you have to believe we would have won with a better QB and another solid RB. I agree with you Otto, it is so frustrating being in these close games because it gives us hope and then breaks our hearts everytime. I thought the biggest issue yesterday was Hortons play calling. I have loved what he has done for our defense this year but yesterday he didn't seem to have any Plan B. We sent a 4 man rush 90%of the time and got hardly any pressure on a rusty, just recovered, injury prone QB. Would love to have seen us go after him early and shake him up. I know the was a lot of pressure on the DBs with Bennett, Jeffery and Marshall, but we gave Cutler way to much time to find his targets and it cost us.

    The only real positives I take from the game in terms of next season are that we do look a few key players away from being really competitive in the North ( we need a great draft), and other results went our way in terms of draft position (Vikings, Falcons, and Bills all winning)

    Looks like another typical Browns December for us all, already looking to the draft and next season.

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    ...It seems that for the past couple years the Browns have had probably the worst record in 7pts or less games...
    Why limit it to 7 points or less games?.. In the last two years (2011 & 2012 seasons) and so far this year, the Browns do not seem like.. they are the worst team in the NFL..beating out the Oakland Raiders for the honor by three more losses ( 13-33 overall record versus 16-30).. QB.. RB.. OL.. etc.. all inclusive.. There is no reason to sugar coat or qualify this...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ottograham14 View Post
    This is what the 4th year in a row it seems that it seems every other week the Browns just cannot close a game out. It seems that for the past couple years the Browns have had probably the worst record in 7pts or less games. It somehow continues to give Browns fans hope that they can play in games but still cannot finish games. The only reason I can continue to come up with for this issue is the lack of a QB. Hoyer actually was able to come back and build leads in the 4th quarters in his 2 wins this season but it seems for the past 3-4 years that McCoy, Weeden, Campbell, etc all cannot do this.

    Now there were a lot of issues yesterday whether it being the defense inability to get off the field on 3rd down, the secondary playing atrociously in the 2nd half (nice jump Gipson), no pass rush for most of the game (AGAIN), Gordon and Cameron looking like they just did not want to be out there yesterday (ALLIGATOR ARMS), and Campbell not being in sync with the recievers and throwing some lame ducks.

    Like you said I was impressed with Edwin Baker. It was pretty nice to see a RB finally hit a hole with some burst and not bouncing around like TRich and McGahee do. Don't think he really has a future with the Browns as I see them hoping to get Lewis back next season to go with Ogs and a Rookie Draft pick but excited to see this kid the next two weeks and see if he can play himself into a spot on another team.

    This team just does not understand how to close out games. They need a QB that can get 1st downs in the fourth quarter and not only when a defense is in prevent with only 2 minutes left in the game. They need a RB that can run downhill in the fourth quarter to kill clock. They need help in the secondary at the corner and FS position or at least better competition than they have now. If Haden is out for the rest of the season I am not too worried about next weeks game but it won't be pretty against Sanders, Brown, etc and Pitt in 2 weeks on the road.

    BTW how bad was the Cleveland crowd yesterday. I thought I was watching a Bears home game. Hopefully Jimmy heard that crowd yesterday and realizes that it was the crowd usually sounds like in December since the Browns are already not playing for anything at that point.
    The crowd is like that A LOT...not just last week, but VERY often when we face opponents that are within reasonable distances. I have been to games in Cleveland against the Steelers and the Lions where I know for a fact that I was outnumbered in the stands. It is embarrassing!!!

    You could have had GOOD tickets to yesterday's game for less than $20 each...you could have gotten into the stadium for under $5.

    A lady I teach with went to her first Browns game with her new boyfriend....and lasted until just before half-time before they left...I am sorry, but...they were in the game at that point...HOW DO YOU LEAVE??? I get that it was cold...but, come on???? FYI...he wasn't getting any when he got home, so that can be discounted...lol!!!

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