The deactivation of Tommie Harris Monday night before the Packers game was stunning. Lovie Smith said that he wasn't trying to send a message and that Harris had done everything they asked out of him. It was simply a matter of performance. Lovie felt like other guys deserved a chance to see what they could do. That is baloney. No, Harris had not played that well in the first two games of this season, but he certainly wasn't bad. And, yes, his talent has diminished since 2006 due to leg and knee injuries. But, I can't see how they can justify deactivating him for a game and claim that it was because they wanted to see what other guys would do. Tommie Harris has been paid like a top-level defensive tackle for the past few seasons, even though he hasn't played like one since early 2006. There is not a doubt in my mind that Lovie was sending a message. I don't completely agree with it, though, because Harris is still capable of making impact plays. Plus, if Lovie thinks his defensive line has enough talent that they can actually deactivate a former Pro Bowl player, then why not simply rotate guys more often? That way, you can still give Harris the chance to make plays while giving younger guys a chance to prove themselves. If the Bears feel like Tommie Harris didn't give them a better chance to win than Matt Toeania on Monday Night Football against the Packers when first place was on the line, then why not simply part ways with the malcontent? I'm not sure Tommie Harris is the type of player who will respond positively to this type "non-message" from Lovie Smith.
BEARS vs. GIANTS PREVIEW
Does the upcoming game against the New York Giants on Sunday Night qualify as a trap game for the Bears? The Giants are favored in Vegas by about three points, which basically means that they have homefield advantage. Most experts are split on this game according to ESPN.com, Yahoo, and CBS Sportsline. At first glance, the Bears look like they should win and win easy. The Giants have committed a ton of turnovers and penalties. They look like an undisciplined, ragged team led by a headcoach who doesn't tolerate those types of mistakes. There have been whispers around New York that Tom Coughlin is losing his players, that they are tuning him out. After last year's 5-0 start, they finished 3-8 down the stretch, and are off to a 1-2 start this year. As I said, the rejuvenated Bears should be able to defeat a team that is clearly reeling.
But, this Giants team is talented. Eli Manning played well on Sunday against Titans despite the one horrible interception in the red-zone when he tried to make a Brett Favre-type play by throwing the ball with his left hand while falling to the ground. His other interception early in the game bounced off his receiver and fell perfectly into the waiting arms of a Titan. That one wasn't his fault. Overall, the Giants offense moved up and down the field on the Titans. Manning was finding Manningham, Hicks, and Boss consistently open. When they were covered, he dumped off to Bradshaw, their dangerous, fleet-footed running back. Their offensive line generally protected Manning well, and Bradshaw also looked good running the ball. But, the offensive line had a bunch of penalties, and Bradshaw fumbled inside the Titans 10-yard line, negating yet another drive for the Giants into the red zone.
What worries me is that the Titans looked like they were running a lot of Cover 2 zone against Manning, which, of course, the Bears run about three quarters of the time. They had success getting to Manning when they blitzed, so maybe the Bears saw that, too, and will increase their pressure a little bit this week. Julius Peppers should be effective on the edge against an offensive that doesn't appear to be overly athletic. The Giants running game has been good this year, so the match up against the Bears number-one rated rushing defense will be important. If the Giants do get a little bit of a running game going, it will open up their play-action pass to tight end Kevin Boss down the middle of the field. Urlacher will have to get enough depth in his coverages to limit Boss in the passing game. Overall, the match-up does favor the Bears defense because they have shown the ability to prevent big plays while forcing the offense to play patient, mistake-free football. The Giants have not been able to play mistake-free football so far this season, which means the Bears should be able to get a few turnovers.
The Bears offense also appears to match up well against the Giants because they run a very similar scheme to the Bears--lots of Cover 2 and zone. Cutler and company saw this defense all through training camp, so they should be well-prepared. And, I'm sure the offensive line will be happy to play against a 4-3 defense after having to deal with 3-4 defenses the past two weeks. But, the Giants defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell, was actually Lovie Smith's top choice to become the Bears coordinator this past offseason. Fewell chose the Giants over the Bears, I suspect, because he likes to mix up his coverages and blitzes a little more than Lovie prefers. That could give the Bears some headaches. In fact, I expect the Giants to be even more exotic this week on defense given how desperate they are to win. They will send cornerbacks and linebackers on blitzes frequently to try and rattle Cutler. Jay will have the opportunity to make some plays down the field, and Matt Forte should be able to get decent yards on the ground if Martz remembers that a running game starts with actually have a running back in the backfield!
The Bears are on a roll, and the Giants are struggling. After all of the excitement surrounding the Bears after their third straight win on Monday, especially against the hated Packers, the new Monsters of the Midway should stroll into the "swamps of Jersey" and dominate the Giants by at least a touchdown. But, this is the NFL. Every team has talent and immense pride. This will be a tough, physical game between two evenly matched teams on national television. I think the Bears will squeak by with a win due to their defensive line and running game.
Bears 24, Giants 23