Bears

Week 6 NBA Power Rankings

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Week 6 NBA Power Rankings

By Tony Andracki & Mark Strotman

Each Monday throughout the regular season, Mark Strotman and Tony Andracki will rank all 30 NBA teams. Below are Week 5 Power Rankings. Think we're way off? Agree with our picks? Hit us up on Twitter at @BullsTalkCSN with comments or criticisms.
Past rankings: Preseason  Week 1  Week 2  Week 3  Week 4  Week 5

  Tony
 Mark Comments 1
 Tony: Hottest team in the league right now.
 Mark: Eight straight wins for the West's best home team.
 2
 Tony: Riding a five-game winning streak behind Parker.
 Mark: Imagine how good they'll be when Kawhi Leonard comes back.
 3
 Tony: Dominated the Heat, but couldn't run with the Bulls.
 Mark: Wade's shot coming back around, prompting LeBron to tell Barkley to "shut up."
 4
 Tony: Dynamic team, but a bit inconsistent to start.
Mark: Looked fantastic without Carmelo, but they're glad to have the early season MVP back. 
 5
 Tony: Would be the class of the West if not for OKCSA.
 Mark: Six straight wins, led by a red-hot Blake Griffin.
 6
 Tony: Wow, when did they become THE team in L.A.?
 Mark: December has been a rough stretch. 7
 Tony: Have won 8 of 10 to put them among NBA's best.
 Mark: Huge jump this week, but it's deserved. You can thank Steph Curry. 8
 Tony: Really looking like a playoff team.
 Mark: Love what Lou Williams is doing for a bench that needs scoring. 9
 Tony: Still clutching first place, but not by much.
 Mark: Have lost 3 of 5, but the talent is still there.
 10
 Tony: Need to find a way to win on the road.
 Mark: Andray Blatche puts up decent numbers, but they need Brook Lopez back.
 11
 Tony: If Holiday goes down, they're doomed.
 Mark: Joakim Noah is a dark horse for MVP the way he's playing on both ends so far.
 12
 Tony: Four-game losing streak bumps them down.
 Mark: Dead last in rebounds per game.
 13
 Tony: Have won three straight to climb over .500.
 Mark: Larry Sanders leads the NBA in blocks per game. Read that again.
 14
 Tony: HomeRoad splits are scary.
 Mark: Nash still 2 weeks away, which means L.A. is 2 weeks away from turning this around.
 15
 Tony: Not time to push panic button, but at least time to bring it out of storage.
 Mark: Won 4 of 5 to start December. 16
 Tony: Need to get their frontcourt rotation nailed down.
 Mark: Al Jefferson quietly putting together a monster season for the Jazz.
 17
 Tony: Just too inconsistent right now, but will be there in the end.
 Mark: Defense keeping them in the playoff hunt.
 18
 Tony: They're starting to get healthier, playoff push time?
 Mark: Ty Lawson picking things up lately.
 19
 Tony: Ninth out of 9 teams vying for playoff spots in the East.
 Mark: T-Wolves can't wait to get Rubio back, other 29 teams just fine waiting.
 20
 Tony: They can't even win when Lin puts up 38. Ouch.
 Mark: Omer Asik now hitting 17-footers in Houston. Convinced he was trolling Chicago.
 21
 Tony: See? Can't hack it when injuries hit because of lack of depth.
 Mark: They're winning games lately (3-of-5), but not playing anyone good (CLE, CHA, TOR).
 22
 Tony: Best of the worst in the East.
 Mark: Likely Lottery-bound, but this is an impressive turnaround led by Greg Monroe.
 23
 Tony: They have talent, but that's about it.
 Mark: Anthony Davis has the talent to turn the tides for the Pelicans Hornets.
 24
 Tony: Been better of late since their horrendous start.
 Mark: 3-2 on recent West roadtrip was nice to see. Still haven't played at home in Dec.
 25
 Tony: Getting Anthony Davis back. Eric Gordon on the horizon?
 Mark: Had won three in a row before loss in Dallas.
 26
 Tony: Have lost eight straight after their 7-5 start.
 Mark: Fast start was fun, but reality setting in fast on Mike Dunlap's group.
 27
 Tony: What are they doing with Marcin Gortat? Do they even know?
 Mark: Injuries just won't let this team play healthy together.
 28
 Tony: Kyrie coming back, but he can't do it alone.
 Mark: 5-5 at home, but just 2-11 away from Phoenix.
 29
 Tony: All the big offseason acquisitions haven't helped, huh?
 Mark: Still think Tristan Thompson has the skill set to be a star in the NBA.
 30
 Tony: Just flat-out awful. What is there to say?
 Mark: Injuries continue to decimate an already-shallow roster.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Should Roquan Smith make his debut against the Broncos?

Seth Gruen, Chris Emma and Matt Zahn join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester pitches like Jon Lester again and the offense does just enough to win in Pittsburgh. Jim Deshaies joins the guys to talk about the Cubs.

 

Should Roquan Smith make his preseason debut in Denver? Plus the Ohio State controversy takes a salacious turn. Will Urban Meyer keep his job when the investigation wraps up Sunday?

 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Five things to watch for the Bears in Saturday's preseason meeting with the Broncos

Five things to watch for the Bears in Saturday's preseason meeting with the Broncos

DENVER — Expect the Bears’ starters to play deeper into the first half on Saturday in Denver than they did last week in Cincinnati, but their time on the field will still be relatively brief. The real dress rehearsal for the Bears will be next weekend, when they gameplan for and host the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 25. 

But Saturday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium still represents sort of a checkpoint in the buildup to Sept. 9’s season-opening tilt with the Green Bay Packers. It’ll be the last game of the installation phase of the offseason, with coaches turning their focus to gameplanning for the Chiefs next week and then the Packers afterwards. 

There’s still plenty to be learned on Saturday, though. A few things to watch:

1. Will the first-team offense actually produce?

Mitch Trubisky this week bristled at the notion preseason games didn’t matter — “They don’t matter?” he said. “Then why do you guys talk about them so much?” — which fits with the attitude of a guy who was fairly frustrated with his and his teammates’ performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week. Trubisky wasn’t happy with offense’s sloppy and ineffective play during the two drives he quarterbacked, and wasn’t willing to write it off as “just” a preseason game. 

“No matter what it is, if it’s on the practice field, if I’m in the backyard by myself, if it’s a preseason game, we’re trying to get better and we’re trying to move the football,” Trubisky said. “That’s what great players do. That’s what great teams do. We’re trying to get some momentum and everybody do our job and execute the offense.”

Still, because the Bears aren’t doing much in the way of gameplanning for the Broncos, any production or lack thereof won’t tell us much about the direction in which this offense is headed. More important will be how successful this group is next week against the Chiefs. 

But Trubisky’s competitiveness means he’s not going to let a poor performance slide, even if it’s only for a few series in a game that doesn’t count. He and the Bears hope that translates into some first downs and points on Saturday. 

2. Some notable debuts

Helping Trubisky’s cause will be the 2018 preseason debuts of running back Jordan Howard and wide receiver Allen Robinson, as well as running back Tarik Cohen — who only played one snap against Cincinnati — perhaps being used more. 

The Bears’ offense will not be at full strength, with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (foot) and tight end Dion Sims (concussion) still out. But for Trubisky, it’ll be a good opportunity for him to see how all the work he and Robinson put in to develop a chemistry in the last few weeks translates to the field.

“We continue to create that chemistry in practice and my job is just to get the ball to the playmakers,” Trubisky said. “The more playmakers we have on the field, just continue to get them the ball and let them do what they do and we just need to roll as an offense, be on the same page, everyone continue to do their job, lock in and go out there and have fun an execute. It’ll be nice to see those guys with the ball in their hands this weekend.”

3. What about Roquan?

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith in full uniform going through pregame warmups, but it would qualify as a minor surprise if he actually played on Saturday. 

The benefit to Smith playing would be working to accelerate his development with an eye on Week 1, even if it’s only for a few snaps. But does the risk of him getting injured outweigh whatever benefit playing him would provide?

It’s a question the Bears surely are debating. But coaches and trainers made sure to not push Smith too hard in this week’s joint practices against the Broncos, and it would be risky to put him in Saturday but tell him to not play at full speed. 

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Smith to play on Saturday, but more likely would be No. 58 making his preseason debut against the Chiefs with another week of practice under his belt. 

4. Snap decisions

James Daniels felt like he was a little sloppy last week against the Bengals, specifically with his hand placement but more broadly because the intensity of things was increased. 

“I think that’s when my technique gets sloppy is when you’re out there and playing against somebody else, you’re really playing,” Daniels said. 

This week’s joint practices, then, were beneficial for Daniels to focus on keeping his technique sound in a more intense setting. And he had the opportunity to do that all while still playing center, not left guard, where he had been working up until last week. How Bears coaches evaluate Daniels' week of practice — which certainly wasn't perfect — will be important, especially in the context of...

... Cody Whitehair going through a snapping “slump” over the last week or so, starting with that preseason game in Cincinnati. If those low/high snaps crop up again Saturday, and Daniels is able to put in a solid day of work with the second-team offensive line, it may nudge the Bears toward moving Whitehair to guard and inserting the second-round Iowa product into the starting lineup. 

The Bears haven’t considered that move yet, though, and the plan all along has been to keep Whitehair at center. A lot has to happen for that plan to change: If Whitehair can’t consistently get snaps to Trubisky, if Daniels proves he’s one of the team’s best five offensive linemen, and then if Daniels proves he’s a better option at center than Whitehair. So far, the Bears haven’t arrived at any of those conclusions, but Saturday’s game could have a significant impact on what those conclusions wind up being. 

5. Down-the-depth-chart position battles

Plenty of players fighting for a spot on the Week 1 53-man roster will get an extended opportunity to put more good — or bad — things on film on Saturday. 

Near the top of the depth chart, Adam Shaheen will have another opportunity to keep his arrow pointing up at the “Y” tight end spot with Sims still out. Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris will continue their competition for the final starting spot on the defensive line, with Bullard still likely the slight favorite. Nick Kwiatkoski can help his case to hold off Smith with another solid showing in what’s been a solid preseason. 

An all-hands-on-deck competition to be the Bears’ reserve outside corner is developing, and with Prince Amukamara (groin) not practicing this week, everyone from that group will get a chance to help their case of making the Week 1 roster. Marcus Cooper needs to have a better game than he did against Cincinnati, while 2017 practice squad’er Doran Grant should get plenty of opportunities, too. For undrafted rookies Anthony Toliver, Michael Joseph and John Franklin III, it’s a big opportunity, too, to turn a longshot bid for a roster spot into something more realistic.