NBC Sports' Roger Bennett and Arlo White give their Bears-Vikings predictions

NBC Sports' Roger Bennett and Arlo White give their Bears-Vikings predictions

On the latest episode of the Under Center podcast, NBC Sports soccer analysts Arlo White and Roger Bennett joined in to talk all things Bears. It's a fascinating conversation, and you can check out the entire episode right here. 

Among many of the topics they touched on, both offered predictions for tonight's Bears-Vikings matchups. Here's what they said:

This is pre-internet and pre-cable television in England. In order to follow the games, we had a new channel setup called Channel 4. And they would carry — they were looking around for sort of cheaper sports rights — and they would carry a one-hour highlight show on Sunday tea time. And it would be highlights from the previous week. So unless — I think I was banned from that point from calling my Aunt Kath and Uncle Bill because it cost too much, my dad was suddenly getting these huge phone bills as I was calling them to get the Bears results. And we watched this highlight show, and then the Super Bowl itself would be on live. That was the one live game we’d get each year, and I’d have to persuade my dad to let me stay up night on a school night, Sunday night, to watch that game. And I did find out toward the end fo the 1980s that there was an armed forces radio and television service for the American GIs and service personnel and their families that broadcast out of Germany. And on a good signal night, it’s a long ways, you could pick up the NFL games on a Sunday night. And that was like the most incredible revelation that I’d ever come across at that point. So you were actually listening to the games live. But the frustrating thing would be, you would have the Bears maybe kicking a game-winning, potential game-winning, field goal with Kevin Butler, and then just the point where the ball was in the air with five seconds to go, you’d lose the signal and it’d be replaced with Belgian flute music from the continent. And then you’d have to wait another week to find out the score — it was incredible. You had to be very dedicated to be an NFL fan back in those days.

What I love about this team, and it speaks to Matt Nagy’s energy, is when they win a game and you see them, they turn the locker room into a nightclub, it seems. It’s not necessarily the sort of music I will rush out and download myself, but they all seem to be having such a great time. There seems to be a great spirit in that camp. 

Ryan Pace seems to have got the formula right this season. They appear to be getting better and better. And all these names that kind of trip off the tongue now like a Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Trevathan — that linebacking corps looks fantastic — and then Mitch, Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard, the wide receiver corps as well, just fantastic. They’re so much fun to watch and let’s see where it leads. 

Well, a prediction is I will probably drink nine cups of coffee to keep myself awake until about 4 a.m. I’m feeling good. This is a big test, and then they have to back it up on Thanksgiving day against Detroit. So it’s a tough period now being flexed into the Sunday Night Football. But it’s great that the Bears are relevant again and are in demand. It’s in a way, if you want to be successful, you gotta back up, do a Sunday Night Football and then a Thursday in Detroit. I think they can do it and I’m predicting a 10-point victory for the Bears against the rival Vikings. And this would really give us the stranglehold on the NFC North, and let’s see where we can take it. Because on our day, we’re only getting better, and on our day I feel right now we can beat anybody. Let’s see where we go, but this is a real statement performance for the Bears coming up on Sunday. Bears by 10. 

These were the days before Internet, which many of your listeners will not be able to conceive of or imagine. So it was incredibly hard to follow the Chicago Bears. There was this one show, for an hour, with all of the highlights of the games of the week just compressed a week later. I started to write to people in Chicago and they’d occasionally send me over on huge clunky VHS video tapes games from weeks earlier which would just astound — I loved the commercials … I was mesmerized by everything that I saw. There was no internet, there was no newspaper coverage, it didn’t exist. So you could either listen to Armed Forces Network, which was an amazing experience, a wonderful station, that would fade — it had the worst signal for radio I’ve ever heard — it would just fade in and out, it was agonizing. Always when the Bears drove into the red zone, the signal would just disappear and you would have to wait five minutes to agonizingly try to re-find the thing to see if they scored or not. So I did what any rational person would do, JJ, with my other friend who loved the NFL as much as I did, Jamie, we would during Bears game days just phone random 312 numbers from his house and people would pick up the phone unsuspectingly. They would be like, ‘hello?’ and we would be like ‘hello, how are the Bears doing?’ And God love the people of Chicago, the biggest-hearted people in the world, and many of your listeners may realize it was me on the end of the phone 20 years ago. They would be like ‘they’re up 21-7! And they just got a first down and 10’ and they would commentate for us as long as we could keep them on the phone, and then they would probably a beer would be calling their name and they would hang up. But random people in Chicago on the end of the telephone, back when telephone bills were real telephone bills and the charges we rang up were enormous, but that’s what it took to follow the Bears back in the day and that’s what we did. 

That is a great question. It depends who’s starting for the Vikings — I’m hoping it’s going to be either Wade Wilson or Tommy Kramer. So if it’s one of those, we’re definitely going to score in the 40s. I’m guessing it’ll be, I think it’s going to be 27-3. How’s that? (Arlo only said a 10-point Bears win) He’s lacking — I just saw him last week in London, we filmed a television special with him, and I asked him where he is out of 10 in terms of the Bears. And I said, you know, you and I are going to a Super Bowl this year, and we are going to watch the Bears bloody win it. And he looked at me, and he’s like, really? And I said, we’re going to see the Bears bloody — I did a show in Atlanta, and I had Kevin Butler come to the show, and I had a beer with Kevin Butler and re-lived my memories and thanked him for everything he’s brought to my life and those Bears. And I want so badly for my kids, for all of you in Chicago, to experience what we went through in the 80s. So I said to Arlo, we’re going. We’re definitely going. I’d love to commentate with Arlo, to be candid. That’s my true dream to commentate on a Bears Super Bowl victory in an alternate commentary where it’s me and Arlo just going for it. I said, where are you, Arlo? And he said I’m about a 7.5, maybe an 8. And he goes where are you? And I said I’m an 11. And here’s why I’m 11 out of 10 on the Bears are going to win the Super Bowl. Every single year we win the Super Bowl, we always lose to Miami. That is the reason why I am so seemingly confident about how this season is going to end up. I’m all in. 

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Bears will reportedly release Cody Parkey when new league year begins

Bears will reportedly release Cody Parkey when new league year begins

The biggest question regarding Cody Parkey wasn’t if he’d be released, but when. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the “when” will be at the beginning of the new league year on March 13.

Parkey will still be paid the $3.5 million in remaining guaranteed money on his contract. The Bears guaranteed Parkey $9 million in his four-year, $15 million deal signed last year, and will not net any cap savings by releasing Parkey. The Bears can use a June 1 designation on Parkey to release him on March 13 without costing them any cap space (without using that collectively bargained designation, the Bears would owe an additional $1.125 million against their 2019 cap). They’ll still have to shoulder Parkey’s dead cap figure of a little over $4 million, per Spotrac. 
The move will bring to end an ignominious, brief tenure in Chicago, in which Parkey missed 10 kicks during the regular season before his infamous double-doink that dealt the Bears a loss in their first playoff game in eight years. Murmurs began surfacing regarding Parkey’s reliability when he missed a long game-winning field goal in overtime against the Miami Dolphins (a game the Bears lost), then hit a fever pitch when he bizarrely hit the uprights four times against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field in November. 
A media circus quickly followed Parkey after that four-doink game, with helicopters from two news stations flying over Soldier Field while he practiced on a Wednesday night. Parkey did hit 10 of 12 field goals and 12 of 13 extra points after that brutal game against the Lions, but there was no coming back from the missed 43-yard field goal that knocked the Bears out of the playoffs. 
Parkey, too, didn’t help his cause by going on “TODAY” the Friday after that double-doink miss, with coach Matt Nagy sounding and looking annoyed with his kicker for that appearance. 
“We always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team,” Nagy said. “You know, I just -- I didn't necessarily think that that much too much of a ‘we’ thing.”
The Bears signed former Tulsa kicker Redford Jones to a reserve/future contract in January after bringing in several kickers for a tryout at Halas Hall. Cutting Parkey paves the way for the Bears to continue adding kickers in free agency, the draft and/or the undrafted free agent pool. 
Robbie Gould, who’s only missed three of 85 field goal attempts since being cut by the Bears before the 2016 season, is likely to have the franchise tag placed on him by the San Francisco 49ers, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.

Bears grades and needs: Tough decisions loom on edge rushing depth

Bears grades and needs: Tough decisions loom on edge rushing depth

2018 depth chart

1. Khalil Mack
Usage: 14 games, 71.2 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $22.3 million cap hit 

Mack’s salary cap hit accounts for 11.6 percent of the Bears’ 2019 cap, and he’s worth every single penny and every single percentage point of it. His individual impact was spectacular: 12 1/2 sacks, 73 total pressures, six forced fumbles, one interception, one touchdown.

And because of that production, his impact on the rest of the Bears’ defense was massive. He was the missing piece to take this defense from good to great. His quiet swagger meshed well within the Bears’ locker room, too. The two first-round picks the Bears sent to the Raiders are less valuable (No. 24 in 2019) in part because of what Mack did, and is expected to keep doing, in Chicago. 

Going forward, the Bears could convert some of Mack’s 2019 salary into a signing bonus, spreading that money out over the next few years to give them some relief this year. Using $10 million to retain, say, Bryce Callahan or fill out the depth chart would go a long way when the Bears only have about $12 million in cap space right now. It would impact the team’s cap in 2020 and beyond, but if the goal is maximize Mitch Trubisky’s rookie contract, it would make sense. 

2. Leonard Floyd
Usage: 16 games, 75.4 percent of defensive snaps
2019 status: $5,021,819 cap hit

Floyd was two things last year: 1) Disappointing, production-wise and 2) Absolutely worthy of having his fifth-year option exercised. 

A hand injury suffered in a mid-August preseason game against the Denver Broncos limited Floyd for around two months, to the point where former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio admitted the team probably rushed Floyd back and put too much on his plate while he was still recovering. It showed in his production: Floyd didn’t have a sack and only totaled four pressures in the Bears’ first seven games of the season, then had 32 pressures and four sacks over the final nine games. 

Floyd deserves credit for playing well against the run, and he did notch the Bears’ only sack of Nick Foles in the wild card loss to the Eagles. But drawing single-teams thanks to Mack’s presence on the other side of the line didn’t lead to the massively productive season hoped for when the Raiders bizarrely decided to trade one of the best pass rushers in the league to the Bears. 

Still, the Bears have to bet on Floyd moving forward. He’s still cheap in 2019, and while his salary will significantly increase in 2020 it’s a gamble well worth taking to see if the former top-10 pick can fulfill his potential. 

"He played well and we're happy where he's at," general manager Ryan Pace said. "I feel like Leonard is still doing this (indicating upward trajectory) and I think you felt that as the season was going on."

3. Aaron Lynch 
Usage: 13 games, 33.6 percent of defensive snaps, 3.1 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: Unrestricted free agent

Lynch rewarded the Bears’ one-year prove-it deal by playing in 13 games (his most since 2015) with three sacks, four tackles for a loss and one interception. He was strong against the run, too, though his season ended early after Week 15 due to an elbow injury. 

There are a few things to consider as Lynch moves toward free agency: First, durability has been an issue in his career, and he did miss nearly all of training camp. His best years in the NFL have come under the watch of now-former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, too. 

But edge rushing depth is difficult to find, especially for cheap. Lynch may look for a bit of a pay raise off the $4 million deal he signed last year, but it may not be significant enough to make it necessarily prohibitive for the Bears. Still, the best bet is Lynch won’t be back, though if Pace likes him enough — or isn’t enamored with other options — he could be. 

4. Sam Acho
Usage: 4 games, 2.6 percent of defensive snaps, 8.5 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $2.375 million cap hit

The Bears will have a tough decision coming on Acho, a well liked and highly respected figure inside Halas Hall who played well in 2017 both on defense and special teams, but missed 12 games last season after suffering a pec injury in Week 4. The Bears could save $2.125 million in cap space by releasing Acho, though they could attempt to bring him back on a cheaper deal. 

All the community work around Chicago Acho has committed himself to would make him an especially tough cut for the team. Then again, a little under $3 million isn’t a bad price to pay for a reserve edge rusher, one who did have three sacks two years ago. So again, a tough decision is coming here. 

5. Isaiah Irving
Usage: 13 games, 11 percent of defensive snaps, 43.8 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: Exclusive rights free agent

Part of the Bears’ decisions on Lynch and Acho will depend on their evaluations of Irving and Kylie Fitts moving forward. Irving played in 10 games last year with eight pressures and one sack, and to date the former undrafted free agent has mostly flashed in the preseason. It’s worth noting the Bears would’ve gone into 2018 with Irving having a bigger part of their edge rushing rotation had they not traded for Mack. 

6. Kylie Fitts 
Usage: 6 games, 5.5 percent of defensive snaps, 5.9 percent of special teams snaps
2019 status: $613,050 cap hit

Fitts was tabbed as a possible sleeper after he tested well at the NFL combine but fell to the sixth round of last year’s draft. A good rule of thumb with edge rushers, though: Productive players at that position rarely last until the sixth round. Over the last five years, no sixth or seventh round outside linebacker has more than 3 1/2 sacks in their entire career. 

7. James Vaughters
Usage: 16 games with Calgary Stampeders in CFL
2019 status: Reserve/future contract

Vaughters had five sacks with the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL in 2018, and the Chicago native and Stanford alum will try to make the jump to the NFL with the Bears in OTAs/minicamp/training camp. 

Level of need (1-11, with 11 being the highest): 7

The Bears have a number of questions to address with their depth behind Mack and Floyd, and would do well to target this position in the draft. But again: It’s hard to find quality edge rushers without a first- or second-round pick, and the Bears may not be sold on anyone with their third-round pick. Signing an inexpensive veteran and taking another flier on a later-round draft pick may be the route here. 

Previous grades and needs: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | OL | DL

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