Our 1-2 New York Giants host the 3-0 Chicago Bears Sunday night. With that in mind, I traded questions with Windy City Gridiron big cheese Dane Noble. Here is the result of our back-and-forth. Check WCG for my answers to his questions.
BBV: The Bears are 3-0. Are you sold that this will really be an upper-echelon team, or do you think they have been fortunate up to this point?
WCG: The Bears can definitely compete with anyone on their schedule, but still have some issues to address before really being considered an "upper-echelon" team. As cliche as it may be, the real battles are won and lost in the trenches, and right now, our offensive line still is not performing at a high enough level to take us to the next level. Mike Martz and Mike Tice are able to make in-game adjustments to account for the poor pass-protection, which is nice, but we can't run the ball to save our lives. To be a legitimate threat in the NFC, we have to be able to get down and dirty in the trenches, and we are not there yet.
BBV: Chicago is giving up just 39 yards per game against the run. Is the run defense that good, or are those numbers a function of the teams you have played thus far?
WCG: The Bears defense is playing nasty football right now. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Lance Briggs are playing like gods among men, and the run defense as a whole is swarming to the ball every play. The 'Monsters of the Midway' mentality seems to have materialized once again in Chicago, and big hits are reigning supreme. The defense is not doing everything right, but the things they are doing, they are doing very well. Look for lots of gang tackles this coming Sunday night.
BBV: Assess Jay Cutler right now. Monday he could have had five passes picked off. Do you feel confident he can lead a team deep into the playoffs?
WCG: Jay Cutler has on may occasions so far this season bailed us out of a tight spot. He is the real deal, without a shadow of a doubt. As referenced above, the OL has been awful for the most part, and Cutler has still made big play after big play. He is making plays with his feet, making plays outside of the pocket, and showing mind-boggling accuracy when throwing downfield. Sure, he's thrown some balls that he shouldn't have, but that is what QBing in the NFL is all about. The good news is that, after throwing a terrible INT over the middle on one drive, he comes right back out the next drive and goes right back over the middle with complete confidence. Cutler is tough, incredibly intelligent, and a fierce competitor. When looking for reasons we might not make it deep into the playoffs, Cutler is the least of our concerns.
BBV: Before Monday, it had been a couple of seasons since Devin Hester had returned a punt for a score. Is he as dangerous as he was when he first came into the league?
WCG: Of course he is. People have pointed out ad nauseam that he hadn't scored a return TD since 2007, and have written him off for having lost that spark. And that is pure silliness. What people don't talk about is how, over the course of 2008-09, teams were kicking and punting completely away from Hester. Sure, he had a few chances here and there, but teams were being much more cautious and careful in accounting for him. Devin Hester is still Devin Hester ... he didn't magically lose his talent for two seasons, only to find it once again during the Green Bay game. He is still ridiculous, and can still make teams pay if given the opportunity.
BBV: If you could take one player off the Giants roster and put him in your lineup, who would it be? Why?
WCG: Great question. I'd probably say Eli Manning, because it would be nice to have a solid #2 QB behind Jay Cutler.
Thanks, Dane. Enjoyed it, except for the Eli answer.