Cubs

When Eli talks, the Giants listen

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When Eli talks, the Giants listen

From Comcast SportsNetEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- When Eli Manning talks, the New York Giants listen. Making a rare mid-week address, the Super Bowl MVP told his teammates Tuesday to take care of personal business early so they can focus on preparing to play the New England Patriots in the super sequel in Indianapolis on Feb. 5. In other words, use the next 48 hours to buy tickets for family and friends, book air fares and hotel rooms and show up on Thursday ready to start practicing for the title game. Manning seemingly was ready to go on Tuesday. He had little to say about the 20 or so times the 49ers hit him or knocked him down during the 20-17 overtime win in the NFC title game in San Francisco on Sunday. The 30-year-old said he had a workout and was fine when asked about his health. He was more concerned about the Giants being ready for the rematch with Tom Brady and company. "I just told them a little bit how to prepare for this," said Manning, one of 15 Giants who played in Super Bowl XLII win over New England. "Just handle your business with tickets and get that stuff done, and just a few things on the mindset of this week. We have to have great preparation. Prepare this week like you are playing the game this week." Manning said the week leading up to the Super Bowl tends to throw teams off because they have to take bus rides to practice and their routine is thrown off. He believes the Giants will have 95 percent of their game plan practiced by Saturday, and they will be reviewing things in their week in Indianapolis. "Once we get out there, everyone will feel good about what we are doing, and now it will continue as dress rehearsal," Manning said. Punter Steve Weatherford, who is finally going to the Super Bowl after losing in the AFC title game the past two seasons with the Jets, appreciated Manning's message. ""Anytime he opens his mouth, it has some substance to it," Weatherford said. "He is not a guy who is going to bark a lot. He rarely talks actually. He is a very quiet leader. It was jovial in that team meeting but as soon as Eli got up to talk everyone shut up because they knew it was something important. He is a veteran. He has been there before and he knows what it takes to win, and he is a Super Bowl MVP and people respect him." Safety Antrel Rolle, who went to the Super Bowl with Arizona and lost in 2009, said Manning's message was excellent. "He doesn't say much and when he says something, he means it," Rolle said. "It's about business and that's basically what the message was about. We've got to go out there and take care of business. Everything else is for the spectators. Everything else is for your family and for your friends. We're going out there to take care of business." Players can purchase up to 15 tickets apiece for the game and kicker Lawrence Tynes said that can cause problems, especially deciding which members and friends gets the tickets. "I let my wife be the bad cop," said Tynes, who once again kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime to get New York to the Super Bowl. He also did it against the Packers in January 2008. Protecting Manning will be a big factor against the Patriots. The Niners sacked him six times and had at least that many hard hits on him. Guard Kevin Boothe said the line could have played better, but he added that San Francisco is an outstanding defense. He added Manning never went into the huddle and told the line they had to protect better. "He's a tough guy," Boothe said. "Nobody has ever questioned his toughness. He hung in there and made the plays when we needed them." Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was impressed "He doesn't get rattled," Tuck said. "He took a few good hits. He took a lot of hits, some that were like you look and go: "Nahhhhh" I was hoping I could get one on Alex (Smith) like that. But it just showed his toughness. I know I said Eli looked like the kind of guy who rarely sees the weight room but he's a tough guy and to get up and continue to fire the football and lead our football team the way he did with number of hits he took in that game, it's makes it easy to rally behind him." It also makes it easier to listen to him. NOTES: Manning had no regrets about his comment earlier this season that he felt he was in the same class with Brady. He admitted he can't always control how the answer is played by the media. He said his only concern now is getting ready to play the game. "My job is to play the game," he said. "It's your job to talk and make up stories." ...Tynes grew up in the Florida panhandle. He calls it the "Redneck Riviera."

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.