Preps Talk

Bears vs. Detroit Lions on MNF: And the winner is...

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Bears vs. Detroit Lions on MNF: And the winner is...

The Bears and Detroit Lions dont like each other very much. No surprise there; nobody much likes the Lions and their sometimes miscreant ways. NFL officials didnt think much of the Lions last week when they flagged Detroit 17 times and walked off 16 penalties in the game against Philadelphia, won in OT by the Lions.

Its not like I have to bring out the George Halas pep talk to get them ready to play Detroit, coach Lovie Smith said.

Ready will be the key.

Offense ready for next step?

The Bears rank No. 2 in the NFL scoring 29.8 points per game. But that is with five defensive touchdowns in the last three games, without which the average is less than 23 per game.

The offense managed just one touchdown in each game last season vs. Detroit, and even those needed help.

In game two, Matt Fortes six-yard touchdown run came at the end of a drive that started after Julius Peppers forced a fumble that Brian Urlacher recovered and took to the Detroit 16.

The other 30 points in the game came from a Devin Hester punt return, TD interceptions by Charles Tillman and Major Wright, and three Robbie Gould field goals.

The Bears moved the ball reasonably well (359 yards) in the first game but stopped themselves with six false-start penalties.

Since the last time the Bears saw the Lions (in Soldier Field last November) they have muscled up the offensive line mauler Chilo Rachal at left guard, No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi back at right tackle after missing both 2011 games with a knee injury, and JMarcus Webb a long, long way from the false-start machine that the Lions exploited when the teams met in Detroit on a Monday night last Oct. 10.

They have muscled up at wide receiver Brandon Marshall with 35 catches, only two fewer than co-leaders Johnny Knox and Roy Williams had for all of 2011.

And they have powered up overall with Mike Tice as coordinator, with his commitment to running the ball to establish the threat of play action. Tice was at the core of turnaround changes in game planning the past two seasons and the offense right now is statistically ahead of where it was in nearly all key areas from where it was at the time of Jay Cutlers thumb injury last year.

Turning point

Typically it is at about this point of seasons with Cutler, and Tice, that the offense shifts into a bigger gear.

Offensively, I think since Ive been here, weve been learning new offenses pretty much each year and trying to grow with it, so it takes time for those things, Cutler said. Its not like you can just wake up one day and learn a new offense and its just going to click. It doesnt work.

It takes some time for everyone to get a feel for what were doing and know their assignments and experience things, and maybe theyve got to mess a couple things up before they really get it right.

With Green Bay and Minnesota winning on Sunday, the Bears remain the hunted in the NFC North, a division that would be a blown officials call (Green Bay at Seattle) of having three teams in the playoffs if they were starting today.

It should be like that in the division, and when everyone is playing good ball, you have to be ready each play, Smith said. There are a lot of stars for fans to watch in this game. And then to get a chance to play on Monday night. Theres just a lot of things. For us, having played a couple games on the road, were excited about coming back home this week.

And so

Heres how I saw this game and the season to this point back before it all started:

7. Detroit Lions (10-6) Mon., Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.

Analysis: Character issues are unanswered with the Jim Schwartz Lions, who have talent and went OL with their top pick (T Reilly Reiff) to deal with Julius Peppers. It wont be enough with Detroits problems in the secondary.

Result: W (5-1)

Well, Reiff hasnt been able to unseat aging vet Jeff Backus at left tackle but thats a side story. The Detroit secondary has been helped by the return of safety Louis Delmas from knee surgery but has injury problems at cornerback.

The Lions survived against Philadelphia in part of Matthew Staffords passing and Calvin Johnsons receiving at the finish of a game in which the Eagles proved so inept that they fired their defensive coordinator after the game.

The Bears wont be firing their D-coordinator. They wont have reason to:

Bears 24 Lions 13

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

Five unranked boys basketball teams to watch for

The first week of the preseason Preps Power Rankings is always difficult to assess. There are plenty of teams who just missed the cut of the initial top 25. Below are a group of talented teams who should do enough to make their way into the Power Rankings at some point during the season.

Most of these teams have experience and star power, so watch for them in the next few weeks to see if they have strong starts to the season. 

DePaul Prep -- The Rams remain one of the major threats in the Catholic League this season as they return plenty of talent from a sectional finals team. Junior guard Perry Cowan and junior big man Pavle Pantovic make up a very solid one-two punch and sophomore guard Lance Mosley had some flashes of strong play during the summer. Seniors Spencer Cody and Anthony Papaioanou are steady contributors as well. The move up to Class 3A will be something to watch for with this team. Since the local Class 2A draw features Orr and Uplift, DePaul Prep might actually have an easier state tournament draw in the higher class.

St. Joseph -- There isn't one true star for the Chargers this season. Head coach Gene Pingatore has a lot of balance and experience but finding a go-to player could be the difference for St. Joseph this season. Senior Ahmad Muhammad will be asked to do a lot with the ball. Other returning seniors like Jalen and Jordan Boyd and Joffari Brown also have plenty of varsity experience. Losing junior point guard Marquise Walker to Curie definitely hurts. But not many teams in the state have four seniors who have already played in Peoria.

Geneva -- It was tough to leave the Vikings out of the preseason Power Rankings as they once again look like a major factor in the Upstate Eight River this season. New head coach Scott Hennig, a former assistant at Geneva, takes over for Phil Ralston (Glenbrook South) as he inherits a solid group of talent. Junior point guard Jack McDonald is an All-Area threat after a standout sophomore season. Another junior, guard Mitch Mascari, was one of the area's best three-point shooters last season. And Geneva also returns plenty of size, including 6-foot-6 senior Will Courter and promising 6-foot-7 sophomore Nate Santos. With the right blend of size and perimeter firepower, Geneva is a team to keep an eye on.

St. Viator -- Making the leap up to Class 4A this season, the Lions return some talented players from a team that made a surprising postseason run last season. St. Viator returns a Division I prospect in talented junior forward Jeremiah Hernandez while senior forward Peter Lambesis is also back. Finding stability at point guard could be the key to this season for the Lions as they have to replace J.R. Cison, who transferred to Lake Zurich. If junior Trey Calvin can step up, then St. Viator shouldn't miss much of a beat. The Lions already started the season with a solid win over Libertyville.

New Trier -- The most intriguing part about New Trier this season is the size on the interior as two junior big men have college aspirations. Ciaran Brayboy, a 6-foot-9 big man and Spencer Boehm a 6-foot-7 forward create one of the area's more talented frontcourts for the Trevians. The frontcourt is a plus and the backcourt, a senior-laden group, is also better and more experienced than last season. New Trier should crack the top 25 at some point this season. 

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

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USA TODAY

After baseball punishes Braves, one ranker says White Sox have game's best farm system

The White Sox farm system is baseball's best, according to one of the people making those rankings.

In the wake of Major League Baseball's punishment of the Atlanta Braves for breaking rules regarding the signing of international players — which included the removal of 12 illegally signed prospects from the Braves' organization — MLB.com's Jim Callis tweeted out his updated top 10, and the White Sox are back in first place.

Now obviously there are circumstances that weakened the Braves' system, allowing the White Sox to look stronger by comparison. But this is still an impressive thing considering that three of the White Sox highest-rated prospects from the past year are now full-time big leaguers.

Yoan Moncada used to be baseball's No. 1 prospect, and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez weren't too far behind. That trio helped bolster the highly ranked White Sox system. Without them, despite plenty of other highly touted prospects, common sense would say that the White Sox would slide down the rankings.

But the White Sox still being capable of having baseball's top-ranked system is a testament to the organizational depth Rick Hahn has built in such a short period of time.

While prospect rankings are sure to be refreshed throughout the offseason, here's how MLB Pipeline's rankings look right now in regards to the White Sox:

4. Eloy Jimenez
9. Michael Kopech
22. Luis Robert
39. Blake Rutherford
57. Dylan Cease
90. Alec Hansen