Four Downs: Concerned about Marshall?
Is he just acting like any other star receiver, or is there reason for concern ahead? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Brandon Marshall's frustration will become a problem for the Bears.
.Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Marshall seems like the type of player who is only happy when he sees the ball 10-15 times per game. That's probably not going to happen every week because the Bears actually have other people on offense capable of making plays in Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte, etc. I understand when Marshall says that every legitimate No. 1 wide receiver wants the ball all the time. But Marshall has spent an inordinate amount of time the last couple of days discussing his level of frustration, don't you think? Marshall leads the Bears with 31 catches. He's on pace for 99 receptions. The team is 3-2. So what's the issue? Imagine if Marshall has a couple more average games by his standards. What's going to happen then? Marshall also wants a new contract, which further complicates the matter. Unless the Bears start ripping off victories, this might not end well. And even if the Bears win games, Marshall had better get his targets. That's been made abundantly clear.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. But it's not because of the news conferences. Marshall admitted that the real battle is not letting his frustrations affect his play. If he's dropping passes because his mind isn't into it, then it's a major problem for the Bears. Marshall seems to recognize that. For all the criticism he gets for courting media attention, he seems to have a good read on his own feelings and how to control them. Now it's up to him to make himself more "quarterback friendly," as he says, and limit his internal distractions.
Fact or Fiction: The New York Giants are more dangerous because they're so hungry for their first win.
.Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. The Giants will not finish 0-16, but it would be a surprise to see them turn it out around on the road on a short week after losing by 15 points at home to the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants are 30th in the league in points scored (16.4 per game) and 32nd in points allowed (36.4), rushing offense (56.8 yards per game) and turnover ratio (minus-13). That doesn't strike me as a hungry team. That strikes me as a bad team. The Giants are bad. The Bears will need to have a massive letdown to lose this game Thursday night.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. They will get multiple wins at some point, but it won't be because they're desperate. After two losses in a row, the Bears are hungry, too. Pittsburgh was desperate, and was playing at home, but in the end, talent won out. The only thing that should make Bears fans nervous is the season-long problem with the pass rush. As bad as Eli Manning has been, he can still move the ball if he has time. The Bears don't want to blitz him and leave guys open, so the front four, further decimated by Nate Collins' season-ending injury, needs to step up. It hasn't happened much yet.
Fact or Fiction: Martellus Bennett has been the Bears' best free-agent addition this season.
.Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. Bennett has been an excellent addition and gives instant credibility to the tight end position, but the best free-agent pickup has been strongside linebacker James Anderson. The Bears looked to be in trouble at linebacker when they lost Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, but Anderson and fellow veteran D.J. Williams stepped in and helped fill the void. Anderson has excelled against the pass and the run, ranking second on the defense with 45 tackles and tied for first with three pass breakups, according to the team's count. Anderson looks like a smart bet to receive a new contract from the Bears in the offseason. Some things never change in Chicago -- the linebackers are still the strength of the Bears' defense -- and Anderson is a big reason why, along with Williams and Lance Briggs.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. For reporters, yes, Bennett is great. And he's given Jay Cutler a serious threat with 25 catches for 281 yards and three touchdowns. But I like the linebacking duo of Anderson and Williams. They're a little under the radar, but if they could get some help from the injury-rattled defensive line, I think we'd be gushing over the improved athleticism of the linebacking corps.
Fact or Fiction: Alshon Jeffery can someday be a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
.Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Jeffery caught 10 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown against a pretty good Saints defense. I think he is more than capable of someday being a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. He can do everything on the field, plus he has the size at 6-foot-3. Jeffery was a surefire first-round draft choice after his sophomore year at South Carolina, but his stock fell during his junior year. Talent has never been the issue. For Jeffery, it's all about staying healthy and staying in shape. If he can avoid the nagging injuries, there is no reason he can't be the Bears' No. 1 option on offense in the future.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. It's tough to verify this just yet, because we haven't seen him perform in this capacity. But Jeffery has all the ingredients to be a No. 1, aside from the spotlight-hogging personality. He's big -- 6-foot-3, with an 80-inch wingspan. He can jump, control his body and attack the ball at its highest point. While he's getting the benefit of one-on-one coverage as defenses try to eliminate Marshall, he's making some very difficult catches. Why not?