NFL Betting: Handicapping Jay Cutler and the Bears
by Trevor Whenham - 9/20/2012
Jay Cutler is... unique. He’s far from the best quarterback in the league (with Jason Campbell as his backup I don’t even think he’s the best QB on his team), but the league would unquestionably be less interesting if he wasn’t in it. Of course, I can say that because I have no emotional attachment to the Bears whatsoever, and I rarely feel the need to bet on them.
Cutler is coming off a game against Green Bay that was historically bad. He threw four interceptions — each one uglier than the one before it — and was sacked seven times. His passer rating of 28.2 was flattering. He was just terrible. He didn’t exactly handle it with grace, either, and his attitude was unquestionably a big factor in the outcome of the game.
Cutler gets more press than his play warrants, and he has particularly gotten a lot of attention this week. The public has almost unanimously cast him as a villain — and an incompetent one at that. That inevitably has a big impact on how the public bets on the Bears. Good NFL handicappers, then, need to be aware of what the public is thinking, and how that relates to the reality of Cutler. Here are four factors to consider when trying to figure out what to expect next from the man from Santa Claus, Indiana:
His act was ridiculous — even for him
Cutler is the biggest baby in the NFL right now — or the biggest baby at his position at the very least. Even for him, though, the game against Green Bay was impressive for how ridiculous he was. The lowlight was when he not only decided it was a good idea to get in a screaming match with his left tackle on national TV, but he thought capping the argument with a bump made sense. Cutler was clearly flustered and annoyed, and the more annoyed he got the worse he played. Now, some of his frustration was justified — I could have got through his line to sack him at least twice during the game if I was playing for the Pack, and I have never played a down in my life. Still, you can’t let things bother you to that extent in the NFL. It’s no secret that one good way to beat the Bears is to get to Cutler early and often, but you can be sure that the Rams will be working extra hard to make him eat turf when they meet.
His teammates are numb to him
If a quarterback for another team had played as badly as Cutler did and reacted so poorly to the issues then it could really blow up and be a big distraction in the locker room. The risk of that in Chicago is much lower, though. It’s not that the team has great locker room leadership or is particularly tough or resilient. It’s just that they have been forced to play with Cutler for parts of four years now, so nothing he does can surprise them at this point. Given that numbness to his actions it would be very easy to overestimate the impact this will have on the team this week and beyond.
He can forget about things like no one else
In post-game interviews Cutler had already moved on from the horrific performance. He said that his biggest regret was a dropped Brandon Marshall touchdown pass — not the four absolutely terrible interceptions he threw or the several other opportunities he wasted. Some of that was for show, but not all of it. I honestly believe that Cutler is able to forget the bad, remember the good, and move on quickly. It’s easier, I guess, when you really don’t care what anyone around you thinks. It’s important to note, though, that while he moves on quickly emotionally, that doesn’t typically translate into a huge bounce-back game for him. Looking over the last couple of years you can find plenty of rough games — though none as bad as last week. In each case he has been solidly improved in his next outing, but he has not exactly blown up the box score in any game. Applying that here, we can reasonably expect him to look at least a little more like an NFL QB against St. Louis than he did against Green Bay, but it’s not realistic to expect him to be Player of the Week — or even close.
Green Bay can play — especially against Cutler
Cutler, much to his chagrin, is not at all unfamiliar with struggling against the Packers — a team he has to play twice a year since joining the Bears. In seven regular season meetings Cutler has thrown just seven touchdowns while completing 15 passes to Green Bay defenders. The Packers are in Cutler’s head in a way that is almost unmatched in the league right now. Green Bay owns the quarterback, and he’s too volatile to handle that particularly well. Lucky for him, though, he doesn’t have to play the Pack again until Week 15 of the season. They don’t have a particularly easy schedule until then, but at least the opponents won’t be wearing green and gold.
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