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5 things to watch for as the Chicago Bears play host to the Arizona Cardinals, including Kyler Murray’s potential return and a crowd on edge — plus our Week 13 predictions

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5 things to watch for as the Chicago Bears play host to the Arizona Cardinals, including Kyler Murray’s potential return and a crowd on edge — plus our Week 13 predictions

Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton will start his second straight game in place of Justin Fields on Sunday as the Bears host the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field.

As Fields recovers from broken ribs, Dalton will try to push the Bears to a second straight win against a much more difficult opponent than the winless Detroit Lions team he beat last week.

As kickoff approaches, here’s our snapshot look at the game.

Chicago Bears (4-7) vs. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

  • Kickoff: Noon Sunday at Soldier Field.
  • TV and radio: FOX-32, WBBM-AM 780, WCFS-FM 105.9, WRTO-AM 1200 (Spanish).
  • The line: Cardinals by 7½. Over/under: 43½.
  • Sign up now to get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts first

1. Player in the spotlight

The Cardinals declared quarterback Kyler Murray questionable to play Sunday in what would be his first game since Oct. 28 because of a left ankle injury. Coach Kliff Kingsbury called Murray a game-day decision — one that could drastically affect what the Bears are facing.

In eight games before his injury, Murray threw for 2,276 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 110.4 passer rating and rushed for 147 yards. Colt McCoy, who started the last three games and went 2-1 in place of Murray, has thrown for 684 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

“Obviously (Murray) presents as a really good leader on tape,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “There’s not many mistakes happening. He’s got command of the offense. He can obviously beat you with his arm strength and with his feet.

“He’s becoming, in my opinion, a much more patient passer in the pocket where he’ll scramble to throw, and it’s dangerous because as a coverage guy, you’re kind of nervous. Is the guy going to throw it or is he going to run it? Because he’s a fast guy and he can still make you miss in the open field, and you see that on tape.”

Desai said the Cardinals are “distributing the ball over the place,” with five players with 30 catches or more, including Christian Kirk, who leads the team with 49 receptions for 628 yards. DeAndre Hopkins, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, will also be a game-day decision.

“(Hopkins) is still the No. 1 target, as he should be,” Desai said. “He’s earned that respect around the league with his play, but they’re getting all those guys the ball in a variety of different ways. They’re getting them the ball in space, they’re getting them the ball over the top, they’re getting them the ball underneath, a lot of different ways. … Kyler’s doing a good job playing that point guard as the quarterback and getting the ball out and getting it to different people, extending plays when he needs to extend them and then taking his shots downfield when he needs to take the shots downfield.”

2. Pressing question

What can the Andy Dalton-led Bears do against one of the NFL’s top pass defenses?

Dalton and the Bears offense chewed up the final 8 minutes, 30 seconds of the Thanksgiving game against the Lions to set up Cairo Santos’ winning 28-yard field goal, and Dalton finished with 317 passing yards and a touchdown.

But that was against the Lions.

The Cardinals allow just 204 passing yards per game and 6.1 passing yards per play, both ranked fourth in the NFL. They have 29 sacks this season, led by Markus Golden’s 10 and Chandler Jones’ eight.

“They have some violent pass rushers that can do a lot of things,” Bears right tackle Larry Borom said. “Both Golden and Jones, they can bend. Their speed, power. A magnificent amount of weapons they have.”

Dalton said he needs to be aware of playing on time against the Cardinals’ pass rushers.

“Because if you think you can hold on to it for a little bit longer, that’s when bad things can happen,” Dalton said. “So they do have a good rush, and for me, it starts with playing on time and making sure I’m decisive with what I’m doing.”

The Bears might be able to lean on David Montgomery, who rushed for 46 yards against the Lions, against a Cardinals rush defense that hasn’t been quite as good.

3. Keep an eye on …

Bears wide receiver Marquise Goodwin has been declared out because of foot and ribs injuries, and top receiver Allen Robinson is doubtful to play because of a hamstring injury. That leaves the Bears with only one wide receiver on the field with more than 10 catches this season.

Darnell Mooney has put together back-to-back games with more than 120 yards receiving to bring his total to 46 catches for 694 yards and three touchdowns. But beyond him, the only Bears receivers with catches this season are Damiere Byrd (nine catches, 74 yards) and Jakeem Grant (three catches, 31 yards).

That presents obvious challenges for the coaching staff as it tries to prepare for the stout Cardinals defense.

“The question is, OK, if (a player) can’t go, does the guy who practiced it Wednesday take over and you still call it? Or do you just bag it because it’s really just built for that one guy?” Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “There’s a little bit of both. You try to build as much as you can that the replacement can do it. But to me, that’s a challenge of when guys are questionable. Everybody wants to know, is he going to play, is he practicing, how much is he practicing? As coaches, we want to know that, too, because we’ve got tonight and then we’ve got to plan the next day.”

Playing a big role Sunday could be the Bears tight ends, including Cole Kmet, who practiced in full Friday after recovering from a groin injury. Nagy also pointed to Byrd, who is in his sixth NFL season, as a player who has been “under the radar” this season.

“He hasn’t had a lot of catches, but he helps us out so much in so many different ways,” Nagy said. “So he’s going to have a much bigger role. And then some of these other guys, too, as well, they understand the importance.”

4. Odds and ends

It would certainly help the Bears’ cause to get ahead early against the Cardinals, in part to appease fans who have voiced their discontent over this 4-7 season with booing and “Fire Nagy!” chants.

Bears safety Eddie Jackson said earlier this week that such chants aren’t helping matters. When asked his thoughts on it Friday, Nagy said he can’t let it be a distraction.

“I have the ultimate respect for our fans and our city, just everybody,” Nagy said. “I understand the game. I understand what everyone wants with the wins. … But I would not be doing my job (if) that would be a distraction. I’m here to lead these guys to a win and to help out, and that’s all I can do. I understand the competitiveness and the fight and the love and the passion that this city has. I understand it. At the same time, that is a distraction for us. We want to go out there and do everything we can to win for everybody.”

5. Injury report

With Fields unlikely to play because of a ribs injury — Nagy declared Dalton the starter and Nick Foles the backup — the status of inside linebacker Roquan Smith is the thing to watch here.

Smith missed practices Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury but returned in a limited capacity Friday. Nagy called him a game-time decision.

“He’s getting close is what I would say,” Nagy said. “We’ll get him out there and see what happens and where he’s at. He’s a guy that he’s going do everything he possibly can to be able to get ready to play.”

Fields is listed as doubtful, as is Robinson. The Bears already declared out Goodwin, defensive linemen Akiem Hicks (ankle) and Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs) and running back Damien Williams (calf).

The Bears are expected to activate rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins, who missed the first 11 games after undergoing back surgery. Nagy has indicated Jenkins will back up Jason Peters and Larry Borom.

For the Cardinals, safety James Wiggins (knee) was ruled out, while cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (foot) and left guard Justin Pugh (calf) are questionable along with Murray and Hopkins.

Predictions

Brad Biggs (9-2)

The Bears were able to change the vibe at Halas Hall by ending their five-game losing streak with a victory at Detroit. To maintain hope that there is something to play for, they cannot fall further behind the five teams one game ahead of them in the win column in the NFC, making this game critical. The Cardinals enter with the best record in the NFL and they’re 6-0 on the road where they’ve been blowing opponents out, averaging 32.8 points per game. The Bears have been struggling to score more than half that much. With Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins expected back after missing three games with injuries, the Bears are in a tough spot.

Cardinals 28, Bears 17

Colleen Kane (10-1)

This looks like a tough matchup for the Bears on both sides of the ball, especially if Murray plays for the first time since Week 8. Even if Murray is a little rusty, the Bears will have their hands full with a quarterback who boasts a 110.4 passer rating. The Bears might find some success on offense behind running back David Montgomery on what is forecast to be a cold, rainy day. But with a depleted wide receivers corps, the Bears and Andy Dalton could find it tough to get much going in the passing game. In their last couple of losses, the Bears kept it close, but there’s potential for an ugly one here.

Cardinals 27, Bears 16

Dan Wiederer (10-1)

In a battle between one of the NFL’s top-five scoring offenses and one of the league’s bottom five, the odds are stacked against Matt Nagy’s team. The Bears will have to play a near-perfect game Sunday to pull off an upset. But with ongoing injury issues, the Bears are way too short-handed on both sides of the ball to either limit the Cardinals explosive offense or keep up with it.

Cardinals 27, Bears 13

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Hennepin Co. sheriff was driving over 120 mph, not wearing seatbelt during DWI crash, according to State Patrol

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Hennepin Co. sheriff was driving over 120 mph, not wearing seatbelt during DWI crash, according to State Patrol

Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson was driving over 120 mph and was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of his December DWI crash in near Alexandria, Minn., according to investigative files released Thursday by the State Patrol.

The files, which include audio of interviews with Hutchinson, blood-alcohol analysis results and crash reports, paint a fuller picture of the rollover on Interstate 94 that totaled his county-owned SUV, and have renewed calls for the embattled sheriff’s resignation.

Hutchinson was sentenced last month to two years’ probation and fined $610, after pleading guilty to one count of driving while intoxicated. Elected in 2018, Hutchinson has said the crash was a “wake-up call” and that he has enrolled in an outpatient treatment program to address “my issues with alcohol and my overall health.”

Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson. (Courtesy of the Ramsey County sheriff’s office)

Following the release of the State Patrol files Thursday morning, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz joined a growing chorus of public officials saying Hutchinson should step down.

“I’m not a resident of Hennepin County, and I’m speaking as an individual on this, but I think most Minnesotans know, and most Minnesotans understand, that there’s consequences for decisions like that,” Walz said during an unrelated press conference.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who was present there, added that “it’s not our role to hire and fire the sheriff of Hennepin County, but as a constituent, I would say that it is time for him to resign.”

Earlier this month, a majority of Hennepin County commissioners also called for Hutchinson’s resignation.

Messages seeking comment from Hutchinson’s attorney and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office were not returned Thursday afternoon.

THE ACCIDENT

Hutchinson was driving back from a Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association conference at the Arrowwood Resort about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, when he crashed the 2021 black Ford Explorer about five miles east of Alexandria on I-94.

The crash analysis report showed Hutchinson reached speeds of 126 mph, and that the driver’s-side seatbelt was not engaged. Inside the vehicle were three firearms and an unopened bottle of whiskey.

Hutchinson was hospitalized with three broken ribs, as well as injuries to his head and hip. At first, he told responding officers that he had not been driving.

“Hutchinson stated multiple times that he was not driving and that he did not know who was driving. Hutchinson stated at one point that he had called a cab and he was a passenger,” Douglas County Deputy Dylan Kriese said in his report.

According to a urine analysis taken about three hours after the crash, Hutchinson had a blood-alcohol content of .134 percent. The legal limit to drive in Minnesota is .08 percent.

A State Patrol report said Hutchinson had slurred speech, poor balance, smelled of alcohol and was the lone occupant of the car.

The day after the crash, Hutchinson released a statement admitting to being the driver saying, “I made the inexcusable decision to drive after drinking alcohol and I am deeply sorry.”

Hutchinson was originally charged in Douglas County District Court with four DWI-related counts, but three were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

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MN Judicial Council weighs eliminating criminal history information from pretrial release forms

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MN Judicial Council weighs eliminating criminal history information from pretrial release forms

The Minnesota Judicial Council has been weighing with how to best predict if a high-level offender will return to court if released. The data has led them to a conundrum of sorts.

Overall, according to their findings, knowing an offender’s criminal history and whether they’ve failed to appear in court before are good tools for judges to determine whether the offender will follow through in attending future court dates. However, it seems for the Black and Indigenous populations, the predictor was found to be less useful.

In a council meeting Thursday, members struggled with whether to do away with criminal history and “failed to appear” warrants on the pretrial release form in order to make the form less bias against those populations, or to choose a compromise in which the information is available, but not included in the offender’s overall score.

The score determines the offender’s risk factors which inform the bail amount to be set.

“I feel like we’re the stepsister in Cinderella trying to fit our foot in that glass slipper with this tool,” said Seventh District Judge Sarah Hennesy about the compromise option. “If we’re taking out the two most predictive factors — which I get, we need to do because those seem to be causing our problems with race — and then sort of putting them back in on the back end by letting the judge use them — I can’t get my head around why we’re gonna stick with this tool.”

PRETRIAL RELEASE DECISIONS

In 2018, the council implemented the Pretrial Release Initiative with the goal of ensuring that judges have the most-predictive and leas-biased information available for making pretrial release decisions.

Since that statewide implementation, the council has been doing a validation study which checks to see if their new tool is working like they thought it would. Turns out, it’s not.

At odds were the two directives — find out which factors best predict if an offender will return to court if released and make sure those factors are not biased against any group.

Overall, the statistics show that if a person has failed to appear to court in the past three years, is not employed or in school, has pending cases and has a significant criminal history, releasing them is risky. It’s unlikely they’ll return on their own for court.

But, for Black and Indigenous groups, those predictors were less clear.

“So we think that part of the issue … is that this kind of full history was leading to a little bit of those differences in that someone’s behavior 20 years ago may not be a reflection of who they are today,” said Grant Hoheisel, research and evaluation manager at Minnesota Judicial Branch.

DROPPING CRIMINAL HISTORY, FAILED TO APPEAR SECTIONS

According to the algorithms run by Hoheisel and staff, the only way to predict what an offender might do and have that predictor be consistent across all people groups, the form would need to drop the criminal history and failed to appear sections in lieu of a review of how the offender is doing the day they make their first appearance. Is the offender currently on probation? Is the offender currently being monitored for recent convictions?

Sixth District Judge Leslie Beiers said she could see the change as being a bias check for judges as long as the criminal history information was still made available.

“What we’ve been told is that the way that we’re doing this has resulted in racial bias for African American defendants,” she said. “I can still consider this, but I have to be cognizant that this criminal history of an African American or an American Indian defendant is not predictive. So it’s almost like it checks your bias.”

But completely doing away with the criminal history and failed to appear information was too much for some judges on the council.

“I can’t imagine setting bail without that information,” said Seventh District Judge Michelle Lawson. “I literally think I would have to be reprogrammed or retrained in order to not consider criminal history or recent failure to appear when setting bail.”

The council made no decision Thursday and has asked for a few more months to study it and explore what’s being done nationally.

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St. Louis Blues hold 15th annual blood drive

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St. Louis Blues hold 15th annual blood drive

ST. LOUIS — For those fans who have said they bleed blue, today was a chance to show it. The St. Louis Blues Blood Drive kicked off at noon Thursday.

“I know there is a blood shortage,” said Kevin Bersing, who donated blood at Enterprise Center. “I’ve been reading about that, and if there’s sick people, then I’m willing to give.”

This is the 15th consecutive year the Blues, the American Red Cross, Bally Sports Midwest, and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield have asked fans to roll up their sleeves.

“This is our annual Blues Blood Drive where we have a lot of people who are always excited to get our T-shirts come out and get a chance to win an autographed puck today,” said Sharon Watson, the regional communications director for American Red Cross Missouri & Arkansas. “Then also, during the month of January, you have a chance to win tickets to the Super Bowl. So, a lot of incentives to come out to the drive today.”

A specially designed yellow St. Louis Blues T-shirt was given to fans who donated, while supplies lasted.

From Enterprise Center to Centene Community Center in Maryland Heights to American Legion Post 365 in Collinsville, Illinois, St. Louisans willing to brave the cold decided to help a good cause.

Blood supplies have been low nationwide, and the American Red Cross and area hospitals are asking individuals to consider donating blood.

“We have a blood crisis,” said Watson. “Basically, since January 11 we announced we are seeing a shortage of less than a day’s supply of blood available to hospitals to be able to use.”

Thursday, more than 900 people registered to give at least one unit, or a pint, of blood as part of the Blues Blood Drive.

The American Red Cross of Missouri and Arkansas said they’re seeing a 10 percent drop in donations across the country because of the pandemic.

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