NFL Futures: Don't Buy the Chicago Hype
The ride continues as we go deeper into our analysis of Futures Betting as we patiently await the start of the NFL season. One of the trendy picks this offseason appears to be the Chicago Bears. You listen to all the analysts and experts and 95% of them could go either way between the Vikings and the Monsters of the Midway. Most of these opinions are derived from the arrival of Jay Cutler and the assumption that he will automatically punch their ticket to the postseason.
I say, not so fast… There are more factors at work here so let's break this one down. Vegas has this one pegged with an over/under of 8.5 regular season wins. **
While Jay Cutler may have the stats to be a great fantasy QB, he's not a great team leader.
I am a realist and I recognize that the Bears got themselves a quality starter but the numbers sometimes lie. First off, he doesn't have Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal catching the rock. In Denver, he was free to throw the ball at will under Mike Shanahan's tutelage. However, the Lovie Smith/Run Turner regime has a much more conservative, ball-control, no turnover approach to the offense. It will be interesting to see how that plays out now that they have inherited the quarterback whom had the 2nd most picks in the NFL last season. I don't see this as a good fit and Cutler's weaknesses will be exposed.
On a side note, while I never like to assume injuries, the coaching staff can't feel confident about their depth at this position. Quick, name me the Bears back-up QB…? Can't? Neither could I.
Next, it seems that this team has lost site of their greatest weapon. They have simply stopping giving Devin Hester the ball where he is the most dangerous, the return game. He can truly be a game changer given the chance and every time the coaching staff sends someone besides No. 23 out onto the field in these situations, it's a wasted opportunity. Hester also had a voice in this decision as he wants a long term deal to be paid as a No. 1 receiver (which he is not) which is why he is devoting himself to building his offensive skill sets. Nevertheless, another strike against Chicago.
Let's switch it over to the defense, an area of perceived strength for this team. Again I say, not so fast. Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, and Lance Briggs all have the ability to lead this team to be a top 10 defense. However, since their Super Bowl defeat in 2006, none of them have played up to their potential. They have failed to make big plays in big situations which is one of the reasons you have seen the drop off in this team the past two years.
This team has a great run defense, don’t get me wrong, but the pass defense is another story. Finishing 30th in the NFL in '08, they are anchored by two average corners that looked like a sieve at times last season. Charles Tillman's offseason surgery likely won't be the formula for immediate improvement either. Secondly, they don’t get to the quarterback the way they used to. The team tied for 22nd is sacks with a measly 28 last season where Alex Brown lead with only 6 sacks. Was the 2006 team just a mirage that is too fresh in everyone's head? A team that was opportunistic and had to ball bounce in the right direction whenever it mattered?
There are two sides to this argument, however. I obviously don't think this team will go winless, but this is only an argument of the over/under.
This team does have a few bright spots. Matt Forte is a stud. The line is a work in progress with a few trusty veterans, but nothing that is going to keep defensive coordinators up at night. Their tight-ends are solid and will likely lead the team in receptions along with Forte whom is a heck of a threat out of the backfield.
Also, if you scan the Bears 2009 Schedule, you'll see they get a decent break drawing the NFC West and AFC North. However, 4 of their first 6 games are on the road including trips to Green Bay, Seattle, and Atlanta. Not good news for a team that did not fair well on the road last season.
Chicago - Line 8.5 Wins - Pick: Under
All in all, Cutler isn’t the ace-in-the-hole that takes this team to the next level. What does it say when you lead your team that has a three game division lead with three weeks left in the season to melt themselves out of the playoffs? They may win 7 games, 8 games if everything goes right. However, I think 6 is more realistic and don’t see many scenarios where they end up with a winning record. They are not better than Green Bay. They are not better than Minnesota. And Detroit… well… call me crazy but they have to win a game eventually. I think a 2-4 division record is in the cards for the '09 Bears.
I see a team that will have several games decided by a touchdown or less. They will run the ball well and will likely be able to hold offenses in check. However, when the game is on the line, I don’t see this team having the tools to make the big stop or march downfield for a last second score. Therefore, the under seems like the only reasonable choice here.
** Source: www.Bodoglife.com
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