Bears

Time for Hawks' stars to step up

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Time for Hawks' stars to step up

There are a few things you just automatically expect in the postseason. You expect tight, close games. You expect big hits. You expect good goaltending. And you expect your top players to perform as such.

The Blackhawks have had plenty of the first two, so-so of the third and not enough of the fourth.

And if theyre going to pull this series, in which theyre currently down 3-1, out of the fire, they need a heck of a lot more of the fourth.

The Blackhawks stars havent been dazzling enough in their first four games against the Phoenix Coyotes, who have a commanding lead and could eliminate the Hawks in Game 5 on Saturday night. And as several of them talked on Friday before heading out to Arizona, they knew they had to be better.

Even if the point production, goals and assists are where I want them to be, theres always a thing or two you feel you can do more, said captain Jonathan Toews. I dont think Im the only one in the room right now; we all need to feel that responsibility. If every guy takes that responsibility its going to pay off.

Toews had as strong a start to this series as anyone couldve asked including himself after missing 22 games with a concussion. He came out with a goal and an assist in Game 1, getting the Blackhawks on the board early. But hes been quieter since, recording just one assist in the past three games.

Patrick Kane leads the top guns with four assists, including two in Game 1. Patrick Sharp has just one goal in the four games, his deflection of Brent Seabrooks shot that sent Game 2 to overtime. The Blackhawks lost Marian Hossa early in Game 3 on Raffi Torres hit. Theres no doubt they miss his presence on the ice; hes someone opponents have to account for when hes out there. But Hossa was nevertheless sputtering down the stretch. He had no points in the first two games of this series, and has just three assists in his last 10 games.

The Blackhawks have gotten much of their production lately from their role players. Bryan Bickell had two goals in Game 2, including the winner. Michael Frolik has two in as many games. Brandon Bollig, Andrew Brunette and Brendan Morrison a late add in Game 4 over Jamal Mayers, a healthy scatch have also scored.

Sharp took responsibility for his part, too, although he didnt want to dwell on the slump.

I always try to score, try to help the team win whatever way I can. If fingers are pointed at me, Ill accept it, he said. But Im not wasting time on negative energy. Ill focus on playing the best Game 5 we can.

In some cases its not for lack of trying. Sharp had 11 combined shots in Games 1 and 2 against the Coyotes. Toews had six in Game 3. Regardless, the Blackhawks need their big guns. Secondary scoring is great, and the Blackhawks will take it. But the primary scorers have to be the difference makers in this series.

Or in this case, they have to be the series extenders.

Some nights its like that. Other nights (you shoot) one or two shots and they go in, Toews said. Ive said it many times before: as a captain credit when things go well but youre going to be the guy in the middle of it when things are going south. Were in a tough position as a team, in the series, thats the way it is. I want to bring a little extra effort to help us get over the hump.

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.