Cubs

Detroit passes to set up run team, or do they?

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Detroit passes to set up run team, or do they?

The Detroit Lions are heading into their Monday Night tilt against the Bears ranked as the second-best offense in the NFL. The New England Patriots are No. 1, averaging 436.1 total yards per game with the Lions a close second averaging 419.6 total yards. Detroit completes its aerial assault at a 63.2 clip with roughly 46.2 attempts per game, finishing a contest throwing for about 320 yards per contest.

But what does it mean?

Actually, it means nothing when facing the Bears, but it does prove the Lions are powerful offensively in a pass-happy league. Detroit will attempt to run the ball tonight against the Bears, but Chicagos defense dictates the Lions try to do so. There are three reasons why:

1. The Lions are a league-leader in three wide receiver personnel groupings with Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, and Titus Young as the culprits--it forces Nickel defense. Thus, Bears linebacker Nick Roach will come out and cornerback D.J. Moore will substitute into the game versus this grouping.

2. The Bears live in the Tampa 2 defensive world, which includes two high safeties in Major Wright and Chris Conte playing the deep halves of the field. Cornerback D.J. Moore will be lined up over Detroits third wide receiver, which will be outside the tackle box. Here is the chess game for true football fans where the Bears must win: Can the Bears stop Detroits run game with six in the box?

Let me explain again because it is 6-on-6 (five offensive linemen tight end) with Detroits seventh guy running back Mikel Leshoure running the football. If you count Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford on the bootleg game, Chicago is out-manned by two guys. Stafford can make life difficult for Bears defensive ends Julius Peppers and Isreal Idonije closing down on inside runs if Stafford fakes it, then breaks contain for pass.

3. Detroit will also go shotgun running the football inside and outside, and then will run play action off it, trying to work the middle of the field to put Urlacher and Briggs in a bind hitting the Tampa 2 zone behind the linebackers in front of the Bears safeties.

It will be something to watch unfold during the game. Chicago has not been challenged by other teams yet this season against this grouping because their opponents have been down with wide receiver injuries or, quite frankly, simply not as strong overall. The Bears come into this Monday Night matchup at No. 1 in the NFL at stopping the run. They've only given up 65.8 yards a game while allowing only one rushing touchdown all year. The Lions feel they have their matchups because the numbers are in their favor and will look to challenge the Bears' defensive stats early, then rely on their powerful passing attack late in the game. Tonight's matchup should be a good one.

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki close the book on the 2017 season following Theo Epstein’s press conference, looking back at what will go down as the craziest calendar year in Cubs history from last November through the team’s loss in the NLCS this October.

Moving forward, where do guys like Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery fit? Will the Cubs re-sign Wade Davis or go after another proven closer? And how worried should fans be about the offense that completely disappeared in the postseason?

Take a listen below:

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.