2011 Chicago Bears Predictions and NFL Futures Odds
by Alan Matthews - 8/22/2011
Most times, a team coming off an 11-win season, division championship and conference championship berth would be highly regarded heading into the next season. But if you look at the Chicago Bears’ futures odds, it appears everyone forgets about those things and only remembers quarterback Jay Cutler on the sideline in the second half of that NFC title game loss to Green Bay. Cutler’s demeanor and apparent lack of pain caused probably the biggest immediate social media criticism of any pro athlete before LeBron James’ poor performance in the NBA Finals.
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Were the Bears a fluke in 2010 or are they being underestimated heading into this season? We’ll examine that question with some 2011 Chicago Bears predictions.
Cutler seems to get all of the blame when things go wrong, but he was behind arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line last year as it gave up 56 sacks. Cutler went down a memorable nine times in the first half of a game against the New York Giants and left with a concussion – amazingly the game following that Giants loss was the only game Cutler missed last season. The Bears were expected to be big players in free agency for offensive linemen, but they added only mediocre center Chris Spencer from Seattle, and he’s not even on the first string right now. The line is mostly unchanged in terms of personnel from last year, except that as of now Roberto Garza is the center. He replaces Olin Kreutz, who wasn’t resigned. That was a hugely unpopular move in the locker room. Rookie first-round pick Gabe Carimi will start on Opening Day at right tackle. For what it’s worth, Cutler reportedly is in the best shape of his career and sans about 15 pounds (and one reality TV starlet).
Because offensive coordinator Mike Martz doesn’t make much use of his tight ends, the Bears traded one of the NFL’s better pass-catching ones, former first-round pick Greg Olsen, to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third-round pick. Kellen Davis, a much more physical player, will start at tight end for the Bears now. Chicago did add the big receiver Cutler hasn’t really had in Chicago in former Cowboy Roy Williams, who thrived under Martz in Detroit but was a bust in Dallas. Williams is already with the first team opposite Devin Hester. The running game should be very good with Matt Forte now backed up by former Cowboy Marion Barber. The Bears were lousy in short-yardage and goal-line situations last year, and the punishing Barber should help there at a minimum.
The Bears let two starters go on defense in tackle Tommie Harris, who hasn’t been the same player for years, and safety Daniel Manning, who was also a very good kickoff returner. Chicago is taking a flier on two former first-round busts on the defensive line in former Jet Vernon Gholston and former Texan Amobi Okoye – reportedly so far Okoye has looked great and will make the team, but Gholston has done next to nothing. The Bears’ defense is predicated on two things: that nose tackle (or 3-technique under tackle, where Harris used to play) locking up two blockers and getting a push into the backfield as well as the linemen getting pressure on the QB without blitzing, so it’s vital that Chicago get a consistent rush up front other than from Julius Peppers. The Bears are in great position at linebacker with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, but they better hope that No. 1 cornerback Charles Tillman stays healthy, because “Peanut” is about the only proven commodity in the secondary. Chicago is counting on young players like Major Wright and Zackary Bowman, among others, in the back four.
2011 Chicago Bears Schedule Analysis
The Bears’ strength of schedule is tied for 23rd in the NFL based on 2010 opponents’ winning percentage of .488. Oddly, that’s by far the easiest (and the only one under .500) of the NFC North teams considering the Bears are playing a first-place schedule. Of course, it helps Chicago that it plays the Vikings and Lions twice, as they both went 6-10. But on the flip side, the Bears are the only winning team from last year that has to play the Super Bowl champion twice. Overall, Chicago has seven games vs. 2010 playoff teams.
2011 Chicago Bears NFL Futures Odds
Chicago is +450 to win the NFC North (tied second with Detroit), +1400 to win the NFC and +2500 to win the Super Bowl on Bodog. The Bears’ ‘over/under’ win total on WagerWeb is 8.5.
2011 Chicago Bears Predictions
The Bears should be one of the teams to benefit from the lockout, in terms of that it’s a veteran team that has retained the same coaching staff and system so a short training camp won’t hurt the Bears as much as others. Of course, you can say that for just about every winning team from last year. We should know what the Bears are by Week 4 because they could be 0-3 entering what should be a cakewalk home game vs. Carolina. The Bears open at home vs. Atlanta, then go to New Orleans before hosting Green Bay. That’s as tough as an opening stretch as you will see. The good news is the next four games are very winnable: vs. Carolina, at Detroit, vs. Minnesota, at Tampa Bay. That Bears rather lucked out with that Bucs game because it’s in London, so that eliminates any home-field Tampa Bay advantage, and there will no doubt be many more Chicago fans there. If Chicago can enter the bye at 4-3, that’s more than acceptable.
Post-bye, the Bears certainly will be dogs at Philly and Green Bay, but it’s not out of the question they could win in Oakland, Denver or Minnesota. And Chicago should be favored in all four home games vs. Detroit, San Diego (Bolts could be a slight favorite), Kansas City and Seattle. I think this team goes 9-7 at a minimum, but also no better than 10-6. So go with the ‘over’ for my NFL season win total prediction. Barring an Aaron Rodgers injury in Green Bay, I can’t see Chicago repeating as North champions, much less advancing too far in the playoffs.
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