Chicago Bears Win Total Pick
by Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
The Bears 2017 season started with a sliver of optimism that a strong defense, the running game, and Mike Glennon at QB could do enough to bring football relevancy to Chicago in the month of December. After 5 weeks, it was obvious the formula was in-stead leading to the fourth consecutive last place finish in the NFC North. Week 6 saw the introduction of 2nd overall pick Mitch Trubisky to start at QB, and the beginning of what Bear fans hope will be the quarterback solution for the next decade or more. When lockers were being emptied after week 17, five wins was all the Bears had to show for their efforts, which cashed under tickets on the 5 ½ win total line. John Fox was the third coach fired by the Bears in 6 seasons.
Fast forward to 2018, new coach Matt Nagy at the helm, and there is once again optimism on the shores of Lake Michigan. Sportsbooks forecast some improvement with the 2018 Bears and have set the win total over/under at 6½. So far bettors have agreed and you now have to lay extra vig to take the over at -120 and there are signs the total could hit 7. (5Dimes Sportsbook will allow you to choose the win total with different prices.) Here are 5 reasons why the over 6.5 - 120 is a good play.
In the copycat league known as the NFL, the Bears are unashamedly following the lead of last year’s surprise overachievers, the Rams. Take a high QB draft pick and surround him with talented skill players and a solid defense. But most importantly, bring in innovative offensive coaches that can fashion a game plan to magnify the QB’s strengths, get the ball to playmakers in positive situations, and be willing to challenge the status quo of coaching. The Rams used this formula to improve from 4 wins in 2016 to 11 in 2017, cashing Over 5 Win tickets in October. Trubisky managed only 182 passing yards per game with a 59.4 completion percentage last year, but that compares favorably to Goff’s 155 ypg and 54.6 completion percentage in 2016.
Matt Nagy leaves his post as Chiefs offensive coordinator to take over the helm for the Bears, and he brings former Oregon coach Mark Helfrich to be the Offensive Coordinator. The Bears attack should resemble the 2017 Chiefs with some college spread and up tempo mixed in. Compare this to last year’s attack that ranked 24th at 4.9 yards per play and resembled a 1960s era squad. It can only be better. Nagy has committed to following other successful coaches such as Sean McVay and fellow Reid disciple Doug Pederson to run an offense that fits his players skill sets. Trubisky has the skill to run Nagy’s up-tempo offense and spread the ball to his playmakers.
John Fox, with his type of players, was a good coach in his day but the same could be said for Jeff Fisher. The Bears were 26th in 3rd down conversions in 2017, converting less than 35% (Rams and Chiefs both in the 40% range). The offensive game plans carry much of the responsibility for this. Fox won only 14 games in 3 years with the Bears, and though he leaves a good amount of talent on the roster, he couldn’t produce wins. McVay’s new offense contributed to the Rams improving from 4.4 yards per play and 14 points per game in 2016 to 5.8 yards per play and 29 points per game. The Rams parlayed this into 7 more wins in 2017 from their dismal 4 wins in 2016. Similar improvements in the Bears offensive output should translate into winning games in 2018 that were losses in 2017.
Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy and Dontrelle Inman formed the nucleus of the Bears wide receiving core in 2017. They combined for 106 catches, less than Jarvis Landry and Larry Fitzgerald had by themselves. Currently, Wright is expected to be the #4 receiver for the Vikings, Bellamy is fighting for a roster spot with the Bears, and Inman is waiting for the phone to ring. Injuries and bad free agency decisions left this group as easily the worst receiving trio in the league.
2018 brings free agents Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel along with 2nd round pick Anthony Miller to catch Trubisky passes. Robinson was one of the top two available wide receivers in this year’s free agent class and brings the pedigree of a true #1 receiver. He hauled in 80 passes for 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns in Jacksonville in 2015, before regressing in 2016 and tearing his ACL in the 2017 opener. Robinson is expected to be 100% for training camp. Gabriel is a speed demon the Bears believe can play every down, though he has primarily been somewhat of a gadget player to date. Miller caught 96 passes and 18 touchdowns at Memphis in his senior year and is a refined route runner for a rookie. Trey Burton leaves the Eagles to join the receiving corps at tight end to play the Travis Kelce role in Nagy’s offense. Jordan Howard was 6th in the league in rushing in 2017 and will return to lead the ground game, with Tarik Cohen becoming a Swiss army knife for Nagy to utilize as he sees fit. The offense is poised to take a big step forward.
Nagy was able to retain Vic Fangio to lead the Bear defense. Fangio led the Bears to the 9th ranked defense, yielding 20 points per game, and ranked 12th allowing only 5.1 yards per play. Fangio orchestrated this without any superstars on the roster. The defense managed to get 42 sacks, despite only having star pass rusher Leonard Floyd for 10 games. 2018 first round pick Roquan Smith could be the next great middle linebacker in the Bear tradition. Smith had 137 tackles for Georgia last year, including 14 for loss. He has the speed to cover the whole field and can blitz or drop into pass coverage. If Floyd stays healthy and Smith lives up to expectations, the Bears could be on the verge of a new version of Monsters of the Midway.
The Bears secondary returns in full for 2018. The group allowed the 7th fewest yards in the league, but they only managed 8 interceptions last year, so they will need to improve on that number. The Bear defense was on the field for an average of 31:33 in 2017, primarily due to their offense not being able to convert on third downs. If the offense improves in this area, it will also make the defense better.
The NFC North draws the AFC East and NFC West for the 2018 season. The AFC East may have the 3 worst teams in the league. Last year the Bears were 4-0 and against the AFC North, so going 3-1 against the AFC East is not a stretch. The NFC West has the Rams, but the balance of the division all have questions and it’s not hard to see the Bears getting one or two wins in those games. As 4th place finishers, the Bears also get the Giants and Bucs, which are winnable games. The Bears have to improve inside their own division, where they lost all 6 games last year. Although the division is strong, an improved Bears team should be able to compete in the NFC North.
Bears over 6 ½ wins is the recommended play. The 2018 Bears are an improved team from the 2017 squad that only managed 5 wins. That team was 2-6 in games that finished with a margin of one score… so with a few good bounces, the record could have been slightly better. 7+ wins should be achievable.