Beware of Betting On Da Bears
Last year's breakout team could face some regression
The 2018 Chicago Bears finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark on the strength of an NFC North-best 7-1 home record. Currently, per Vegas Insider, Chicago is a 7/4 favorite to repeat as division champions. Let’s explore why that’s the case.
Bears General Manager Ryan Pace lost a pair of key defensive players this offseason and attempted to replace them while adding much-needed depth in other areas.
Cornerback Buster Skrine was signed to replace cornerback Bryce Callahan. Skrine is a nine-year veteran coming off a 2018 season without an interception and hasn’t had a multiple interception season since his four interception 2014 season with the Cleveland Browns. Skrine did defend eight passes and recovered one fumble for the New York Jets in 2018.
Cordarrelle Patterson is slated as the Bears top kickoff and punt returner, replacing running back Tarik Cohen, who will undoubtedly see an increased offensive role. Patterson is a sixth-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler with two first and two-second All-Pro selections to his resume.
Running back Mike Davis was signed and will be given the chance to become the early-down running back. The fourth year running back was hampered by injuries early in his career, but rushed for 514 yards and four touchdowns and an additional 214 receiving yards on 34 catches with one touchdown in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might be the best signing Pace made this offseason and will give the Bears defense another playmaker (when healthy). The fifth-year veteran has 14 career interceptions and had three interceptions in 2018 during his brief, seven game stint with the Green Bay Packers before finishing the year with the Washington Redskins. Clinton-Dix suffered a knee injury at the end of OTA’s and will likely be added to the physically unable to perform list for at least the start of Training Camp.
Wide receiver Riley Ridley was the Bears’ fourth-round draft choice and hauled in 69 receptions for 1015 yards and 13 touchdowns during his three seasons at Georgia and is currently behind Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller on the depth chart. Riley has breakaway speed, running a 4.58 40 at Georgia’s Pro Day and also possesses a 30.5 vertical jump.
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano will replace defensive coordinator Vic Fangio who left to become Head Coach of the Denver Broncos. Pagano won’t likely change the defensive alignment much from the Bears 2018 historic defensive season, but he will likely run more blitzes, using his safeties where Fangio blitzed more with his cornerbacks.
Callahan decided to follow his defensive coordinator to Denver and the Bears will miss his 45 tackles, two sacks, six passes defended and two interceptions from a season ago.
Running back Jordan Howard was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a sixth-round pick. Howard never fit into Nagy’s system and rushed for 935 yards and nine touchdowns with an additional 20 receptions for 145 yards last season. Davis could slot right into his former role.
Safety Adrian Amos left the Bears for the Green Bay Packers and over four seasons, he amassed 230 solo and 239 combined tackles with three interceptions.
Bears in the News
Rookie running back David Montgomery is being talked about nearly everywhere and Head Coach Matt Nagy spoke with PSCP TV on July 1st about the rookie running back.
“He’s the whole package,” Nagy said. “He has the hands. He’s a three-down back. He’s everything we were looking for.”
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky compared himself to his head coach and on July 13th, he told Andrew Siciliano and Stacey Dales of the NFL Network "It means a lot, it's pretty cool," regarding Nagy's history as a quarterback. "I like to think sometimes we are on the same wavelength; we're thinking the same thing. He's kind of got that gunner mentality, he wants to go down the field and stretch it. He wants to do exactly what I want to do. Stretch the ball. Get a lot of completions. Throw it all around the yard."
The Bears hired former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Pagano to replace former Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio and Nagy told reporters in March of 2019:
“Chuck, he’s going to come in now and, No. 1, what you’re going to see is a people guy. He’s a guy that the players are going to absolutely love. And they’re going to respect him because of his knowledge and the players he’s been around and how he does things. He has an aggressive mentality; which you know I like. But you’ve got to be smart with it, and that’s going to be fun.”
A Tough Schedule
The Bears schedule for 2019 went a combined 131-121-4 last season, making it one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL. Chicago has five prime-time games and faces six 2018 playoff teams and from the looks of things, it is going to be difficult to reach the same 12 win mark from 2018.
The Bears home games feature the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and a game in London with the Oakland Raiders.
The road doesn’t look friendly and will feature matchups against the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit, Green Bay and their season finale with Minnesota.
By The Numbers
Last season the Chicago defense led the National Football League in rushing yards allowed (1280), interceptions (27), rushing touchdowns allowed (5), points allowed (283), first downs allowed (278), possessions ending in a turnover (19.5 percent) and total yards allowed per game (280).
If advanced stats are your cup of tea, the Bears led the NFL by a large margin in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) with a -26.0. Their nearest competitor in that regard was the Buffalo Bills at -14.5.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky ended his 2018 campaign as the 18th rated quarterback at Football Outsiders, with a rating of 72.5. Trubisky threw for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions with an additional 421 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The Bears offense finished 2018 with a -3.5 DVOA, good for 20th in the NFL. In order to reach the next level, their offense must take a step forward.
The best defense from 2018 is returning most key members, including Khalil Mack. The numbers they put up were historic. But the concern with this defense is two-fold: will Pagano become familiar with his players strengths and weaknesses and can the offense make an overall improvement?
The Bears schedule is one of the most difficult in the NFL with some seriously strong competition including Kansas City, Philadelphia, New Orleans and a tough finale on the road against the Vikings. Chicago also plays the Raiders in London which is an inconvenience due to the long flight.
Trubisky threw 12 interceptions and fumbled the ball five times in 2018. The lack of a strong running game this season would mean that Chicago will be relying on Trubisky to win games with his arm. Although Trubisky has been praised by his coaching staff this offseason, his development remains to be seen.
It will take more than an exceptional defense to repeat as division champions and once again stifle teams with an historic defense. With that being said, an 8-8 finish might be a realistic result for “Da Bears”.