Chicago Bears Buy or Sell: Week 8 Edition

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Chicago Bears Buy or Sell: Week 8 Edition
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Though it’s a bye week for the 4-3 Chicago Bears, there’s plenty to talk about following a week that saw the team’s offensive and defensive leaders fall to injuries. Can backup quarterback Josh McCown keep the offense moving at a steady clip? Should the Bears be more concerned with the Green Bay Packers or the Detroit Lions?

Check it out, below.

 

Buy or Sell: Josh McCown Can Keep the Bears Offense High Powered

The Bears’ high-flying offense likely won’t see a setback with backup quarterback Josh McCown at the helm, according to ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.

That’s a pretty bold statement considering all the talk of Jay Cutler having a career year.

But maybe Wright is on to something. After all, he’s just echoing what the people closest to the situation—Chicago’s players and management—have said. General manager Phil Emery, cornerback Tim Jennings, left tackle Jermon Bushrod and wide receiver Brandon Marshall—they've all expressed their confidence in McCown.

Heck, the guy racked up a 94.6 Total QBR score, second only to Colin Kaepernick in Week 7. Not too shabby.

The Bears have “all the confidence in the world” in McCown, said Bushrod, per Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Okay, so everyone is saying the right things. But behind that layer of confidence there have to be worries.

McCown has a career 72.0 passer rating. He’s thrown six more interceptions than touchdowns (44-38) in his 10-year career. In his most recent backup stint—he was Chicago’s third-string QB in 2011—he amassed a 30.8 Total QBR while leading the Bears to a 1-2 record over the last three games of the season.

Overall, the Bears have gone 2-6 without Cutler as the starter since 2009.

It’s true that the Bears offense excelled under McCown in the second half of the Redskins game in Week 7. It’s also true that the Redskins are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, and they didn’t spend a single second game-planning against McCown.

So to say that the Bears’ offense won’t sputter—based on players saying what they’re supposed to say, based on one half of football against a terrible defense—is overly optimistic.

Green Bay, Detroit and Baltimore, the Bears’ next three opponents, are going to do what NFL defenses do to backup quarterbacks: attack, confuse...and attack some more.

How will the offense fare with Josh McCown at quarterback?

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The Bears, perhaps, will say "bring it on." They’ve got Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. They’ve got Matt Forte. They’ve got Marc Trestman and his quarterback-friendly play calls.

And McCown, for his part, has a pair of legs that can buy him time or find him yards down the field.

But Jay Cutler isn’t that easily replaced. To say otherwise is to diminish the impact he has had this year. Because if a backup can come in and do the same job as Cutler, then what’s all this talk about Cutler being a top quarterback? What’s the rationale for considering a lucrative contract extension?

Look, I’m buying Josh McCown as capable. I’m buying Marc Trestman as a play-caller. I’m buying the weapons on the offensive side of the ball.

But I’m SELLING the notion that there isn’t going to be a drop-off from Cutler, who was in the middle of a career year, to McCown, a career backup.

 

Buy or Sell: The Green Bay Packers Are More of a Threat than the Detroit Lions

With their Week 7 win against the Cleveland Browns, the Packers leapfrogged the Bears and Lions into sole possession of first place in the NFC North.

The common notion is that, after a slow start, this is where the Packers turn on the jets and leave the rest of the division in the dust. Bears and Lions fans are worried. It’s too familiar, seeing the green and gold atop the standings. Five times in the past decade, including the last two years, that’s exactly how the scenario played out.

But history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

In fact, I’m SELLING the Packers as more dangerous to the Bears’ (slim) playoff chances.

The Packers, much like the Bears, have seen their squad decimated by injuries. They’ve lost playmaking wide receiver Randall Cobb (broken fibula) for at least eight weeks and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) and starting outside linebackers Clay Mathews (thumb) and Nick Perry (foot) for extended periods of time.

In the meantime, while the Lions have their fair share of bumps and bruises, their injury report contains statuses of mostly the “Questionable” and “Probable” variety.

The Packers and Lions have similar schedules the rest of the way, but the 36.7 winning percentage of their opponents makes Detroit's schedule one of the easiest in the league. The Packers’ remaining opponents by comparison have a 39.4 winning percentage.

A scan of the basic statistics shows that both teams are efficient on offense. The Packers average 435 yards per game, trailing only the Denver Broncos in that category. The Lions average 386, ranking seventh overall. On defense, the Packers give up 346 yards and the Lions, 397.

The Packers look like the better team from a yardage standpoint, but after a closer look at some of the other statistical categories, the picture starts to look a bit different. 

Detroit Lions & Green Bay Packers Comparison
Third-down conversion rate (offense) Third-down conversion rate (defense) Red-zone TD rate (offense) Red-zone TD rate (defense) Turnover margin
Lions 44.2 (4) 29.9 (2) 58.3 (10) 42.1 (5) +5 (7)
Packers 40.5 (10) 36.8 (14) 50.0 (20) 72.2 (32) -2 (19)

ESPN and teamrankings.com

These statistics help explain why ProFootballFocus (subscription required) ranks the Lions' offense and defense as slightly better than that the Packers’.

This slight advantage, along with the injury discrepancy, makes the Lions a bigger threat to the Bears this year.

 

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