Chat with Michael Wright
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Join us on Thursday for our weekly Bears chat.
Michael Wright handles things from 11 a.m.-noon. (All times CT.)
Send your questions now and join the chat Thursday at 11 a.m. CT/noon ET!
More ESPNChicago.com: Bears blog
Michael (11:59 AM)
Happy Holidays, folks. Who would've thought the Bears would be in this position, No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with a game remaining? Anyway, let's get this thing started.
Michael, how do the Bears now measure whether or not this will be a successful season? Is it already a success because they crushed expectations, or do they need to win a few playoff games to be pleased?
Michael (12:01 PM)
Considering this team has seriously underachieved since the 2006 Super Bowl, I wouldn't consider the season a success unless this team advanced at least to the NFC Championship game. All they've got to do is one game to achieve that.
Nice and direct: can and will the Bears win the Super Bowl? If they do, this town is going to absolutely erupt.
Michael (12:02 PM)
I was still working from Florida and commuting back and forth when the Blackhawks won the Cup. So I didn't get a chance to experience all the celebrations. I think it would be definitely cool to see a Bears Super Bowl celebration.
matt g (orland park il)
michael, do you think the bears have a real shot in the playoffs against the falcons or the eagles or giants?
Michael (12:06 PM)
Matt, against the Giants - in my opinion - there's that revenge factor. I think that's the type of game the Bears would excel in. Besides that, it's extremely tough to beat a team twice (that's why the Bears sweeping the division would be so big). So that brings me to the Eagles. As you saw on Tuesday, the Eagles are struggling right now. But I also understand the playoffs are a different animal. So if I'm the Bears, I'm not sure I'd want to see the Eagles again. In looking at the Falcons, I actually like how the Bears match up with that team. The Falcons need to get Michael Turner going for Matt Ryan to be successful off play action. Well, a big back like Michael Turner is Chicago's type of party, so to speak. It's the smaller, shiftier backs the Bears would be more worried about.
Will the Bears be resting any of their starters this week (i.e., Matt Forte)?
Michael (12:10 PM)
Forrest, the Bears claim that's not in the plans. Lovie Smith says he doesn't want to disrupt the momentum they've built, and also said there are lots of things to work on. For instance, in the four games coming off the bye, the Bears were allowing an average of just 14.5 points per game on defense. But in the last four, they're allowing 26 per game. That's something the Bears need to shore up for the postseason, and they can't do that by sitting players.Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised, though, if Lovie decides to sit some guys once he realizes the Bears have no shot at the top seed (I doubt Atlanta and New Orleans loses).
Out of all the players becoming free agents next year, who do you think the bears need to resign??
Michael (12:11 PM)
Danieal Manning. He's quietly produced his finest season as a pro, and he's finally "getting it" in terms of safety play in the NFL. Besides that, he adds value as a return man. The Bears approached him with an offer for an extension recently. But the offer was laughable. If the Bears don't come on with the come on, Manning will get way more than they're offering as a free agent.
woody brosnan (silver spring, md. 20910)
Are you going to stay aggressive despite that questionable interference call?
Michael (12:12 PM)
Woody, my name is "Michael", not "Major".
Which D line do you prefer, 2006 Bears or 2010 Bears? One was deeper, one has Peppers.
Michael (12:12 PM)
Nino, where's G-Money? Just kidding. Give me the line with Julius Peppers. People often fail to realize how much of an impact he has on a game.
This Bears team gives me the feeling of the 06' Super Bowl Bears but with better talent on both sides of the ball (Peppers)(Cutler)(Forte) I know we can go all the way this year if Jay plays like he's been playin, hopefully without that one bad game. How do you see the Bears doin in the playoffs Michael?
Michael (12:15 PM)
Devin, that's tough. To me, it all depends on the matchups in the postseason. The Bears are capable of beating every team in the NFC in my opinion. The Saints would probably scare me the most because of their style on defense, Drew Brees and all his weapons on offense. Still, New Orleans is kind of wack in the running game. So without a legit running game, the Saints would have problems against the Bears in my opinion.
Rob (Toronto )
What's the latest on Earl Bennet do they plan to rest him this week?
Michael (12:17 PM)
Rob, that's a strong possibility. Lovie Smith said Earl should be ready to go - if not today - by the end of the week. But it wouldn't make much sense to play him if he's still banged up. You've also got to take into account the fact the Bears will have a bye for the first round. So it might not be as risky as it seems to play Bennett. He's got a sprained ankle right now. But he originally hurt it in the game against the Vikings, and was able to play last week against the Jets.
Hey Michael. Recently Chris Mortensen tweeted that Peppers and Clay Matthews were the front-runners for Defensive MVP. Do you think Peppers really has a chance for that?
Michael (12:19 PM)
Aaron, based on the statistics, I'd say no on Peppers. Let me add that I think Peppers should be the MVP. The problem, though, is a lot of times, voters just go down the list of candidates only looking at the statistics. Unless they actually see the player play on a day-to-day basis, the voters often don't take into account the impact of a player. Peppers makes offensive coordinators spend extra time devoting game plans to neutralize him. Peppers makes teams deploy extra personnel to stop him, and often still don't stop him. That's MVP to me. But his sack numbers will keep him from winning it.
SteveFitz (Chicago, IL)
I know we all say we're scared of this team or scared of that team, but I think everyone in the NFC is scared of our team. Go Bears!
Michael (12:20 PM)
I think you're correct to a degree.
Don't you think the play of the O-line is going to determine how far we go in the playoffs? We haven't been able to overcome bad play from them much this season.
Michael (12:22 PM)
I think so. After all, it's a trickle down sort of thing. If the o-line doesn't perform, the running game can't get going. Then the Bears will be forced to pass more (more chances for Jay Cutler to make mistakes). Then, if Cutler isn't comfortable in the pocket because of shoddy protection up front, he's gonna make those questionable throws we've all come to expect and potentially turn the ball over when he's sacked. So yeah, the offensive line is going to be one of the deciding factors, for sure.
Michael, step in Lovie's shoes: If the Falcons win in the early games, do you sit the starters?
Michael (12:22 PM)
I wouldn't unless the Bears were somehow getting blown out. I think it's important for them to play, actually.
Jerry Angelo (Chicago)
Do I emphasize O-line this offseason or has the recent marginal success gotten to my head? Also, what are the chances I get fired?
Michael (12:25 PM)
You've submitted a ton of questions there, Jerry. I'd say you take the best available players at your slot in the first round, then maybe start looking to fill needs. If there's a great tackle in your slot in the first round, I'd say go for it. But where you're gonna be slotted, there's not gonna be elite offensive line talent remaining on the board. As for whether you'll get fired, I don't see how. You guys are the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Between Pisa, Nick Roach, and Kreutz , who one of these UFA's do you think is most likely to be part of this 2011 Bears squad?
Michael (12:27 PM)
Depends on what Olin Kreutz is willing to take in a contract, in my opinion. There's no center of the future waiting behind Kreutz, so he's extremely important. So the Bears are probably gonna have to pay him (nothing huge, but respectable). I honestly think Roach has the best chance of being back. He's young, and inexpensive.
Jordan (Springfield, MO)
Which is more important to you? Knocking the Packers out of the playoffs and sweeping the divison or staying healthy for our divisional round game?
Michael (12:28 PM)
That's easy, stay healthy. But you've also got to take into account all the other factors that come into play. The defense hasn't played consistently well in a month, the offensive line needs work, and the offense as a whole is finally hitting it's stride. So why disturb that groove?
Im beginning to feel more comfortable with the Bears recieving corps as is Jay Cutler, and Matt Forte is running pretty good almost at 1000yds, Knox is too..So do you think the Bears are still missing that big time reciever?
Michael (12:28 PM)
Nope, I think the Bears receivers are growing up right before out eyes. I like what they've got, and don't think they need to upgrade there.
Dylan (Los Angeles)
If Peppers' sack numbers go up through the playoffs. does he have a shot at defensive MVP? Also, do you think he will play in the Pro Bowl?
Michael (12:30 PM)
If he's playing in the Super Bowl, I doubt it.
There are still a bunch of Bear 'doubters' out there on all the sports networks. I'm not saying I'm not one..but how can anyone be called an 'expert' after the way the whole NFL went this year?
Michael (12:30 PM)
Ken, "expert" is just a title. Some of us cover teams every day, pretty much 365 days a year. But at the end of the day, when the teams get out on the field, nobody really KNOWS what's gonna happen.
Rob (Downers Grove)
Is it safe to say the Chester Taylor signing was a waste? He's done nothing to warrant 12 mil from my perspective
Michael (12:31 PM)
I'm sort of in that camp. I don't want to come out and say that just yet. Let's see how he performs in the playoffs.
Andrew (Fort Walton Beach)
Although the Bears have been a pretty tough team to play lately, do you think they actually have a good shot to beat the Pack and sweep the NFC North this weekend?
Michael (12:33 PM)
I do. I understand the Packers took the Patriots to the wire without Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers also lost to the Lions.
Do you think Martz will be the head coach next season? The man got his team a bye in the playoffs and it still seems his job is still in Jeopardy. What is your take on the coaching staff for next season?
Michael (12:35 PM)
Jack, let's nip this one in the bud right now. Martz will not be a head coach next season. People keep calling him a hot coaching commodity. But last I checked, the Bears are ranked 30th in offense. That doesn't seem all that hot to me. I'd say Rod Marinelli and Mike Tice could be head-coaching candidates. But I don't see that happening for Martz. Remember, he was fired in Detroit and San Francisco, and was basically read the riot act by Lovie during the bye, which is why the Bears offense finally started running the ball more.
Jimmy (West Virginia) [via mobile]
How many years do you think Urlacher has left before he retires and does he still require the gameplanning around he used to?
Michael (12:37 PM)
Urlacher makes Chicago's defensive system go. Not many middle backers in this league can cover the ground that Urlacher does routinely. I think he's got another three strong years before his skills start slipping.
On ESPN 1000 this morning JD told the story of Tank Johnson mistaking him for David Haugh and almost getting the business for an article he wrote. Have you ever had any 'altercations' with players for an article you've written?
Michael (12:41 PM)
Oh yeah, Timmy. Once I was standing outside the Jaguars locker room, and coach Jack Del Rio came up to me after something I wrote and said, "Michael, you're on your own after writing that. I can't help you." Well, after I went into the locker room, I was literally surrounded by the team about a tongue-in-cheek piece I wrote from the perspective of a tackling dummy (the Jags had just given up more than 200 yards rushing to Titans running back Chris Johnson). But even after getting surrounded and yelled at, several players came up to me afterward with words of support. Torry Holt said, "Man, that article was funny. But you were wrong." DT Terrance Knighton said, "The truth hurts. That's why everyone is mad." These little altercations are just part of the territory.
Remember to layer when you're covering the parade in February. Chicago gets a little colder than J-Ville. See you there.
Michael (12:41 PM)
Uh, yeah. Just a little bit. Funny thing is today it's so warm, I'm not even wearing a coat. I think my blood has thickened. The weather doesn't even bother me now.
What is your prediction for the game against the pack on Sunday?
Michael (12:41 PM)
It's tough, but I'm gonna go with the Bears by 1.
Does Garrard start another game for JAX?
Michael (12:45 PM)
He's going on IR.
Should the Bears draft a CB within the first two rounds this year? I believe their defense will be elite if they can get a great cover man (I know he has to tackle well as well!).
Michael (12:46 PM)
You can't reach, Paul. I keep saying you take the best available player where you're slotted. If a corner happens to be a need, and matches with where you have him slotted, by all means, take him.
How likely do you think it is that we see a strike shortened season next year?
Michael (12:47 PM)
Let's get this straight: there won't be a strike. We're talking about the owners locking the doors. That's different.
John (Bloomington Il.)
I was a bliever in this receiving core when I saw glimpses in pre-season all the "experts" said they were not good enough.. any "experts" changing their opinions on them now?
Michael (12:49 PM)
John, the verdict is still out somewhat. They've had a few games, but a body of work doesn't consist of that. I think they're still growing, and will be even more productive with more experience in the offense. But I also think it's wrong to rip folks for offering their opinion about the receivers not being good enough.
Adam (San Diego)
Shouldn't the Bears draft strategy in the first round be to start by organizing everyone Jerry Angelo likes, then immediately throwing all those names away?
Michael (12:50 PM)
Had to post this just because it was funny. I swear, Bears fans are the funniest of any team I've ever covered hands down.
Worse beard: Kyle Orton or Johnny Knox? Go Bears!
Michael (12:50 PM)
Johnny's is red. He looks like a black pirate.
Dan (Potsdam, ny)
Any chance the Bears seek Champ Bailey from the Broncoes this off-season?
Michael (12:51 PM)
In my opinion, Champ is too old and expensive. Old and expensive=bad combination.
what are the chances tommie harris comes to life in the playoffs
Michael (12:53 PM)
Keith, I think he's already come to life. Early in the Jets game, Tommie slashed in to make a tackle for a 1-yard loss. Pay attention to him against the Packers. His legs look really fresh.
Derek Colona illinois [via mobile]
Can Cutler stay away fron turnovers long enough to make a run in the playoffs?
Michael (12:54 PM)
That's a good question. Cutler has thrown a pick in three consecutive games after going through a five-game stretch in which he threw three total. If Jay doesn't turn the ball over, this team is gonna be scary in the playoffs with the way the offense is playing. The defense needs just needs to get back to playing the type of ball they played iin the month after the bye.
Tony (Peru, IL )
Me and Gordon Bombay want free tickets to this next game...can you make it Happen MIchael?
Michael (12:55 PM)
Uh, no. I think we have some type of contest called "Ticket Window" on ESPN 1000. You ought to try to win tickets there.
Matt Forte (Chicago)
You think I'm better than just an average back?
Michael (12:56 PM)
Oh yeah, you've got deceptive speed a little wiggle in your stride, and can catch it out of the backfield. I also like when you give it to defenders just to let them know that you're not scared to run someone over.
Joel M (Mi)
I understand the Bears O-line is doing a quantum leap compared to how they were doing in be first half of the season. However I dont think it will be good enough to stop the Playoff teams....Your thoughts? Ps. Nice espn phone interview, sounded real profeshhh
Michael (12:57 PM)
Thanks for the kind words, Joel M. But the o-line is gonna be a major, major question in the playoffs. They haven't given up more than two sacks in three consecutive games. So that's progress. I think they'll hold up for the most part.
A young established woman I know works at a hospital in Chicago where Jay Cutler was supposed to come visit the children. Apparently a similar hospital in Denver advised her not to get the children's hopes up as he is notorious for no-shows. Sure enough he canceled and ended up coming on a different day. Bring his girlfriend in Stilettos where they visited for half an hour and bounced. Then to top it off the Sun Times gives him a cover page making him look like god's gift to children. Ugh. Any chance of signing Mcnabb?
Michael (12:58 PM)
Uhh, interesting story. I don't know whether that's true, but figured fans would be interested. As for McNabb, I don't see that happening. Why? Cutler is BALLIN'.
Michael (12:59 PM)
Guys, that's my time. As always, it was a blast. I'm gonna hand it off to Jurko. Keep it locked onto ESPNChicago.com for all the news headed into the big game and throughout the playoffs.