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Chicago Bears Predictions

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The transition from Lovie Smith to Mark Trestman went just about as expected in 2013. The Chicago Bears set franchise records for passing touchdowns, passing yards, and first downs while scoring their second-most points ever. Unfortunately, that magical season didn’t happen on the other side of the ball, where the Bears were one of the worst teams in the league defensively. The end result was an 8-8 finish after falling to the Packers in a winner-take-all game in Week 17.

Perhaps what was most impressive about last season was the fact that Jay Cutler only played in 11 games. He still managed to finish with his highest-ever passer rating (89.2) and his best completion percentage (63.1) in six years. The Bears ranked second in the league in scoring offense at 27.8 points per game. Josh McCown played well in place of the injured Cutler, throwing 13 touchdowns against one interception. That performance got him a new deal in Tampa Bay as the starter for Lovie Smith’s Bucs.

Key injuries were a big reason for the lapse on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Lance Briggs, CB Charles Tillman, LB D.J. Williams and DT Henry Melton all missed time. Julius Peppers was only a shell of his former self, which is why he was let go this offseason. The Bears replaced him with former Viking Jared Allen, who is also on the downside of his career. The key this offseason was finding playmakers and depth on defense.

The Bears ranked last or near the bottom in almost every major defensive category, including points per game allowed (29.9) and total defense (394.6 ypg). They needed to improve up front before anything, so they signed mostly defensive ends. Aside from Allen, they brought in Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Trevor Scott. This hardly makes up for the losses of Peppers and Corey Wootton.

The bigger issue is the interior of the defensive line. That’s why Chicago spent a couple of second-day draft picks on Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, who could prove to be one of the bigger steals of the draft if he gets his act together. Jay Ratliff and Stephen Paea will be back, but both struggled mightily last year.

At linebacker, the Bears needed some reinforcements, but they hardly did anything this offseason. Lance Briggs played just nine games last year due to a shoulder injury, and it’s imperative that he stays healthy. Rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene were forced into action last year, and each struggled badly. Shea McClellin was a bust at defensive end last year, but he’ll be moved to the strongside linebacker position to hopefully get his career on track.

The pass defense was at least respectable last year, ranking 15th at 233.1 yards per game allowed. Still, the Bears needed some help, and they got it in the form of first-round pick Kyle Fuller. He can play anywhere in the secondary, and that versatility could come in handy. He’ll likely play at outside cornerback opposite Charles Tillman, while Tim Jennings moves to the nickel back role. The safeties were the bigger issues last year, and the Bears did little to address this need. The top five players at the position are Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings, Adrian Wilson, Ryan Mundy and fourth-round rookie Brock Vereen. The first four all have issues, so Chicago is hoping that Vereen becomes a steal.

Cutler will have the luxury of throwing to arguably the best receiver duo in the entire league. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery combined for 189 receptions, 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Matt Forte is even coming off his best year as a pro. He rushed for 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Forte also had a career-high 74 receptions, 594 yards and three scores through the air. Martellus Bennett (65 receptions, 759 yards) rounds out what is a very talented group of skill players.

With Jordan Palmer, David Fales and Jimmy Clausen now serving as the backups, it will be important to keep Cutler upright and healthy for a full season. He has missed a combined 12 games over the past three seasons, so that is no guarantee. Right tackle Jordan Mills struggled as a rookie last year. Fellow rookie Kyle Long played well at right guard. The left side of the offensive line is much better. Jermon Bushrod was solid at left tackle, left guard Matt Slauson was the best blocker on the team, and Roberto Garza remains one of the better centers in the game.

Last Season
NFC North
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
2nd
8-8
4-10-2
1-5-2
3-5
12-4
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
8th
30th
+5
27.8
29.9
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
CB/S Kyle Fuller, DT Ego Ferguson, DT Will Sutton, RB Ka’Deem Carey, S Brock Vereen
Additions
WR Domenik Hixon, WR Josh Morgan, C Brian De La Puente, DE Jared Allen, DE Lamarr Houston, DE Willie Young, DE Trevor Scott, OLB Jordan Senn, S Adrian Wilson, S M.D. Jennings, S Ryan Mundy, S Danny McCray
Losses
QB Josh McCown, RB Michael Bush, WR Earl Bennett, DE Julius Peppers, DE Corey Wootton, DT Henry Melton, OLB James Anderson, CB Zackary Bowman, S Major Wright, P Adam Podlesh, KR Devin Hester
Schedule
2014 Chicago Bears Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/7 Bills
-6
0.71
9/14 @ 49ers
+6.5
0.28
9/22 @ Jets
+1.5
0.47
9/28 Packers
+1
0.49
10/5 @ Panthers
+3
0.41
10/12 @ Falcons
+3
0.41
10/19 Dolphins
-6
0.71
10/26 @ Patriots
+6.5
0.28
Week 9 BYE
-
-
11/9 @ Packers
+6.5
0.28
11/16 Vikings
-7
0.75
11/23 Buccaneers
-5
0.68
11/27 @ Lions
+3
0.41
12/4 Cowboys
-4.5
0.67
12/15 Saints
-1
0.51
12/21 Lions
-4
0.66
12/28 @ Vikings
PK
0.50
Estimated Wins: 8.22

Chicago will be up against the 15th-toughest schedule in the league in 2014. Its upcoming opponents went a combined 125-127-4 last season for a .496 winning percentage. It will have to play the AFC East and NFC South divisions this season, which isn’t too bad as the East is one of the weakest in football.

Due to finishing second in the NFC North last year, the Bears will also have to tangle with the Cowboys from the NFC East and the 49ers from the NFC West. Fortunately, they get the Cowboys at home this year as they would likely lose to the 49ers no matter where that game is played.

The Bears will be tested in the first half of the season and early into the second half. They play a stretch of games that sees them going on the road for six of eight contests, including trips to the Packers, Patriots, 49ers and Panthers. They do end the season by getting five of their final seven games at home, so they will have to make their hay during that stretch.

Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have set lines for every Chicago game this season. It will find itself favored seven times, an underdog eight times, and a pick ‘em once. That’s why it is a bit surprising to see the Bears’ win total set at 8.5 games when they are only favored in seven. Check below to see if I believe there is value on the under.

Odds (Courtesy of Bovada)
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl 49
8.5
15 to 2
14 to 1
Predictions

The Bears squandered a golden opportunity to win the NFC North last season. Aaron Rodgers was out for half the season for the Packers, and the Bears did not miss a beat when Jay Cutler went out with a season-ending injury after 11 games. Josh McCown did his best, but ultimately it wasn’t enough as the Packers won the win-or-take-all game in Week 17.

Trestman proved that he knows what he is doing on the offensive side of the football. The Bears should be just as explosive as they were a year ago with Cutler, some of the best skill players in the league, and a dominant offensive line. I actually like what Chicago did this offseason in bringing in upgrades on defense, and it should be much better off in the health department this time around, so improvement defensively is very likely.

Also, the defense actually wasn’t as bad as the 29.9 points per game allowed would indicate. In fact, the offense was responsible for giving up a league-leading 44 points last season due to defensive touchdowns and safeties. The Bears had three pick-sixes and a whopping four fumble returns for touchdowns against them.

Chicago is certainly a contender for the NFC North Title in 2014. I have it improving by one win this season and finishing 9-7, which will put it just a game behind the Packers and at least in the running for a wild-card berth. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this team win 10 games provided they get better health from Cutler and the defense.

2014 Projections
NFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
T-2nd
3-3
9-7
Over 8.5
Bears Resources
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About the Author: Jack Jones has been one of the top experts on the site while competing against roughly 80 of the best handicappers in the world each year. He has made most of his money on the hardwood. In fact, he has finished in the Top-5 in college basketball each of the last three seasons (#5 2011-12, #5 2012-13, #3 2013-14). He was also the No. 1 NBA handicapper from 2012-13. As of early April, Jack has compiled an 802-631 basketball run that has seen his $1,000 game players profit $124,030. He was the No. 3 College Football handicapper in 2012-13. While he doesn't have any top finishes in the NFL, he has produced steady profits without killing his clients. Jack also was your No. 7 MLB handicapper in 2009 and backed it up with a No. 8 MLB finish in 2010. No matter the sport, the one thing you can count on with Jack Jones is that he won't leave any stone unturned. You'll know why he is on a game with his detailed analysis, and more times than not, you will come out well ahead against your book. Head on over to Jack's premium pick page to see what he has in store for tonight!
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