Are the Sixers a legit threat?


Are the Sixers a legit threat?

For 76ers head coach Doug Collins, his team's opening-round series will be somewhat of a homecoming, though not necessarily a happy one. The Illinois native, who once coached the Bulls, are up against the squad with the NBA's best record and the comments of second-year swingman Evan Turner, a Chicago native aside, Philadelphia isn't "dodging a bullet," even with reigning league MVP Derrick Rose still trying to regain his previous form.That said, the Sixers have played the Bulls tough in the past, and their blend of pressure defense, transition basketball, athleticism, balanced offense and low turnovers do pose some problems. At the same, it doesn't help Philadelphia's case that Turner provided some added motivation by publicly stating that the Sixers preferred facing the Bulls to the second-seeded Heat.Regardless, let's take a look at how the Sixers stack up to the Bulls, as well as some of their strengths and weaknesses:Backcourt:Jrue Holiday, one of the league's more underrated young players, is a solid defender, but while his size poses problems for many opposing point guards, Rose is a different animal and has had his way with the UCLA product in the past. On the other end of the floor, Holiday does make Rose work, but when he opts to get into a one-on-one battle, it stagnates the Sixers' offense, as his playmaking is more valuable to the team and he's an inconsistent outside shooter.Turner was inserted into the Sixers' starting lineup in the second half of the season, but Collins recently moved him back to the bench in favor of former starter Jodie Meeks, who's primarily a spot-up shooter. Turner will still see plenty of minutes at both wing positions -- he also routinely initiates the offense -- and while he's also a promising young talent, the Bulls have the personnel to effectively defend the Ohio State product.Lou Williams, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, is the Sixers' leading scorer and one of the best instant-offfense players in the league. But like Holiday, Turner and All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala, if he dominates the ball too much, it can be a deterrent to Philadelphia's offense. The Sixers' lack of a true go-to scorer will rear its ugly head against the Bulls, as they have strong perimeter defenders and even aside from Rose, can keep Philadelphia occupied on the other end, with the likes of Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver both being top-tier outside shooters.Frontcourt:The small-forward battle between All-Stars Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng will be crucial, as both are among the top perimeter defenders in the league, as well as being key secondary scorers for their teams. The difference is, if Deng isn't scoring at a high level, he's still valuable to the Bulls and often times, they can find point production from other sources. In Iguodala's case, he'll need to be effective on offense consistently -- as both a scorer and a playmaker, as well as a rebounder for size-challenged Philadelphia -- to keep the series competitive.At power forward, veteran Elton Brand, a former Bulls draft pick, has seen better days. As valuable as his leadership is to the young Sixers, he's no longer the 20-point, 10-rebound threat he was earlier in his career, but if he can keep fellow Duke product Carlos Boozer from going off, while giving Philadelphia a semblance of a low-post scorer, he's done his job.Rookie Nikola Vucevic is the Sixers' starting center, having replaced injury-prone Spencer Hawes in the lineup, but like Meeks, he's basically a token starter, though he's shown flashes of ability in his debut NBA season. If Hawes can knock down outside shots, facilitate action as a passer and compete on the boards, as he did early in the campaign, when he was discussed as a Most Improved Player candidate, the Sixers will have a chance to not let the battle at center get out of hand, but the defensive and rebounding prowess of Joakim Noah and Omer Asik simply might be too much.Like Williams, backup forward Thaddeus Young is a de facto starter for the Sixers. He's the one player the Bulls really struggle to match up with, as his combination of quickness, rebounding ability, athleticism and perimeter skills give them fits on a regular basis, although he'll also be facing a size mismatch inside. Lavoy Allen, a second-round draft pick, fared well in the Bulls' loss at Philadelphia early in the season, and while he's an active presence on the interior, his lack of experience will likely come into play.Conclusion:With talk of Collins losing his team in the second half of the season -- the Sixers appeared to be running away with the Atlantic Division before a collapse that saw them limp into the East's final seed -- there's no reason to think the Bulls' combination of size, depth and talent, as well as added motivation spurred by Turner's comments won't win out, especially against a team that doesn't have a dominant scoring presence. While some of the games should be competitive, the Bulls should win the series handily, even with Rose still trying to regain his rhythm, though if Philadelphia can force turnovers, get into transition and find some offensive chemistry, their odds improve.

NFC North: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 3

NFC North: What Bears fans should be watching in Week 3

Chicago Bears fans will get to enjoy a stress-free Sunday in Week 3 with the Bears playing Monday night against the Redskins. They'll have an opportunity to do a little advanced scouting of the NFC North, too, with all three division rivals in action Sunday afternoon in games that, unfortunately, may not present the biggest challenge.

The Packers (2-0) face an opponent familiar to the Bears when they welcome the Broncos to Lambeau Field. Green Bay is a heavy favorite (7.5 points) and based on what Denver revealed in Week 2, Aaron Rodgers should be more than capable of scoring enough points to give the Packers' top-tier defense enough of a cushion to beat up on Joe Flacco and the very average Broncos offense. 

The Vikings (1-1) have arguably the easiest game in Week 3 against the Raiders (1-1) at home. Oakland was one of Week 1's surprise winners over the Broncos, but they came back to earth a bit in Week 2's loss to the Chiefs. Expect a rebound performance from Kirk Cousins and the rest of Minnesota's offense. The Vikings are the biggest NFC North favorites of the week; they're projected to win by nine points or more.

The Lions (1-0-1) have the most challenging game of the three as they'll travel to Philadelphia to face the 1-1 Eagles. Detroit was an upset-winner over the Chargers in Week 2 and very easily could be 2-0 had they held onto their lead in Week 1 against the Cardinals, but they simply aren't talented enough to expect much of a fight against Philadelphia, one of the NFC's Super Bowl favorites. The line is pretty close, however. The Eagles are only favored by 4.5 (at home). 

How many yards will Mitch Trubisky throw for vs. Washington?

How many yards will Mitch Trubisky throw for vs. Washington?

The 2019 NFL season is still very young with only two weeks in its rear-view mirror, but the talking points surrounding Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky are starting to get really old. He's been the subject of relentless criticism because of the offense's slow start and while some concerns regarding his development have merit, most of them are the product of impatience.

For example, the lazy suggestion that Trubisky is a bust because his 2017 NFL draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson, both of whom he was drafted ahead of, are already league superstars is just wrong. Players evolve and develop at different speeds. Trubisky is the only one of the three on his second head coach and is only just now beginning to develop timing with his receivers, all of whom were added to the team via free agency or the draft last season. Neither Watson nor Mahomes have had nearly as much turbulence and turnover as Trubisky through three seasons. And that matters.

It also matters who a quarterback faces from week to week. Trubisky's 2019 season started against two of the NFL's better defenses in Green Bay and Denver, so his poor stat line is a combination of his below-average play meeting above-average defenses. It's tough for a young quarterback to get out of a slump when he's battling top-tier pass rushers and quality secondaries along the way.

Fortunately, he'll get his first big opportunity to put up quality stats against the Redskins Monday night; Washington is one of the NFL's worst defenses right now, including against the pass.

But Bears fans are still somewhat skeptical about Trubisky's ceiling in Week 3. A matchup like this should make a 300-yard game within his reach. Maybe even a couple of touchdowns. But according to a recent poll I ran on Twitter, Bears fans don't see it coming out that way.

The majority of fans (36%) think Trubisky will end the game with somewhere between 200-249 yards, which by today's NFL standards is very (very!) average. If you factor the 29% who think he won't even reach 200 yards, you end up with 65% of Bears fans thinking Trubisky won't reach 250 yards and, in theory, could struggle to even hit the 200-yard mark.

That's pretty surprising, considering the numbers the Redskins have given up in Weeks 1 and 2. Carson Wentz threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 against and Dak Prescott sliced them up for 269 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday. There's no reason to think Trubisky can't have a game similar to Prescott's, assuming Matt Nagy dials up the right plays to put him in position to succeed.