Bears

Bears 2012 season guaranteed to make someone happyunless

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Bears 2012 season guaranteed to make someone happyunless

Do you realize that the 2012 season, still more than three months away but it already is all but assured of making one group of watchers happy no matter how it comes out?

Heres how that works:

Good year

If the Bears do well, as in the third consecutive 10-6 or better assessment of CSNChicago.com (the 2010 call was right; the 2011 one was as well at 7-3 before Jay Cutler went down), the majority of Chicago will be generally happy. Players and coaches dont always get this, but Chicago wants to love its Bears.

The over-under point for the Bears is 8.5 wins, which has the faint feel of a suckers bet since the Bears won eight games last season without Cutler for six games, Matt Forte for almost five and Brandon Marshall for any.

Bad year

Nothing is ever assured in the NFL, including the Bears improving from last season. So a team that should win 10 or 11 could wind up losing that many; just ask Mike Ditkas last team (5-11 in 1992 from 11-5 in 1991).

That fall from grace was enough to get Ditka fired despite playoffs the previous two and seven of the previous eight seasons. Obviously, if the Bears miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the six seasons since Super Bowl XLI, Lovie Smith wont be back for a 10th season (Ditka had 11).

That would make happy the Smith-haters who didnt think Smith deserved any more of a pass on last seasons collapse than Jerry Angelo got.

Gregg Rosenthal over at NFL.com is the latest to note the obvious that Smith is under immediate pressure to win, something made amply apparent in post-Angelo-firing remarks by George McCaskey and Ted Phillips and even more so in the hiring of Phil Emery.

Either way, somebody will be happy with the way this season turns out.

Unless

Smith signed a two-year contract extension in February 2011, running through the 2013 season. Matters will get interesting should the Bears go, say, 10-6 but dont make the playoffs.

Could happen. The 2008 Patriots went 11-5 and missed. The 2010 Buccaneers and Giants went 10-6 and missed, then New York went 9-7 last season and won the Super Bowl.

Then what do the Bears do?

2020 Senior Bowl: Jordan Love's 1st-round hype is real

2020 Senior Bowl: Jordan Love's 1st-round hype is real

The Detroit Lions didn't gain any new fans after their questionable practice session (North team) on Day 1 of the 2020 Senior Bowl, but despite a lot of time warming up and working against air, there were a few prospect performances worth noting.

Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was the headliner, showing off his cannon of an arm in what was a clear display of starting-quarterback talent. Compared to fellow North team quarterbacks Shea Patterson (Michigan) and Anthony Gordon (Washington State), Love looked like the only quarterback who's capable of succeeding in the NFL. It wasn't even close.

Love has an effortless throwing motion. His passes are crisp, accurate and on a rope. Was he perfect? No. But he had the most impressive arm of the day. His first-round hype is very real and will only continue to build momentum as the week goes on.

RELATED: Here's who Bears scouts are watching at the Senior Bowl

As for Patterson and Gordon? Bears fans need to temper their excitement for both of them. Patterson's quirky throwing motion looks labored and forced while Gordon's slight frame and underwhelming arm strength scream backup at best.

Tight end Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) had a quiet first practice. His opportunities to make plays were limited. But he'll need a strong finish to the week to maintain his standing as the top tight end at the Senior Bowl.

One player Bears fans should highlight as a name to watch is Michigan offensive lineman Ben Bredeson. He looked the part on Tuesday. He has strong hands and the kind of powerful playing style that tends to lead to success in the NFL. He showed pretty good feet, too. He has a chance to rise up the board if he stacks two more positive practices together.

On the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse edge rusher Alton Robinson flashed in drills. He showed a good first step and violent hands at the point of attack. He won several reps with ease. The Bears have to add pass-rush help in the middle rounds, and Robinson looks like a quality prospect worth keeping an eye on.

Ohio State defensive lineman Davon Hamilton had a nice day, too. He was almost unblockable at times and practiced with a level of intensity that scouts are certain to like. While not a need in Chicago, Hamilton looks like a player whose value could trump need come draft day. 

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Cubs acquire righty reliever Travis Lakins from Red Sox as bullpen stockpiling continues

Cubs acquire righty reliever Travis Lakins from Red Sox as bullpen stockpiling continues

The Cubs continued their stockpiling of relievers on Tuesday, acquiring right-hander Travis Lakins from the Red Sox. The North Siders will send a player to be named later or cash considerations to Boston in return.

Lakins is a former sixth-round pick by the Red Sox who made his big-league debut last season. The 25-year-old sported a 3.86 ERA in 16 appearances, three of which he started the game as an "opener." He pitched 23 1/3 innings in the big leagues season, striking out 18 while walking 10. He holds a 4.45 ERA in parts of five minor-league seasons.

Lakins' fastball ranks in the 70th percentile for spin rate, averaging 93.7 mph with his four-seamer last season with Boston. 

The Cubs have acquired a plethora of low-key relievers this winter, including Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam and now Lakins. The club lost stalwart Steve Cishek to the White Sox and haven't been connected to the reliable Brandon Kintzler this offseason.  Pedro Strop is also a free agent, and the Cubs are reportedly interested in a reunion.

As of now, the only locks for the 2020 bullpen are closer Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan and Brad Wieck. Thus, the Cubs have been gathering as many relief options as possible with the hope some will emerge as viable relief candidates this season. At the least, they'll have plenty of depth in case any injuries occur or if any arms underperform.

"You realize to get through a season, it's not a matter of going up on a whiteboard and writing up your eight relievers," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention Saturday. "It's a matter of [needing] 15, 20, 25 good relievers over the course of the summer to really get through it.

"When you guys see a lot of these transactions of relievers, often times they're going to be coming off down years. For the most part, I bet you when we acquire a guy, you can look back and you can see a year in the not-too-distant past when they had a really good year.

"That's the kind of shot we have to take, and that's the kind of shot every team has to take on capturing that lightning in a bottle. Buying really high on relievers and signing them after they have a breakout year is really expensive and really difficult and doesn't have a great success rate. We try to find those guys that we can catch lightning in a bottle, and that's been a big part of our strategy."

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