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Random News of the Day: 2010 NFL predictions

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Random News of the Day: 2010 NFL predictions

Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010
12:27 PM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

It is said that by the third NFL preseason, you should know a little bit about what you should expect from your favorite NFL team the rest of the season. The fourth game matters a lot less than the others-- look no further than tonight's Bears final preseason game. Jay Cutler won't even take a snap against the Browns. Granted, preseason games aren't completely meaningless, as they serve as slight fodder for wild NFL predictions. NFL predictions have to come from somewhere, right? Here's the bottom line on where each team stands in 2010:

Denotes Playoff Team

NFC EAST

Dallas (12-4): It's time for Romo to lead this team deep into the playoffs. Make the EIU fans proud!

N.Y. Giants (9-7): Perry Fewell-led defense the key to turnaround after a monumental letdown in 2009.

Philadelphia (8-8): Solid defense, but questionable offense and a gritty division scream .500 team.

Washington (7-9): Mike Shanahan looks to get the best out of a very average group, all things considered.

NFC NORTH

Green Bay (12-4): Tecmo Bowl-like offense looks to offset a questionable, sometimes-healthy defense.

Minnesota (10-6): Team AP and AARP, Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre. Can 4 bring it again?

Chicago (6-10): Too many question marks on offense. A tough schedule doesn't help, either.

Detroit (6-10): DT Ndamukong Suh forces other teams not to catnap. A Detroit renaissance: lurking?

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta (11-5): As Hawk would say, "Stretch!" Seriously, Falcons over Saints thanks to their offense and schedule.

New Orleans (11-5): They're the targets now. Look for more 38-35 kind of games. Can pass defense hold?

Carolina (7-9): Great RB tandem in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart try to keep these cats above water.

Tampa Bay (5-11): Swiss cheese run defense looks to improve under Raheem Morris, who turns 34 Friday.

NFC WEST

San Francisco (10-6): Time for perpetual trendy pick to shine; ditto Alex Smith. Samurai Mike gets 'em there.

Seattle (8-8): All eyes on Pete Carroll in the Pacific Northwest. Might even challenge 49ers for West title.

Arizona (8-8): No Warner and it's back to mediocrity for the Cards. WR Larry Fitzgerald keeps them going.

St. Louis (3-13): Always been a baseball town. That will not change this year. Check back in Fall 2011.

AFC EAST

N.Y. Jets (11-5): RB Shonn Greene and a still-tough defense look to put a hard knock on a tough division.

Miami (10-6): New WR Brandon Marshall adds to the attack. And if the defense makes a splash...look out.

New England (9-7): Less than 20 players remain from magical 18-1 team. Glory days over in New England?

Buffalo (4-12): New defensive scheme under Chan Gailey will need to work quickly. Play Bears in Toronto 117.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore (12-4): RB Ray Rice and another stout Ravens 'D has spirits high. 4 of first 6 on the road, though.

Cincinnati (10-6): Queen City could spontaneously combust with TO and Ochocinco looking for same spotlight.

Pittsburgh (8-8): If Big Ben can come back with his team still around the .500 mark, that'll be huge.

Cleveland (5-11): Browns, Indians and Cavs could all finish last this year. Cleveland rocks? Lite-rock, maybe.

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis (13-3): Peyton & Co. still truckin' along in Indy. Until Houston shows up, the South is theirs.

Houston (10-6): '09 passing leader Matt Schaub faces Colts and Cowboys in September. Time to step up.

Tennessee (8-8): RB Chris Johnson is a beast, but QB Vince Young and the defense still have a lot to prove.

Jacksonville (6-10): An average team, a hot-seat coach and a tough division leads to more weak gate numbers.

AFC WEST

San Diego (10-6): Chargers still the class of the division. But in the playoffs? We'll see.

Denver (8-8): Every team in this division could finish 8-8. Totally applies to the schizophrenic Broncos.

Oakland (6-10): Al Davis starring in Weekend At Bernies 3. Coming to a half-empty coliseum near you.

Kansas City (5-11): Still too many question marks for a young offense and a shaky defense.
NFC PLAYOFFS

Atlanta 27 Minnesota 24 (Wild-Card Game)

New Orleans 33 San Francisco 19 (Wild-Card Game)

Dallas 24 New Orleans 23 (Divisional Playoff)

Green Bay 24 Atlanta 21 (Divisional Playoff)

Dallas 20 Green Bay 16 (NFC Championship)

AFC PLAYOFFS

Cincinnati 31, New York Jets 27 (Wild-Card Game)

Miami 22, San Diego 20 (Wild-Card Game)

Indianapolis 38, Miami 17 (Divisional Playoff)

Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 14 (Divisional Playoff)

Baltimore 27, Indianapolis 24 (AFC Championship)

SUPER BOWL XLV

Dallas 31, Baltimore 20

That's right-- the first "home" team to win a Super Bowl in their own stadium! As you know, Cowboys Stadium will be the venue for Super Bowl XLV-- February 6, 2011. You're telling me Jerry Jones won't motivate his own organization into that Caesars Palace-like stadium with every eyeball in America watching? Go on now.

It's time for kickoff!

Or something like that.

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

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USA Today

How Tarik Cohen is thriving as the Bears continue to put more on his plate

Mitchell Trubisky shook his head and grinned when he fielded yet another question this week about the touchdown pass Tarik Cohen threw against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Dang, you guys can’t get enough of this,” Trubisky said. “I talked about it after the game. Dowell (Loggains) was saying it was the best pass of the game. I’m like, ‘All right, geez, let him play quarterback.

“… He threw a dime ball. I love how he was fading away on it and celebrating on the 50-yard line. Zach (Miller) made a great catch. So A-plus; really impressive spiral, especially with the gloves on. Can’t count any of that out. Tarik’s a special player and it was an awesome throw.”

The point here is less about Cohen’s throw and more about the Bears finding yet another way for the rookie running back to make an impact. So far this year, Cohen has rushed 50 times, caught 26 passes, returned 14 punts and now thrown that historic touchdown. He’s been asked to block in pass protection more frequently, allowing him to be on the field more. And he’s worked with wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni and Kendall Wright (who Cohen referred to as another receiver coach for him) to expand his route tree, leading him to be the most-targeted player (33 targets) on the Bears through six weeks. 

That may seem like a lot to put on the plate of a fourth-round draft pick from an FCS school, but it hasn’t been too much for Cohen. 

“We need Tarik to be that guy for us — the best playmaker we have,” Loggains said. “There’s no secret there. And he’s a guy who we’ll continue to use, and people are aware of him. So how creative can we get with him? How many different things can we do with him? 

“Like, we’re stretching him. Mentally, he’s stretched to the max playing all these positions — motioning out to wide receiver, playing running back and doing more in the backfield with more carries. So we have to keep stretching him and keep using him in the offense.”

Opposing defenses have keyed on Cohen since his explosive debut Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons, scheming to muffle his playmaking ability. But he still managed to nearly have a walk-off 73-yard run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, and then in Week 6, with defenses figuring they could crash down on him on sweep plays to the edge, he (literally) threw another wrinkle into how to gameplan against him. The next time the Bears run a toss sweep to Cohen, opposing safeties will have to think twice about bolting toward the line of scrimmage to stop him. 

Every time Cohen seems to hit a rookie wall, he and the Bears find a way to knock it down. The discussion a week ago about Cohen was that he was dancing too much and not cutting upfield quick enough; this week, it’s all about his perfect quarterback rating. 

“Our coaches do a good job of continuing to put him in places so he can be successful,” fellow running back Benny Cunningham said. “But ultimately I feel like he has such a genuine love of the game, I don’t see that happening (hitting the wall). Since the day he’s been here, from Day 1 to today, I’ve seen no drop-off in his desire to be successful and to help this offense.”

The Bears have known this about Cohen's mentality since they scouted and drafted him back in the spring, and his potential only blossomed after getting him into Halas Hall in May — “Early on, we knew Tarik was going to be pretty special,” coach John Fox said. But Cohen wouldn’t be able to reach that potential without the ability to handle the responsibilities of all the different tasks the Bears have asked of him so far. 

Cohen’s ability to do so many different things makes him an important player for this team, and his ability to do them with an exciting, playmaking flair has made him a fan favorite since training camp. So what’s next for the 5-foot-6 rookie?

“I think we’ve got something — I’ll punt the ball this week,” Cohen joked. “Naw, I’m playin’. I can’t put the ball for nothing, I don’t think. It’ll probably go like 20 yards.”

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

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USA Today

The Bears defense is trending up, and could get Nick Kwiatkoski back as soon as this weekend

Nick Kwiatkoski was a full participant in Bears practice on Friday, marking the first time the second-year linebacker has done that since he suffered a pec injury Sept. 17 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Kwiatkoski sounded confident he could make his return five weeks after suffering that painful injury. 

“It’s not really my decision,” Kwiatkoski said. “I’m preparing like I am, so we’ll see. … “In my head I am (playing). But we’ll see.”

The Bears’ defense, despite placing three key players — linebackers Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — on injured reserve, has been solid at worst so far this year. Pro Football Focus has Vic Fangio’s group as the third-best defense in the NFL through Week 6, behind only the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. 

While Christian Jones played some quality snaps next to Danny Trevathan (and John Timu — he struggled after Timu’s injury against Minnesota), Kwiatkoski represents an upgrade at inside linebacker. The Bears liked what Kwiatkoski did last year in place of an injured Trevathan, and were confident they wouldn’t miss a beat with him filling in after Freeman’s Week 1 injury. 

“He’s a smart guy who has been willing to work,” coach John Fox said. “And I’ve seen that improvement from last year to this year. And anytime you get whacked or injured or taken out for some reason, you’ve got to kind of regain that again. It’s like a do-over. So he has had a good week.”

Kwiatkoski stayed sharp by going through meetings and film study as if he were playing while that pec injury — which he said felt like a “bad pulled muscle” — kept him sidelined for practices and games. If Kwiatkoski indeed is active and/or starting Sunday against Carolina, the hope is he can step in and pick up where he left off in Week 2. 

“I have all the confidence that he'll do fine,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said prior to Kwiatkoski’s injury. And that confidence, in all likelihood, still exists.