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Gameday - Dalton already got his revenge, so what's the point of all this?
A look at the key matchups and picks around the league
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If you’re going to the Bears-Bengals game, I shouldn’t have to tell you what to do. You know what to do. You were born for this.
The game will feature a matchup of current Bengals QB Joe Burrow against former Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Dalton actually got a start against the Bengals last year. Yeah, the whole “Andy Dalton revenge game” is a fucking rerun. He even got to go back to Cincinnati to do it, so there’s not even a nostalgic reason for him to be starting.
Dalton “led” the Cowboys to an easy 30-7 win back on December 13. He was 16-25 for 185 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Burrow was long gone after tearing his ACL in week 11. So Dalton out dueled Brandon Allen. In fact, Allen got hurt in the game, which is why Ryan Finley was the QB later in the season when the Bengals upset the Steelers.
The Bengals, who are about as incompetent a franchise as has ever existed in the league, drafted Burrow number one overall in 2020 and even they had the right idea what to do. They released Dalton because there was no reason playing that mediocre shitbag now that they’d picked up their future.
So if it’s that obvious to the Bengals, just think how dumb it makes the Bears to not do the same thing for Justin Fields. The Bears don’t even have to release Dalton, they just have to not play him, and they can’t figure that out. The decision was easy enough for Mike Brown1 to make correctly.
And here’s what Bengals fans think of Mike Brown:
Just think how much fun it would be to see Burrow and Fields hook up. Two exciting young quarterbacks showing what you have to look forward to for years to come. You even have the sliding doors thing where Burrow transferred from Ohio State to LSU to find playing time and Fields transferred from Georgia to Ohio State for the same reason.
And then we got the Matt Nagy nonsense this week when he said Fields provides a lot of value as a chess piece. Does Matt Nagy strike you as a guy who has the patience or intellect to play chess?
There are other matchups of interest.
Bears secondary v. Bengals receivers
The Bengals receiving group includes Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase, and all three are faster than anybody the Rams had last week. Those Rams were running free through the secondary all night. So that could be fun.
Bears defensive line v. Bengals offensive line
We spend a lot of time rightfully worrying about the Bears offensive line, but the Bengals also have a lousy one. The strength of the Bears defense is supposed to be their defensive line, so this should be a big advantage for them. But it’s going to require Khalil Mack to actually show up. Did he make the flight to LA last week? There’s no way to tell. We know he played hurt last year and the lack of imagination in the Bears’ schemes didn’t help him. But he’s presumably healthy now, and the scheme thing only goes so far. Teams throw extra blockers at guys like Aaron Donald, TJ Watt, Myles Garrett etc., and they manage to make plays.
90 degree weather v. Jason Peters
Peters left the game last Sunday in the second quarter with what the Bears’ termed a quad injury. I’m fairly sure it was just his scheduled nap. But he didn’t return. He is expected to play against the Bengals, but just how many snaps do we expect him to take on a hot day? He’s 39 years old and he weighs like 370 pounds. I’d put he over under at 3.5. I might take the under. Rookie Larry Borom looked pretty solid filling in for him, but he rolled his ankle on one of the weird gimmick plays the Bears limited Fields to and Borom’s already been ruled out. That means that when Peters gets his early first quarter IV (never to return), journeyman Elijah Wilkinson will take over. Wilkinson was so bad early in camp that he’s the reason the Bears interrupted Peters’ retirement in the first place.
I’m fairly certain that the reason the Bears went an entire game and never threw a pass more than 13 yards is because of Peters. They knew that if they had a gain of 20 yards or more that they’d have to call timeout to get him to all the way up the field to the huddle.
Matt Nagy v. the Bears’ run game
As I detailed earlier in the week, the Rams made a bet that they could get away with playing five (and sometimes just four) in the box against the Bears because while it would leave them vulnerable to the Bears running the ball, Nagy wouldn’t have any interest in sticking with it. And the Bears did have success running the ball (134 yards on 25 carries), Nagy didn’t have the will to stick with it. You can chalk it up to two things. The Bears falling behind early, and David Montgomery missing time in the the third quarter with a finger injury. But neither of those were the real reasons. The Bears trailed just 13-7 at halftime. And the Bears actually have competent running backs behind Montgomery in Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert, especially if they just need to pick up some carries for part of a quarter.
If Bill Belichick had coached the Bears instead of Nagy (try not to think too hard about that because it’ll just make you want to cry) they’d have run the ball 40+ times on Sunday night. They’d have run until Sean McVay had to change his defense. Instead, the Bears would run the ball, gain some yards, then then throw two three yard passes, complete maybe one of them, and punt.
How interested in Nagy going to be against a Bengals defense that gave up just 67 yards to the Vikings on 22 carries? Given how much Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball, I’m sure Nagy looks at that lack of success as a reason to just not bother to even try. But there’s no way the Bengals fixed their rush defense completely in one offseason. Last year, opposing teams rushed for (wait for this number) 2,368 yards against the Bengals. That ranked 29th in the NFL. Everybody ran wild on the Bengals. Remember that when the Bears aren’t even bothering to try.
Roquan Smith v. the all-time single game tackles record
One thing that was glaringly obvious against the Rams is that Roquan is the only Bear who actually wants to tackle anybody. So, if he’s going to make all of the tackles, at least he can break some records. The NFL record for tackles in a game is 24 and has been done twice. Most recently by former Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly against the Saints in 2013. He had nine solos and 15 assists. That’s a lot of work. But Roquan will be hampered by needing to make pretty much all solos since nobody seems to want to help him. The record for solo tackles in a game is 20 by former Jet David Harris in 2007 in the game where he also had 24 total tackles. I’m not sure the Bears can match the four assists the Jets gave Harris that day.
The all-time Bears record for solos is 16 by Lance Briggs against the Packers in 2007 (the Bears even won the game, 27-20). Briggs had no assists, just like Roquan won’t.
Justin Fields v. his “package”
In the run up to the Rams’ game, Nagy teased us all by saying he had a “package” of plays for Fields. That word doesn’t mean what Nagy thinks it does, I guess. A “package” insinuates that there are a series of plays for a player to run. What we saw instead were five, one-off, completely disconnected gadget plays for Fields. One was an end around, and another was an end around with a shovel pass in it! What decade is this?
I was dismayed when shortly after I had written that if the Bears want to give Fields a “package” of plays, they should make him the red zone quarterback. Any time they get in the red zone Dalton jogs his old ass off and Fields takes over. So why was I dismayed? I mean, that seems like a fine idea (though a better idea would be just make the Fields “package” EVERY play in the game), right? Well, Dave Wannstedt said the same thing about the red zone package on Kap’s postgame show on CSN Chicago. But then I got to thinking I shouldn’t be dismayed that I thought the same thing as Dave. I should be dismayed that Nagy didn’t. It’s so obvious that even Dave Wannstedt thought of it!
We also got nonsense from Nagy that had the game been closer Fields would have played more against the Rams. Think about that for a minute. His reasoning was that they needed to run two minute style offense when they got behind more two scores in the fourth and so they stuck with Dalton. Yeah, because the guy most likely to get you quick points is the one throwing the ball three yards in the air on every pass. Sure, whatever.
Bears fans v. not booing
In our postseason wrap up last year on the podcast, Mike Pusateri and I talked a lot about how lucky Nagy and Ryan Pace were that there were no fans at Bears games last year. Their team would have been booed mercilessly and that’s the kind of thing even a simpleton like George McCaskey can understand. Well, they’ll have no such cover this year. Hell, they already got booed during the preseason. Dalton doesn’t stand a chance. He’ll get booed before the first snap against Cincinnati, and he’s gonna need to do things he’s not capable of (like play well) to quiet them. A for Nagy he got a reprieve last year, but I’m sure Bears fans can catch up.
OK, this didn’t go well last week. My picks ATS were a woeful 5-10, and while I only put money on two games, the Niners fucked me by somehow turning a 28 point second half lead against the hapless Lions into an eight point win in a game they were 8.5 point favorites. Ugh. The Rams easily covered against the Bears, but we all saw that coming.
So, with all that in mind, take these picks with a very large grain of salt. Fading them seems like a grand strategy.
Bears -1.5 over Bengals
On the podcast, Mike and I had to pick with a 2.5 point spread, and in two days the bettors have knocked a full point off. The reason I’m taking the Bears is because if they really can’t win this game (and we’re basically in pick em territory now) who the hell can they beat? Don’t answer that.
Want to now the prestigious history of these teams? Well, we have you covered. Or you can at least listen to us talk about why Chad Johnson did a Riverdance touchdown dance one year to mock Brian Urlacher.
Rams -4 over Colts
While it’s inexcusable that the Bears got rolled the way they did, the Rams are pretty damned good. You’d think the Colts wouldn’t start 0-2 playing both games at home, but the Seahawks had little problem with them last week and I really think the Rams are better.
Patriots -6 over Jets
The Jets looked spunky in their opening week loss to the Panthers, but even on the road I don’t think the Pats will have difficulty covering the six.
Dolphins +3.5 over Bills
The hook is what decided this for me. I do think the Bills will win on the road, but I think it’ll be close. The Steelers really confused Josh Allen (who is not the brightest bulb) by not blitzing him. I think the Dolphins can employ a similar strategy and force the Bills to actually plod down the field and keep it close.
Browns -13.5 over Texans
It’s insane to give this many points in any NFL game. And, the Texans had a convincing win last week while the Browns found yet another way to lose a season opener (they are 1-22-1 in those games since they returned to the NFL…that’s so hard to fathom). But I expect the Browns to take their frustrations out on the Texans, and the Texans will learn that playing a non-Jacksonville Jaguars opponent is a much taller task.
Saints +3.5 over Panthers
The Saints looked really impressive in smoking the Packers last week, and Green Bay should hope that the game was more indicative that the Saints are good rather than that they have somehow gotten super bad overnight. It will be really hard for teams to beat the Saints without getting turnovers from Jameis Winston. He’ll commit plenty of them, I just don’t know that they’ll start this week.
Steelers -6 over Raiders
As much fun as the Raiders Monday night win over Baltimore was, it was alarming just how badly the Raiders seemed determined to give the game away after their impressive comeback. The Steelers aren’t great, but they won’t let the Raiders off the hook like the Ravens did, and I don’t like the Raiders having to fly across the country for an early game on a short week.
Niners -2.5 over Eagles
I really thought the Eagles were going to be terrible, and they might yet be, but they had no problems with the Falcons in week one. And the Niners fucked me by allowing a ludicrous backdoor cover to the Lions, of all teams. Still, this line is too low for me to worry about it. And, had George Kittle recovered that onside kick last week I’ll bet the line would be more like -4.5. So maybe their collapse will pay off a week later? Just take the 49ers and cash a ticket.
Broncos -6 over Jaguars
The Fighting Fangios took care of business against the Giants in their opener on the road and the Jags got rolled by a really bad Texans team, so this one’s easy, right? Well, it should be and while I’m not excited about having to give six on the road with Vic, the Jags might really be just that bad.
Cardinals -4 over Vikings
The biggest revelation of week one could just be the tangible improvements the Cardinals made to their pass protection. The Titans don’t have a great defense, but it’s notable that Kyler Murray went from having about three seconds per pass attempt last year to over five last week. Maybe it’s a one week thing, but if it’s real, look out. More time for Kyler to throw helps in two ways. One, obviously it gives him more time to throw deeper passes. But it means the secondary is that much farther down the field and/or spread out if he decides to run. Plus, I think the Vikings are bad.
Bucs -12.5 over Falcons
This is so many points it’s probably a stay-away for me, but you can see why it’s this much. The Bucs have had extra rest and prep time for this game since they opened on a Thursday, and the Falcons were terrible at home in their opener.
Cowboys +3 over Chargers
The Rams opened SoFi to their fans in style and now it’s the chance for the Chargers to do the same. They do have some fans, right? Dallas was impressive in a loss in their opener, and you wouldn’t think they’d go 0-2. This should be a shootout (actually pretty much every Dallas game should be a shootout) and while I don’t think the ‘Boys will benefit from extra prep time like the Bucs will (because Mike McCarthy’s a moron), I just think they’ll score enough to cover.
Seahawks -6.5 over Titans
Seattke was impressive on the road in their opener and the Titans were really bad at home in theirs, so this one’s easy, right? Well, nothing’s ever easy. But man, the Titans were bad last week. That kind of thing sticks with you.
Chiefs -3.5 over Ravens
Injuries on both sides of the ball have limited the Ravens, and that was apparent against the Raiders, even though that’s a game they should have won six different times. The Chiefs defense was lousy against the Browns, but to cover this, the Ravens will have score more points than I think they’re capable of.
Packers -11.5 over Lions
It would be a really bad sign for the Packers if they struggle with the Lions, and I would love that, but it’s not going to happen. Rolling Detroit a week after getting dominated by the Saints won’t prove anything, but not doing it would. The Lions only chance is another frantic back door cover like last week.
As always, past performance is not indicative of future success (at least I really hope it isn’t.)
Not the Bears oft-injured, but awesome safety, but rather the witless progeny of a Hall of Fame coach—yes, the Bengals have those, too.