Lovie Smith wont be confused with Notre Dame legend Knute Rockne in terms of demeanor or success rate. Indeed, where Rockne once supposedly urged his team to win one for the Gipper, in memory of former teammate George Gipp (played by Ronald Reagan, you may recall), Lovie Smith has kept himself decidedly out of the hokey motivation business.
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His reasoning: There already is enough stress flying around the locker room and Halas Hall without injecting concerns about his own contract future. Besides, his is a veteran team that has felt all year that its time is now.
More than just for Lovie, you want to win it for us, said linebacker Lance Briggs. Win it for us. If youve enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way that Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have, then win for that.
If Lovie is not here, that goes -- that goes with him. Ive enjoyed every moment of being here, here in Chicago. And I dont intend on that changing.
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Reaching the playoffs would be a massive boost for Smiths chances of returning for a 10th season as Bears coach. But players have their own motivations beyond helping Smith stay employed in Chicago.
It would mean the world to me to get to the postseason, said wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Yeah, Im hungry for that.
Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents.
That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?
The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room).
So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure.
Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return.
“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”
If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length.
Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16
Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game?
Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.
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