Cubs

With Cutler back, season on the line in next three games

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With Cutler back, season on the line in next three games

The Bears expect to have Jay Cutler back as their starting quarterback after reportedly being cleared by an independent neurologist checking for concussion symptoms lingering from the head blow he took against the Houston Texans.

On the other side, the Minnesota Vikings wont have wide receiverkickoff returner Percy Harvin, unable to practice all week because of an ankle injury.

Make those two significant personnel positives tilting in the Bears favor. Harvin leads the Vikings with 62 catches, nearly double the next-highest total of 34 for Kyle Rudolph, and leads NFL with a return average of 35.9 yards.

But the Cutler return is a game-changer, literally, both for what it brings to the offense in production and in presence. Put another way, the Bears believe theyre a good team with Cutler.

And right now they need to feel something positive on offense, after two games with a combined one touchdown, two offensive-line demotions,

Cutler for his part had a week off to observe (at a distance since he did not make the team flight to San Francisco) and presumably gain a small bit of urgency from not being able to help teammates in a dire situation.

Its different because I really didnt take part in the meetings or practice, Cutler said. It was kind of like a bye week. When you get hurt its an isolated feeling. Your identity with the team is gone and its a helpless feeling not being able to help them and not be where you want to be, out there with the guys.

Now hell have that chance.

Three and done?

Cutlers return comes at a pivotal juncture. The remaining six games are all against NFC teams, four of the six against NFC North opponents.

As much as coaches and players point to the fact that the Bears are still 7-3 after consecutive losses to Houston and San Francisco, only once in franchise history (1979) has a Bears team lost three straight games and reached postseason.

And that team needed to win seven of its last eight to get in. Since this team doesnt have eight, only six, this game becomes a borderline absolute must whether the Bears like it or not.

We have three losses, coach Lovie Smith said. Must? Theres nothing about must when you have three losses. Its a game we want to win in the worst way. We look at every game, its about this week and we need to get a win in the worst way. But big picture it doesnt really say that.

Its Minnesota, a division home game and we havent played well in a couple of weeks. We need to win.

Viking struggles

The Vikings will say the same. They defeated the Detroit Lions last week but lost their two before that to approach the brink of sinking into the mass of mediocrity.

Coach Leslie Frazier is 0-3 against his old team and none of his Vikings units scored more than 14 points against the Bears.

The past is the past, insisted running back Adrian Peterson, who has been less than dominant after demolishing the Bears in 2007-08 as a young Viking. Its different guys they have on their front. Theyve got different guys offensively. Were looking to turn things around.

Turnaround Tice?

Peterson and the Vikings are not the only ones in search of a turnaround or at least major course correction.

The anticipated progress of the offense under first-time coordinator Mike Tice with new weapons like Brandon Marshall and a line returning No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi has not happened. The Bears are 30th in yardage per game (299.4) and are 31st in passing.

Tice is pointing thumb, however, not the finger.

After watching the San Francisco debacle, Tice had some of his harshest criticisms for himself.

It was hard to watch, Tice said. It should have been hard to watch yourself, because thats your resume. And right now my resume is not very good. Im the one calling the plays. Im the one leading the offense and I have to do a better job. I have to find a way to do a better job for us, for all of us, the players, and for my peers that I work with and for the fans.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: