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Pressure builds on Bears during another late swoon

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Pressure builds on Bears during another late swoon

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Lovie Smith isn't going to get caught up in any outside discussion about his job security with the Bears scuffling along and in danger of missing the playoffs after a 7-1 start.

Chicago's coach says his only focus is on trying to get a wild-card spot by beating Arizona this weekend and then winning the regular-season finale at Detroit.

``This week, we're to that `must' game,'' Smith said Monday at Halas Hall. ``I mean, the tournament has begun for us, so it's about Arizona as soon as the players get a chance to watch the video. We have to find a way to get to 10-6 and see what happens.''

After losing 21-13 to the rival Packers on Sunday, the Bears have to win two road games to finish 10-6 and have a chance for the last NFC playoff berth. There are scenarios where they could get in at 9-7, but they involve numerous tiebreakers.

There has been plenty of speculation that Smith and his staff could lose their jobs if the Bears don't make the postseason. Smith's final year of his current contract is 2013, and new general manager Phil Emery has not yet started contract talks on an extension. Nor has Emery had a comment on Smith's job status.

Smith isn't going there, either.

``We're just looking at how we can get to nine (wins),'' he said. ``Every year there are people in situations like this. Unless you've clinched a position right now, a playoff position, you're still having to win football games to get in. But you don't look at all the scenarios. You just look at what you need to do. And for us we need to win a game this week and then win another one the following week. It's as simple as that.''

Injured Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher defended his coach Sunday, telling WFLD-TV that fan and media criticism of Smith is unwarranted.

``Two of the people I don't care about: fans or media,'' Urlacher said. ``They can say what they want to about our head coach, about our players. ... It does bother me. They don't know what they're talking about, obviously.

``I know there are a lot of experts in the media, a bunch of smart guys out there who know exactly what they're talking about all the time. They don't know what they're talking about. Lovie is the head coach of this football team and hopefully will be for a long time.''

Urlacher also took a shot at the Soldier Field fans: ``Our crowd was pretty good today for the most part. They were loud for a minute there, the boos were really loud, which is always nice.''

``The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us,'' Urlacher said. ``It's unbelievable to me.''

Smith said he couldn't comment specifically since he hadn't heard the comments.

``I just know who Brian Urlacher is,'' Smith said. ``I know that he loves being a Chicago Bear. He's helped us win a lot of football games around here. He's a leader. He's disappointed like we all are right now in a position we were in yesterday and he's going to come to work this week getting ready for Arizona.''

Quarterback Jay Cutler also came to his coach's defense.

``I know Brian is frustrated that he can't be out there to help us,'' Cutler said during his weekly appearance on WMVP-AM radio. ``I think everyone in that locker room is supporting Lovie, and we'll see what happens.''

Much of the criticism of Smith centers around the team's inability to beat Green Bay. The Bears have lost eight of their last nine against the Packers and six straight. Sunday's game gave Green Bay the NFC North title.

``We'll keep trying to figure that out,'' Smith said of the failures against Green Bay. ``Right now when you've lost as many as we have, I can't give you a good reason for it. ... We've made progress. We were in the game early on. We just couldn't finish the job.''

The other big issue facing the team is poor finishes under Smith. With seven straight December defeats, they haven't won in the month since 2010. During Smith's nine seasons, they are 15-19 in December.

``I think you have to look at each individual team and why it happened then,'' Smith said. ``We could be playing good football teams at the time. I think on some of those, a few of the years, you'd like to think that we didn't have to play certain guys a few times. There are a lot of things that could happen.''

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MLB Postseason 2017: Wild Card Race

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USA Today Sports Images

MLB Postseason 2017: Wild Card Race

The 2017 MLB Wild Card race is at full throttle and at this point it will be a matter of who gets hot at the right time.

Both races will not be settled this week. Likely we will have to wait until the final weekend to see who will be in the postseason.

With so many teams still in the hunt, the American League race is absolutely bonkers. While the National League looks more condensed, the schedule has this playing out up until the final game of the season.

RELATED: FULL MLB POSTSEASON UPDATE

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Specifically looking at the American League, the race for the second Wild Card spot is wide open. Ten teams are still mathematically alive but realistically it is six teams battling for one position.

The New York Yankees (85-67) completed an impressive three game series sweep over the Twins, winning the series by a combined score of 18-6. New York’s postseason magic number is three but they have their sights on the Boston Red Sox for the AL East Division.

Well ahead of everyone else in the race, the Yankees will still be a factor in the battle for the second Wild Card. They play three teams (Toronto – six games, Tampa Bay – three games, Kansas City – one game) that are still alive.

Losing five of their last six, the Minnesota Twins (78-74) are not sitting in a comfortable position. This weekend against the Tigers is crucial in solidifying their position because they travel to Cleveland next week for a three game series. That is a series they do not want to enter with a one-to-two game lead on the Los Angeles Angels

Being the first team out does not put the Angels (76-75) in a good position because they are currently in a series with the Indians and then travel to the Houston Astros over the weekend.

The Texas Rangers (75-76) are in a prime position to make-up ground playing Seattle and Oakland in eight of their final 11 games.

Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles face off this weekend for a four-game series. Anything but a sweep or a 3-1 series win would basically eliminate each team from contention.

AL WILD CARD RACE:

New York Yankees:     +7.0
Minnesota Twins:           ---
Los Angeles Angels:     -1.5
Texas Rangers:             -2.5
Kansas City Royals:      -3.5
Seattle Mariners:           -4.0
Tampa Bay Rays:          -4.0
Baltimore Orioles:          -5.5
Toronto Blue Jays:        -7.0
Oakland Athletics:         -9.0

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Less crazy but perhaps more interesting is the race in the National League. It’s a four-team race for two positions, with two teams each from the West and the Central.

Sitting 6.5 games to the good, the Arizona Diamondbacks (88-65) are in a pretty good spot. They do not play a single team over .500 the rest of the way and can essentially be on cruise control the rest of the way until October.

The Colorado Rockies (82-70) are positioned the best out of the remaining teams. Plenty of opportunities for the team to gain on their lead with the Padres on the road and the Marlins at home in their next two series.

If the Rockies were to slip, the Milwaukee Brewers (81-71) and St. Louis Cardinals (79-72) are right behind them. Both are preoccupied with their NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs that is still in each team’s control.

NL WILD CARD RACE:

Arizona Diamondbacks:  +5.5
Colorado Rockies:             ---
Milwaukee Brewers:         -1.0
St. Louis Cardinals:          -2.5
Miami Marlins:                -10.0

RELATED: MIKE RIZZO PROVIDES UPDATE ON BRYCE HARPER

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Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 34 - Training camp preview with SI's Andrew Sharp

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CSN

Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 34 - Training camp preview with SI's Andrew Sharp

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast, we previewed 2017-18 training camp with Sports Illustrated's Andrew Sharp. Chase Hughes and Chris Miller first laid out their biggest storylines entering training camp, including what to expect from John Wall.

After Sharp hung up, Chase and Chris gave their predictions for individual awards and who will win the title in the 2017-18 NBA season.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

[RELATED: MORRIS TO MISS START OF TRAINING CAMP]

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