Alright, I’m excited now. The Bears just mauled the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks on all facets of the game. Rex Grossman is leading a balanced offensive attack brilliantly (with Bernard Berrian turning into a Willie Gault-esque deep threat), while Tommie Harris is blossoming into a star on defense. With the Bears’ next four opponents having only a combined four wins total so far, we’re in excellent shape. I’d still like to have a little more confidence in the running game in the first half, which is going to become more important as the weather starts turning colder, but considering this is pretty much the first time Chicago has had a legitimate passing threat at the quarterback position since the days of Erik Kramer, I’m ecstatic about the offense overall. The most difficult thing for me now is to avoid getting too wrapped up in the Super Bowl Shuffle Redux hype that’s going to blanket the city for the next few months (let’s hope Ricky Manning Jr.’s community service doesn’t include a suspension from the NFL). However, I’ve definitely put the Bears Kool-Aid on ice.
Some other random thoughts:
1) Juice Digs John L. Smith’s Grave – The Bears and Illini winning in the same weekend?! Next thing you know, Screech Powers is going to star in a porno video. Not only did Illinois ruin Michigan State’s homecoming by securing an upset as 25 1/2 point underdogs, but the Illini did it in clutch fashion with Juice Williams leading a charge downfield in with less than three minutes to go in the game to set up the game-winning field goal by Jason Reda. Obviously, there are going to be a lot more growing pains with a freshman quarterback being thrust into Big Ten play, but seeing the potential of what Juice can do is making the future of our program appear a whole lot more positive. (What was up with our team trying to plant a flag on the field after the game, though? That was completely unnecessary and Ron Zook rightly apologized in his postgame press conference.) Needless to say, after the Spartans’ debacles against Notre Dame and Illinois in consecutive weeks, firejohnlsmith.net is extremely fired up. With the next two games on the Illinois schedule being at home against Indiana and Ohio (as opposed to Ohio State), this season could end up looking a whole lot better than what we expected just a week ago.
2) College Football Potpourri – If all goes according to plan, the Michigan-Ohio State game is going to determine who gets into the national championship game as opposed to “just” a Rose Bowl bid… Troy Smith rules. I still don’t know how the national media got so wrapped up in the Brady Quinn bukkake in the preseason that Smith wasn’t the Heisman Trophy favorite from the get-go. Now they know… After a spanking by Notre Dame (and Darius Walker in particular), Purdue’s defense might very well prove to be the worst in the Big Ten. If the Illini want to make a glorious comeback to vindicate my greenie-induced preseason prediction of the team making a bowl, it’s going to hinge on the Purdue game on November 11th.
3) NFL Football Potpourri – How is it that my one fantasy team that lost Shaun Alexander to the Madden Jinx is taking no prisoners with a perfect record so far, while my other fantasy team with Drew Brees, Edgerrin James, and other solid players is winless? I’ve never had such a dichotomy between my two franchises… When Peyton Manning does what he did against the Jets on Sunday in the playoffs against a top-tier defense, then I’ll take notice of the Colts. Until then, they’re always going to be suspect… As much as the nation might be going through a Terrell Owens hype overload, I’ll admit that I’m extremely excited for T.O.’s return to Philadelphia next week. As someone that has spent more time in Philly than any place other than Chicago since I have so much family that lives there, I’m forecasting a downpour of pill bottles raining onto the Cowboys’ sideline on Sunday. I love Philly fans!
4) Baseball Hangover and Postseason Predictions – You know that feeling where your team has been competitive all year but there’s a sudden point where it’s all over for that team and you lose sight of the fact that the season is still going on? While this happens to Cubs fans every year around the middle of June, the White Sox kept my full attention up until about two weeks ago. Since that time, I’ve been in such a baseball funk that I didn’t realize that the Tigers had blown the AL Central on the last day of the season until last night. The best comparison that I can think of are of the times immediately following Illinois getting eliminated in the NCAA Tournament – I kind of have a hangover for a bit where it’s tough for me to get into the other games. I’ve just about gotten over the malaise where I can watch the baseball playoffs with interest again, so here are my predictions (which you should immediately bet against):
a) AL Division Series: Twins over A’s in 5 (even without Francisco Liriano, Minnesota has the best pitching staff out of the postseason participants and the team has simply been playing out of its mind), Yankees over Tigers in 4 (Detroit has been wheezing for the last couple of months)
b) NL Division Series: Dodgers over Mets in 5 (I’ve been saying all along that the Mets are overrated and with Pedro Martinez being out, they’re bowing out in the first round), Cardinals over Padres (just a gut feeling even though St. Louis has looked awful lately)
c) AL Championship Series – Twins over Yankees in 6 (You can talk about you want about the Yankees’ reincarnation of Murderers’ Row at the plate, but their number one starter is Chien-Ming Wang. Even as a fellow Asian, a 19-game winner with only 76 strikeouts in 218 innings pitched is fool’s gold.)
d) NL Championship Series – Dodgers over Cardinals in 7 (Should turn out to be a great series. There’s some type of magic with L.A. this season.)
e) World Series – Twins over Dodgers in 6 (It doesn’t matter which AL you put into this slot. Whoever comes out of the Junior Circuit side of the bracket is going to smoke the NL champs.)
5) Bull Market Around the Corner – It’s hard to believe, but Bulls training camp has already opened with Ben Wallace at the helm. I just secured tickets to the first meeting of the year between the Bulls and Pistons, so I’m one of the handful of people on Earth ready to get the NBA season started. Let’s just hope our Big Ben sinks just a few more free throws this season.
(Images from Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Tribune again)