Bears need help from Packers to make playoffs


Bears need help from Packers to make playoffs

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears might be rooting louder for Green Bay than even the most loyal Packers fans this week.

They need an assist from their biggest rivals.

The Bears (9-6) kept themselves in contention with a 28-13 win at Arizona on Sunday. Now, they need to win at Detroit this week and that's just the start.

``This time of year, you want to be in it, you want to be relevant, and we are,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``We have a chance, and that's all you can hope for. It's not an ideal situation that we're in. But hopefully we can take care of business and do all that we can do. And from there, after we've gotten ourselves in this position, that's about all we can hope for.''

He's banking on 10 wins being enough to get to the playoffs, and it will be if they take out the Lions and the Packers beat or tie Minnesota later in the day. They would also get in with a tie if Green Bay beats the Vikings.

The fact that they're facing more injuries heading into a must-win regular-season finale with a playoff spot up in the air doesn't make it any easier.

Running back Matt Forte (right ankle) and free safety Chris Conte (pulled hamstring) added their names to an already lengthy list, and although Smith declined to provide updates on those players, he did acknowledge depth at both positions is a concern.

Forte vowed to be ready after injuring the ankle for the third time this season. Kahlil Bell would figure to carry the load if he isn't, considering backup Michael Bush (ribs) went on injured reserve last week.

It wouldn't be a surprise if the Bears brought in help at safety. The only backup to Conte and Major Wright is Anthony Walters with Craig Steltz on IR because of a chest injury.

Meanwhile, the Bears could be getting some injured players back.

It's not clear if Brian Urlacher will be one of them, though. He hasn't practiced since he injured his hamstring against Seattle on Dec. 2.

Smith is ``hopeful'' the starting middle linebacker will return this week but wouldn't commit to it.

``Brian is a quick healer, and if he's ready to go, he will,'' he said. ``He's made a lot of progress. I'm not trying to run away from the question. We have to get to the practice week and see where he is.''

Smith wouldn't say, either, if Gabe Carimi would stay at right tackle if Jonathan Scott is ready to return from his hamstring injury.

Either way, Smith liked what he saw from his offensive line Sunday. The holes were there for Forte, who ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries before leaving the game, and so was the protection for Jay Cutler. He was simply off-target, completing just 12 of 26 passes for 146 yards. But with Zack Bowman recovering a fumble for a touchdown and Charles Tillman returning an interception for a score, Chicago had an easy time on Sunday.

Now, it needs some help.

The Bears find themselves in an awkward position, one they would have never envisioned after a 7-1 start. But they lost control of their playoff destiny by dropping five of six, fueling speculation about Smith's job security.

If they beat the Lions, they'll have to root for the Packers - a thought that would make George Halas cringe.

``It is kind of weird,'' cornerback Tim Jennings said. ``That's just what it comes down to. So hopefully everything will work out in our favor and we'll be back to where we need to be.''

Would the Bears stay in Detroit and watch the Packers game?

``I hadn't gotten that far,'' Smith said. ``There are a lot of other things that have priority before it. We will be interested. All of that goes with us taking care of business first. So we're just going to concentrate on that. We hadn't made any decisions like that.''

Notes: The Bears signed veteran LS Patrick Mannelly to a one-year contract extension through 2013 and waived WR Dane Sanzenbacher on Monday.


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Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

The 2019-20 season for the Wizards can be viewed as somewhat of a gap year, in that they hope their current organizational reset doesn't take long. It seems to be their goal to be back in the playoff mix next season with John Wall back and Bradley Beal operating through his prime.

Their best path towards doing that may look a lot like the team they face on Wednesday night, the Miami Heat (7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington). After missing the playoffs last season with a 39-43 record, the Heat are now 30-13 and second in the Eastern Conference.

The jump they have made is unusual, so don't focus too much on the standings. Instead look at how they have improved and how parallels could be drawn to the Wizards.
The Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, an All-Star wing who is a level above everyone else on their roster. The same could be said about Bradley Beal.

They have a point guard in Goran Dragic, who is still effective despite not being the 20-point scoring All-Star he used to be, now that he's lost a step. The way he plays could be a reasonable expectation for Wall as he works his way back to All-Star form coming off an Achilles injury.

Miami has assembled a deep and multidimensional roster around them. They have an ascending young frontcourt player in Bam Adebayo. Rui Hachimura could follow a similar trajectory, albeit as a different style of player.

Miami also has an array of shooters. Duncan Robinson was undrafted, then signed to a two-way contract. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn are rookies. The Wizards have their own group of emerging perimeter threats in Davis Bertans, Garrison Mathews and Jordan McRae.

The way the Heat win is with an efficient offense that includes deadly-accurate outside shooting and a slightly above average defense. They rank seventh in offensive rating (111.7) and 13th in defensive rating (108.1). And they are second in the NBA in three-point percentage (37.6) and eighth in threes made (12.7/g).

The Wizards are, of course, nowhere near even average on defense. Their defensive rating is 30th in the NBA and they possess none of the traits that make the Heat the defensive team they are. Miami, for instance, is first in opponent three-point percentage (32.7) and also first in defensive rebounding (32.3).

The Wizards, though, do already check off some boxes on offense. They are 11th in offensive rating (110.7) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.5). 

The Wizards have a long way to go to reach Miami's level, but the Heat's approach in a macro sense could be worth following and especially once Wall returns. Though Butler is their clear-cut best player, he only attempts 13.4 shots per game, second-most on the team. Dragic, despite being a former All-Star, takes only 12.1 per game.

The Wizards have long done things differently. Back in 2016-17, when they had their best season in many years, Wall averaged 18.4 shots and Beal took 17.2 per game.

Despite taking fewer shots, Butler is still able to put up numbers. He is averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. Combined with his defense, that is plenty to compete for the All-Star team and maybe even All-NBA honors. Meanwhile, he gets credit for being the face of a winning team.

The Heat have a roster that is a bit top-heavy that has been filled out nicely with unheralded moves and young players. That is how the Wizards' roster might be described a year from now. In order to make it work and win some games, they might want to pay attention to how Miami is doing it.

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'MLB The Show 20' features the 'Soto Shuffle' and iconic moments from Nationals' World Series season

'MLB The Show 20' features the 'Soto Shuffle' and iconic moments from Nationals' World Series season

One of the first things some Nationals fans noticed about PlayStation's trailer for the "MLB The Show 20," which was released Wednesday, was the inclusion of the "Soto Shuffle" after Juan Soto takes a ball.

Back in November one (possibly psychic?) Nationals fan tweeted his hope that the newest edition of the game would include Soto's iconic move at the plate, which the outfielder uses to psych-out opponents.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas wasn't too happy with the "Soto Shuffle," but Soto never stopped the move.  

According to the preview, the new video game also includes a Trea Turner dugout dance party at Nationals Park and former National Anthony Rendon in his new Los Angeles Angels garb.

No word yet as to whether Gerardo Parra's "Baby Shark" or Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick's "Clutch and Drive" made the cut.