White Sox

Miller: Bears have tremendous opportunity in front of them

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Miller: Bears have tremendous opportunity in front of them

It really comes down to this: The Bears were easily a playoff team in 2011 if Jay Cutler doesnt get injured. They were sitting pretty at 7-3 and poised to play some lackluster teams like Kansas City, Seattle, and Denver.

Please dont say the Bears got "Tebowed" and Denver was a playoff team. Ill scream! Denver stunk offensively and won in spite of Tebow's horrific play -- or should I say were gifted a win with Marion Barbers horrific play.

Cmon Mills, stay focused...stay on point.

Ok, sorry, you just thought youve seen it all in the NFL until that game...um, sorry...focused.

Three more Wins
Where do you see three more wins on the Bears schedule to possibly make the playoffs or squeak in as a Wild Card team?

This of course, is assuming the Packers are a 15-1 team again. The NFC is extremely tight this year, but teams like the Falcons, Saints, 49ers and even the Packers could be taking a step back.

It is difficult to win more than 13 games in an NFL season. Does anyone honestly believe the Packers will go 15-1 again in 2012? Heck no, they will be challenged in their own division to lose more than one game. Where do you see the Packers improvement with their 2012 schedule?

The whole point here is the Bears have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them.

The Bears, without question, have the best defense in the NFC North. Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota have gotten better this offseason on defense, but so did the Bears. I dont want to hear "this defense is aging, and the window is closing." The defense carried the team in 2011, only giving up 21.3 points per game, which was best in the North Division.

Despite being constantly on the field the last six games, the Bears defense played well enough to win games (Kansas City, Denveretc). The Bears defense will be just fine in 2012 and will most likely carry the Bears early in the season while the offense sorts some things out.

But this exercise of finding three more wins is much like the criteria blog I wrote a few weeks ago.

As an exercise, go through each team like I did for the Bears on criteria of building a roster and then also go through each teams NFC North schedule to find three more wins.

Where are they? Can the Bears steal one in Dallas Oct. 1 like theyve done before? Can the Bears now beat Seattle at home without Caleb Hanie leading the charge? Or maybe the Bears sweep the Packers as they have done before with an improved offense.

I dont know about you, but I see three more wins in a few places looking at the Bears' 2012 NFL Schedule.

Dane Dunning left minor league start with 'moderate' elbow strain

Dane Dunning left minor league start with 'moderate' elbow strain

Dane Dunning has been nothing but consistent since joining the White Sox organization in the Adam Eaton trade before the 2017 season.

He has performed well at three different levels in the minor leagues and has stayed healthy. That second part is currently in question after he left a start for Double-A Birmingham on Saturday with elbow soreness.

Dunning left in the fourth inning in what was developing into one of his worst starts of the season. He had four strikeouts, but also walked four and gave up two runs (one earned). The four walks matched a season high.

Here is how things went down on his final pitch:

It's too early for a full diagnosis, but Dunning is expected to have an MRI in the next few days. White Sox manager Rick Renteria talked about Dunning's injury before Sunday's game against the Athletics.

"I think everybody considered it a very moderate strain," Renteria said. "Nobody is at this point too concerned. They still have to re-evaluate more. We won’t know more until they get further evaluation and at that point everybody will know where he’s at. Right now he still has to be re-evaluated."

Dunning, 23, began the season at Single-A Winston-Salem where he posted a 2.59 ERA in four starts with 31 strikeouts against three walks in 24 1/3 innings. The Florida product then was promoted to Birmingham where he has a 2.76 ERA. In 11 starts with the Barons, Dunning has 69 strikeouts and 23 walks in 62 innings.

Dunning is one of the top pitching prospects in the White Sox farm system along with Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen.

Chris Kuc contributed to this report.

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Maine West

Head coach: Jason Kradman

Assistant coaches: Steve Piha (Def. Coordinator), Mike O'Brill (DB/ST Coordinator), Tony Manicke (LB/Head JV Coach), Dan Wilson (OL) Russ Swenson (TE) Ryan Willett (QB) Matt Boswell (DL) Trent Greco (WR) Kyle Prater (WR) Mike Smith (Head Frosh Coach) Joe Duszynski (Frosh Asst.) and DJ Frey (Frosh Asst.).

How they fared in 2017: 7-3 (4-1 Central Suburban North Conference). Maine West made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Warriors lost to Benet Academy in opening round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Mundelein

Sept. 1 @ Fenton

Sept. 7 vs Elk Grove

Sept. 14 @ Hersey

Sept. 21 vs Glenbrook North

Sept. 28 @ Maine East

Oct. 5 vs Vernon Hills

Oct. 12 vs Highland Park

Oct. 19 @ Deerfield

[MORE: 65 Days to Kickoff - Elmwood Park]

Biggest storyline: Will history repeat itself? Can the Warriors post back-to-back IHSA state playoff appearances? If so, it'd be a first for the Des Plaines high school.

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Jake Bellizzi, FB/LB Krystian Garbicz and WR/DB Ely Grimmer

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will need to replace standout TE Matt Kentgen (now at Butler). He was a multi-year starter and team leader last fall.  

EDGY's Early Take: Maine West, coached by Jason Kradman, has been one of the area's better success stories. Kradman took over the Warriors program in 2014 and guided the Warriors to their first state playoff appearance since 2002. With 13 returning starters back from a season ago (seven offense, six defense) and a program-wide boost in overall numbers and excitement, look for the Warriors to have a good shot at playoff football once again this October.