Bearly Excited and Frank the Tank’s NFL Football Parlay – 9/5/2008

What a difference a year makes – at this point last September, I had visions of a Bears team on the ascent to another Super Bowl run while hoping for a Motor City Bowl appearance for Illinois.  It turned out that I got a listless Bears team but an Illini trip to the Rose Bowl.  For the 30th season out of my 30 years on this Earth, the football gods refused to allow me to enjoy both my Saturdays and Sundays in a single year.  With the expectations for my respective football teams suddenly reversed along with a stellar baseball pennant race on both sides of Chicago, it has honestly been tough for me to get geared up for the Bears.  Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback by default, the running back situation is a complete unknown and the offensive line probably can’t open up holes anyway, the defense could be still solid yet Tommie Harris and other starters are either banged up or aging quickly, I’m horrified that Ron Turner is going to have Devin Hester run a slant pattern in the middle of the field that results in our one true scoring threat getting his legs crushed by some random safety looking to make a name for himself… these are issues that are just off the top of my head at this point.  Like the Chicago sucker that I always am, though, I’ll put on my Walter Payton jersey on Sunday and watch every moment of what will likely be a mashing at the hands of the Colts.  Well, at least I’m running three separate fantasy teams this season (yes, I have a gambling problem).  Following the form of the college football parlay, here are my three picks (including the Bears game) on the NFL side this week (home teams in CAPS):

(1) GREEN BAY PACKERS (-2 1/2) over Minnesota Vikings – I saw this line and quite honestly was perplexed with the love that the Vikings seem to be receiving from the football pundit class.  Granted, Adrian Peterson could have a breakout session on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field the same way Randy Moss did many moons ago (no pun intended).  Still, the Vikings have Tavaris Jackson at quarterback – ’nuff said.  I’ll take the potential suckitude that I don’t know in Aaron Rodgers than the absolute suckitude that I do know on the purple side of the ball, especially when the game is in Green Bay.

(2) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-6 1/2) over Houston Texans – The Rashard Mendenhall Era begins in the Steel City.  I don’t really care that the Texans are the sexy turnaround pick of the year (I seem to recall that the recent trendy picks of the ’06 Cardinals and ’07 49ers didn’t make anyone forget ’85 Bears).  The Steelers have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL, so my rule is if they are anything less than a touchdown favorite at home (unless they’re playing New England), I’ll give the points all day.

(3) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-9 1/2) over Chicago Bears – I hate this, but what can I reasonably do?  Even if Peyton Manning comes out there with a cast set in concrete, the sheer emotion of the Colts opening up a new stadium combined with the general ineptitude of the Bears in nearly all facets of the game of football leads me to no other choice.  I hope that I’m very wrong here, but this feels like a two touchdown loss for the Bears to me.

So, it looks like I’m taking all the points for college football on Saturday and giving all the points for the NFL on Sunday.  Be sure to enjoy a plethora of sports this weekend and especially all of the football.  Go White Sox! Go Illini! Go Bears!

(Image from Chicago Tribune)

Awful Football Weekend and Land-o-Links for 10/17/2007

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After having a beautiful double revenge of the FIBs over the Badgers and Packers last week, it was followed up with one of the worst football weekends in the Frank the Tank household in awhile with the Illini and Bears both losing games that were more than winnable.

I noted last week that the road trip to Iowa City for Illinois was going to be a proverbial trap game since Kirk Ferentz just seems to have our number and that proved to be more than correct in an ugly 10-6 loss. The Hawkeyes kept our running game in check while we had virtually no passing attack until Eddie McGee came in to close out the game. Despite the fact that McGee threw a poor interception in the red zone on the final Illini drive that probably would have turned the outcome of the game the other way, his passing skills to even get Illinois into that position (as well as a gem of a throw to Joe Morgan – who has always thought that Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar could never hold a candle to him as second basemen – for an 82-yard touchdown that was called back on account of an illegal formation penalty) is forcing Ron Zook to start out all of his press conferences with a “Juice is our quarterback” speech.

Speaking of the Zooker, the recipient of a new contract extension from Ron Guenther made a few calls that must have had Florida Gators fans giggling by choosing to accept penalties on third down as opposed to declining them to force fourth downs not once, but twice. The first time backfired into the only touchdown by either team in the game, while the second time resulted in an Iowa first down conversion. This made me flashback to last year’s game against Indiana when Zook decided to go for a 2-point conversion on the first touchdown in the first quarter of the game for absolutely no reason at all, which we subsequently failed on (and we of course lost the game by 1 point). Now, I love that Ron Zook has brought Illinois back to football respectability way ahead of schedule, but these calls are just simply off-the-wall – it isn’t even about overall technical game strategy, but rather plain-old common sense. Anyway, the Illini are still in line to get to a pretty good bowl, but in order to make the Rose Bowl now, we’re going to have to win out for the rest of the season (which means beating Michigan in a monster prime time game next week and #1 Ohio State in Columbus). The fact that this is still a possibility shows how far Illini football has come over the course of the year, yet it’s still tough to stomach that we lost a very winnable game on Saturday.

The Bears, of course, couldn’t help but to pile onto that frustration on Sunday. Ever since the Vikings selected Adrian Peterson in the NFL Draft last spring, I’ve been telling everyone that would listen to me that Minnesota is the team that scares me the most in the NFC North since he’s such a special player. Well, he backed my thoughts up and then some by just shredding the Bears’ defensive and special teams units.  Honestly, I believe that Peterson is better situated to become an NFL superstar than even Reggie Bush since the former Sooner has the size and strength to pound the ball inside as an every down back as well as having breakaway speed to the outside and past the line of scrimmage.  I have no clue as to why Minnesota is still having him split carries with Chester Taylor.  While Devin Hester did everything he could to keep the Bears in the game with yet another touchdown return and finally getting an offensive pass play call for him that worked perfectly for another touchdown (I’m pretty sure that the Bears can just have Hester sprint down the field all day and he’ll burn anyone that’s on him), the rest of the team just couldn’t contain Peterson.  This season just has a bad feeling to it – the Bears  improbably stormed back with two touchdowns against the Vikings in four minutes to tie the game only to blow it within the final minute and a half.  Can the Bears go 8-2 the rest of the way to get to the 10-6 level that will probably be required to make the playoffs?  Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith in that (and even more unfortunately, I’ll continue to watch since I’m a glutton for punishment).

Let’s get off of the depressing news with some links:

(1) And Simpson Makes Four! (Mark Tupper Weblog) – After a year of continuously grim recruiting news for Bruce Weber and Illini basketball, this past weekend saw oral commitments to Champaign from four high-profile recruits.  Will this answer all of the concerns about Weber’s recruiting skills?  Let’s hope so.

(2) Indiana Punishes Sampson Over Recruiting Calls (ESPN.com) – Speaking of old oral commitments from recruits to Weber, have I ever told you how much I hate Satan’s Spawn?

(3) Local Recruits Infuse Illinois with ‘Swagger’ (Washington Post) – The Washington Post takes a look at how D.C. recruits have catapulted the Illini football program.

And finally…

(4) Can Anyone Explain Dane Cook to Me? (Freakonomics Blog – New York Times) – If University of Chicago economists can’t figure this out, there’s no hope for the rest of us.

(Image from Chicago Tribune)