Thursday Night Football is back in town, and after the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens set the limbo bar high last week, it is now time for the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears to suit up and attempt to turn a shortened week into a big-time positive.
I'm not normally a fan of the term "Easier said than done," but if there was a more fitting statement to apply to this week's early fixture, I simply haven't found it.
To think back to the 2010 offseason, a flood of critical Jay Cutler memories begin to flow, followed by that iconic image of Brandon Marshall pedaling away on an exercise bike, as if to say "I'm completely healthy, following successful hip surgery."
No, not many people in their right mind expected the Bears and Dolphins to be sitting where they are at the present time, and even if you were smart enough to predict this outcome, chances are you took on board the possibility of being burned at the stake and chose to keep these thoughts to yourself until the season kicked off.
But if you were one of these chosen geniuses, stand up loud and proud, and tell us what you really think about this underrated matchup between the previously Windy City Wobblies and the Delinquent (but persistent) Dolphins, that is heating up as we speak.
While we wait for these folks though, here's what I think—this game has major implications.
And why is that?
To scratch a small mark in the very large pan ahead of Thursday, many people believe that the Dolphins and Bears are far from playoff favorites this season.
No matter what amount of potential both teams have shown, the odds seem stacked against both sides in their respective divisions, with the Packers stepping up their game and the Patriots and Jets still providing counter blows to each Tunatown win.
Next in line on the importance list is the quarterback duel.
Jay Cutler may resemble some kind of down-and-out 2006 version of the "Aww shucks" Eli Manning era, but there was nothing sad about his 237 yard, three touchdown-effort against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
What was tough to watch though, was the Miami Dolphins car wreck of a quarterback situation.
Al Michaels stated on Sunday Night that Ben Roethlisberger was as strong as an apartment building, but as for Chad Pennington, go ahead and slap a "fragile" sticker on his forehead, because the 11-year veteran is going to be spending some time in the X-ray room, following another shoulder injury.
So can we get an "amen" on the Dolphins passing woes? Not just yet. Chad Henne was the next victim, and in the blink of an incomplete pass, the former Dolphins starter was being escorted off the field with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Remember those paper chain people you used to make as a kid? The Dolphins starting roster is no longer quite as connected.
Fortunately for head coach Tony Sparano, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn't involve going to great lengths to speculate on a Donovan McNabb signing in the future—like many teams have this year.
If you haven't been acquainted with Tyler Thigpen so far, then be prepared to meet Miami's third-string quarterback on Thursday Night. Personally, Tyler Thigpen is one pf the most underrated quarterbacks in the league.
In 2008, Thigpen had a stellar year with the Kansas City Chiefs, and with as many big-name wide receivers as the Dolphins had a year ago (zero), Thigpen's 2,608 yards and 18 touchdowns were almost a miracle from above.
Don't get me wrong though, a tough task does stand in front of Thigpen this week.
Julius Peppers' return to form has players worried about upcoming games against Lovie Smith's side, and if the Bears can take advantage of the Dolphins last-minute quarterback actions, then expect to see a minor sack fest unfold similar to the Giants big day against the Bears earlier this year.
The other factor worth mentioning in regards to Chicago's defense, is the fact that they are ranked second in rush yards. Normally, I don't take much notice of these sometimes irrelevant statistics, but with two top-class rushers in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams opposite the Bears, both sides will be tested one way or another.
All defensive issues aside, nothing appears to be too certain in Miami just yet. Head coach Tony Sparano still isn't sold on Tyler Thigpen, and even though it does seem like the viable option, the all-year-round "Movember" mustache couldn't deny the main man's thoughts.
"He has made some progress," Tony Sparano said. "He's feeling a little bit better. We'll see."
I guess, finally, we will actually see a "game time decision" on Thursday Night.
The feeling in Chicago?
Comfortable, cool and relaxed. The Bears are tied for first in the NFC North, and let's face it, even if Chicago loses this game, the Green Bay Packers do prepare for a task away at Minnesota in Week 11.
It's a game full of funny, yet also important storylines. Normally, these Thursday Night games are forgotten about when Sunday rolls around, and if the NFL officials can keep their noses clean for this midweek affair, it should determine a lot in the playoff picture.
In the meantime, sooth yourselves with some lingering thoughts of how exciting the playoffs may be if either of these teams can somehow make it. New England poses a threat, so do the Jets, and Lord knows the Green Bay Packers are no easy task.
Still, the Dolphins vs. the Bears is much more than a battle between two land and sea creatures. This time around, it's a battle between to up-and-coming teams, intent on stealing some confidence from one another.
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Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters. Ryan is also a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.
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