White Sox

Playoff Prognosis: Packers at Eagles

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Playoff Prognosis: Packers at Eagles

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
11:00 AM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears have seen both of these teams and beaten both, plus losing in game 16 to the Packers. This is the best game of the wild-card weekend in either conference.

This is a game between two of the NFLs top four passers: Aaron Rodgers (No. 3, 101.2 rating) and Michael Vick (No. 4, 100.2 rating). Vick has the East Coast hysteria reaction behind him; Rodgers is simply the better quarterback. More on that shortly.

Obviously Rodgers and Vick dont go head-to-head. No, the real matchup is the defensive scheming of Green Bay coordinator Dom Capers, along with Pittsburghs Dick LeBeau, one of the two best practitioners of 3-4 schemes and blitzes, against Andy Reid, arguably the leading branch still operating from the Bill Walsh tree of West Coast offenses.

The game is decided by players but the key from Capers and Reid is their abilities to put those players in the best positions to succeed. The Eagles have the NFLs best core of young skill players in receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and running back LeSean McCoy, all less than 26 years old. Reid is the best thing that could have happened to that cluster, and to Vick.

Its been great to be considered one of the best in the league right now, Vick said. Its an amazing accomplishment, not only to myself, but to all the people who helped me get here. Ive got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, because without them, I wouldnt be in this position.

But the Packers can break Vick down. They allow just 15 points a game; only the Pittsburgh Steelers (14.5) are more difficult to score against. They allow 194.2 passing yards per game; among playoff teams, only New Orleans is more difficult to pass against. They have sacked quarterbacks 47 times in the 2010 season; only Pittsburgh (48) has more.

Only the New England Patriots have more (25) than the Packers 24 interceptions. The six teams with the more interceptions all are in the playoffs.

The point is, this as much as any playoff game will come down to play by two very, very good quarterbacks. None of the other games have this level of quarterback on both sides. And for all of the fireworks and fanfare of Vicks first half of 2010, Rodgers is better.

In the past seven games Rodgers has thrown 16 TD passes and just 2 interceptions. Vick was sacked six times by the Minnesota Vikings in a must-win game for the Eagles and Philadelphia has given up 50 sacks this season.

Vick threw zero interceptions in his seven games; he has thrown 6 in his last five games. His passer ratings were high but the Eagles were a pedestrian 3-2 over those games.

Capers demonstrated again how exceptional his blitzing approaches are when his scheming produced 6 sacks of Jay Cutler and held the Bears to exactly 3 points in last Sundays game in Green Bay. Capers has the luxury of being sack master Clay Matthews being able to work from either side and placing Matthews on the right side would put him rushing in Vicks vision field and also from Vicks left, which is Vicks preferred side to run.

One thing you cannot let him do, is that you cannot let him run left, said Herman Edwards, ESPN analyst and former NFL player and coach. Once you let him out of pocket, youre in trouble.

Philadelphia has one of the NFLs elite defenses year after year. But the Eagles are a young defense, with a number of players who are experiencing playoffs for the first time. And while Sean McDermott has taken the concepts of the late Jim Johnson and Philadelphia has not missed a beat defensively, Rodgers has proved the equal of one top defense after another.
Packers 24 Eagles 20

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

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AP

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.