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TODAY

Thursday, July 18

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Bears in Five

The Meadowlands Are Kind to Us
by Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon & Friends

One: And Punts... You Bet!!
By all accounts, the Bears game on Sunday versus the Jets was boring. Not much offense. Not overly impressive defensive performances. But the ultimate result was a Bears victory for the second week in a row at the Meadowlands. What can be taken away from all of this? The second shutout of the season for the Bears defense and an even stronger grip on NFC supremacy. The way it looks right now, the road to the Super Bowl runs right down Lake Shore Drive.

Two: A Bit of Excitement
Brian Urlacher. The best defensive player in the NFL until proven otherwise. His interception in the end zone in the second quarter set the tone for the rest of the game. It also preserved the shutout. If the Jets didn't score then, they weren't going to score for the rest of the game. And they didn't. Thank you, Mr. Urlacher.

Three: A Bit of Excitement, the Sequel
Bernard Berrien sat out for the second week in a row. That left a problem on the offensive side of the ball. How do you stretch the field without a deep threat at the wide receiver position? Mark Bradley, that's how. For the second week in a row — coming off of an injury mind you — Bradley was the answer. His 57-yard touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter iced the game for the Bears. For all of the question marks that were hanging at the beginning of the season the Bears have had an answer. When one piece is out of commission, there is a replacement. And it's been the case all year, on both sides of the ball. A rarity for our Bears.

Four: Remember Brad Maynard?
He still punts for the Bears. You probably forgot that, didn't you?

Five: Another Road Game
The Patriots are next up on the schedule. And the way it looks right now, they are the last real challenge of the regular season. If you've paid any attention to the NFL over the past few seasons, there should be no explanation why this will be a tough game and a real test for our Bears. If you haven't paid any attention... Tom Brady. Remarkable quarterback, remarkable knack for winning the big games. He hasn't played these Bears yet, though.

Bulls in Five

Cirque du Losing
by Jason Maslanka

One: Where's the D?
The real question is if the vaunted Bulls' defense is really missing. Critics point to the team giving up over 100 points to each of the Texas teams in three losses last week as a sign of poor team defense. The season statistics tell a different story, however. The Bulls are fourth in the league, giving up only 93.6 points per game (PPG) to their opponents. Stats would declare the problem as offense and show that the team only scores 93.7 PPG, good for 26th in the NBA.

Two: But Defense Wins Championships?
In football and baseball, defense might just win championships, but in basketball, it does nothing of the sort. Don't mix up the message here: defense is important, but not as important as putting the basketball through the hoop. The 9-1 Utah Jazz are 21st in the league in PPG given up at 107.3, but they're first in basketball at scoring with over 108 PPG. For the most part, the formula for winning is scoring coupled with workable defense. Only absolutely terrible defense will bring a team down like Milwaukee, Toronto or Phoenix, three of the worst defensive teams in the league who all occupy last place in their divisions.

Threeeeee: Circus Circus
Last year pretended to be the end of an era. The awful Bill Cartwright era was over, and the Bulls went 3-3 on the annual circus road trip. The three wins were more than they had in the previous five years. In terms of circus failures, this year's trip is headed right back to the post-Jordan meltdown times. No other team in the NBA has a seven-game road trip this early in the season. Most other teams couldn't handle it either. When you're the championship Bulls, a road trip is not a hurdle. When you're the first-round-of-the-playoffs Bulls, the trip is more than a hurdle... it's the pole vault. This year's team is already assured of a losing record on the trip and has used the Texas triangle and Lakers to flop to a 3-7 record.

Four: Inconsistencies Abound
Ben Gordon is everyone's favorite whipping boy when it comes to consistency. He's the most talented player on the team but seemingly alternates good games and bad, 30-plus points and under 10. While Gordon is the poster child, the real problem with this Bulls team is that everyone's inconsistent. There isn't a consistent player on this team. Against the Lakers on Sunday, Gordon had nine points while Kirk Hinrich poured in four. Andres Nocioni exploded for 30. Just two days earlier, Gordon had 21 while Nocioni had only two on 1 of 10 shooting. Hinrich, Gordon, Nocioni and Deng are all talented scorers, but the offense of this team can accurately be described as hoping. On any given night, the coaching staff and fans can only hope someone will emerge to get some points.

Five: Positivity
Over the next eight days, the elephants finally leave the United Center and the Bulls have two matchups with the Knicks. How's that for good fortune?

Pucks in Five

...is on vacation.
by Jeremy Piniak

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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 executes 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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