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Wednesday, November 14

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BEARS IN FIVE SUPERBOWL BOUND

Bears in Five - Super Bowl Bound
by Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon and friends

What a hectic week at the Noble Street Headquarters. As Ramsin cemented his position as the Worst Fantasy Football Player in America, there was no time for sadness or disappointment, as the Bears moved to 9-3 and within one game of clinching the NFC North. Well, not literally — if they win next week and the Vikings lose, they'll be tied and the Bears would have to beat them Week 17, or beat the Packers in week 16, to get the tie-breaker. But bank on this: if the Bears win next week at the Steelers and the Vikings lose hosting the Rams, the Bears will have pretty much mathematically locked up the division. And that, my friends, is when the true quarterback controversy in our town will begin. Bad for the Bears quarterbacks, good for sportswriters. Nice.

One: Wanted: One Punt Returner. Excellent hands A MUST.
First Bobby Wade failed at returning punts for the Bears. Then Rashied Davis failed. Now it seems that we're back to Wade once again. Can we all agree that this needs to end? I think that we can. The coaching staff and management of the Bears owes it to themselves as well as the fans to find someone who can hang on to the football. If this person isn't on the roster right now, they need to be signed. And signed now. This is starting to get ridiculous.

Two: Defensive Tackles are supposed to be fat.
When did being slightly overweight become a penalty in the NFL? The correct answer to this question is Sunday, December 4. At least that's when Tank Johnson was informed of this new penalty, as was the rest of the world. The guy weighs over 300 pounds. It really isn't that easy to control that much man. The referees really needed to take that into consideration before calling a roughing the passer penalty on him. Maybe it was just a special case. You know, to protect Brett Favre.

Three: Round Two — FIGHT!!!
The Kyle Orton vs. Rex Grossman debate continues. Sixty-eight yards passing against the Packers on Sunday is not the type of performance anyone should be satisfied with. It very well could be time to start working Grossman into the mix. Not only in practices but in game situations as well. If he is the spark that the Bears offense needs, we need to find out now. Not when the playoffs start in a month. Orton looked awful at times and didn't complete a pass to either of his top two receivers. On the other hand, he did attempt to run block at times. Maybe he has a career as a fullback ahead of him if Rex Grossman does supplant him as the starting quarterback.

Four: Who's afraid of the big bad AFC? Not us.
With the way that the Bears defense has been playing the past few weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't look like as much of a challenge as they did only a month ago. While Ben Roethlisberger is back under center for Steelers, he hasn't seen a defense like this in his short pro career. The Steelers still pose a challenge for our Bears, though. Their defense is still one of the most consistent in the NFL and their offense is, well, slightly better than the Bears. Maybe slightly better is too weak — they look like the Colts or the Seahawks when compared to our sputtering unit. Hopefully our offense doesn't make their defense look like ours.

Five: Ramsin vs. Craig
So which of us is really worse at fantasy football? In the Noble St. League, Ramsin is clearly inferior to Craig. In the other fantasy league that Craig participates in, he's about to receive a trophy. A trophy that is topped with not only a football player but a horse's ass as well. Ouch. That's bad. Ramsin is clinging like an infant to his title of Worst Fantasy Football Player in America, but if Craig gets the Horse's Ass Hardware, it'll be a toss-up.

 

Bulls in Five - Fouls and Threes
by Jason Maslanka

As I sat down to pen this week's column, I started with anger about NBA officials and the way they call Bulls' games. That was the most important thing I noticed in two weeks of basketball... until the first half of yesterday's game against the Mavericks. Turning away from the screen after a play, I barely saw Kirk Hinrich fall backward like a pro wrestler after a steel chair shot on the baseline. Hinrich was knocked out cold by an elbow, and was later determined to have had a concussion. Watching basketball for many years, I've rarely seen a concussion and never seen anyone fall down like that. Concussions are serious business, so let's hope Hinrich gets well soon and gets right back on the court healthy.

One: A Foul Taste
There's a major problem surrounding these Bulls and the officiating at the start of the season. It's a team without an all-star, a team with little veteran presence, and a team that isn't getting any respect despite very few attitude issues and a trip to the playoffs last year. Why is this? In the 109-101 loss to the Knicks — the 5-11 Knickerbockers, featuring the greediest player in basketball, Stephon Marbury — shot 57 free throws. The Bulls shot 25. Andres Nocioni, Tyson Chandler and Ben Gordon fouled out, and four others had four fouls or more. This has been a theme in nearly every game this year. It's unlikely that the young Bulls have a fouling problem, and more likely that crusty old referees don't like a team of under-25-year-olds.

Two: Central Division Dominance
The Bulls sit at 8-8, good for dead last in the Eastern Conference's Central Division, 5.5 games out of first place. Don't be fooled, however, as that record would be good for first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the Southeast. As predicted by most, the Central Division is powerful, home to all the best teams in the East not from Miami. Detroit is this early season's best team, with Indiana's talent shining bright. Lebron James is playing better with Larry Hughes on the team, and Michael Redd — the NBA's best shooter — is leading Milwaukee and Andrew Bogut to an early 9-6 mark. It's very likely that every team from the Central will make the playoffs this year, so current standings in the Division don't matter much. This Bulls team just needs to win the games it's supposed to, and the playoffs will happen in Chicago again.

Threeeeee: The Three Point Shot
They're fifth in the NBA in three point percentage, and that might be one of the reasons the Bulls are .500. Improved shooting by Nocioni and Gordon, along with clutch threes from Chris Duhon and Hinrich, have bailed them out on more than one occasion. During last night's 102-94 loss to the Mavericks, Duhon, Deng and Nocioni hit three after three, preventing Dirk Nowitzki from carrying his Mavs to a 20-point blowout. Although exciting, this is no way to win consistently in the NBA. Michael Sweetney needs to be more consistent down low, stay out of foul trouble and be the inside presence the Bulls need for a steady offense.

Four: Just Wow
Speaking of Dirk Nowitzki, he is simply put... amazing. This is something that's been known for years, but reinforced Monday night in a big way. It was one of those nights that doesn't show up in the box score as a special night, but it certainly was. Nowitzki scored 35 points, and he was most impressive when it counted in the fourth quarter. Time after time, he toyed with defenders only to hit a fading jumper from 20 feet. He's 7 feet tall, as tough as anyone in the league, and shoots and dribbles like a guard. If he's not one of the top three players in basketball, then I need to see more of those in front of him.

Five: Vote or Die, or Not... Really
Remember to visit nba.com and vote for Hinrich, Chandler, Deng and Gordon as Bulls' representatives for the 2005-06 NBA All-Star Game in Houston. While it's possible that Bulls Deng, Gordon, Nocioni and Duhon will dominate the All-Star sophomore team, it's been a while since a Bull was on the Eastern Conference squad. They deserve it.

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About the Author(s)

Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon and friends are not really friends but rather fierce competitors on the fantasy gridiron. They meet weekly to embarass each other with random football trivia at the Noble Street League HQ. This is where they write their column. Craig knows where every professional athlete went to college, and in some cases the names of their roommates. Creepy. Send comments to bears@gapersblock.com.

Jason Maslanka began his fandom of the Chicago Bulls in June of 1991, conveniently coinciding with the franchise's first championship. The years since the championships tested his fandom, but it never faltered. He believes that the NBA is more than dunks and hip hop, and that the NBA dress code is a good thing. He thinks most fans don't really understand basketball, and if they did, they'd love it even more. He knows that there are certain players who do the little things for no praise, and stat-mongers who don't really do anything to help their team win. Every week, he plans to execute a beautifully crafted column containing five points you should be thinking about and discussing as a Bulls and NBA fan. Send comments, questions, and arguments to bulls@gapersblock.com

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