Fire

CSN delivers its highest Bulls regular season game rating to date

CSN delivers its highest Bulls regular season game rating to date

COMCAST SPORTSNET DELIVERS ITS HIGHEST CHICAGO BULLS REGULAR SEASON GAME RATING TO DATE

Last Nights Bulls-Hawks Battle Attracts over 267,600 Households on Comcast SportsNet;

1 Highest-Rated Television Network in Chicago market during Primetime
Chicago, IL (January 4, 2012) Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the NBA Central Division first place Chicago Bulls, delivered its highest regular season Bulls game rating in network history last evening (January 3) -- a 7.66 household rating for its live coverage of the Bulls home contest against the Atlanta Hawks.

For last nights thrilling 76-74 victory by the Bulls, Comcast SportsNet attracted approx. 267,602 households for the entire game and posted an 11.54 peak rating during the 9:15 PM quarter-hour (over 403,000 households). The 7.66 single game regular season ratings record on Comcast SportsNet shatters the networks previous all-time regular season high set on Mar. 7, 2011 vs. New Orleans (7.21 household rating). Source for all ratings information is provided by Nielsen Media Research.

Comcast SportsNet was also the 1-highest rated television network in the Chicago market during primetime (7:00-10:00 PM) last night which includes the Bulls-Atlanta game telecast & Kia Bulls Post Game Live in the following key advertising demo categories: Men 18-34, Men 18-49, Men 25-54, Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54.

So far this season, the Bulls on Comcast SportsNet are currently averaging a 6.55 household rating, a year-to-date increase of 112 compared to last season through three telecasts. In addition, Kia Bulls Post Game Live ratings are up 171 year-to-date. Comcast SportsNets next Bulls telecast airs tonight (Wednesday, January 4) as the Bulls travel to face the Detroit Pistons (live coverage begins at 6:00 PM on McDonalds Bulls Pre-Game Live; tip-off at 6:30 PM featuring Neil Funk and Stacey King on the call). Viewers can also visit CSNChicago.com 247 for the very latest Bulls news, highlights, game previewsrecaps & blogs from Bulls Insider Aggrey Sam, along with exclusive videos and much more.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

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