Chicago Bears Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 7/15/2014
When the Chicago Bears dumped successful Coach Lovie Smith after the 2012 season despite a 10-6 record, some around the NFL were a bit puzzled that GM Phil Emery replaced Smith with Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman. He had been a successful coordinator in the NFL previously, but it seemed like his chance to become a head coach in the league had passed. Plus, it was just very un-Bear like as it's one of the most conservative franchises in the league. It generally hires defensive-minded head coaches and tries to win on that side of the ball. The whole Monsters of the Midway thing.
It appears that Emery knew what he was doing as Trestman was a wild success. True, the Bears were only 8-8 and they lost a chance to win the NFC North in the final minute of their Week 17 home game against Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone (suffered against Chicago in Week 9) to break Bears fans' hearts. Chicago's offense was tremendous under Trestman's tutelage, with him turning former backup QB Josh McCown into a mini-star and receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery into the best duo in the NFL. Unfortunately, as good as the offense was, the defense was that bad. That's where Emery focused in the offseason as Chicago looks to end a three-year playoff drought.
If Jay Cutler can stay on the field, he could be in line for his best season yet. Alas, he hasn't been able to play all 16 games since 2009, his first year in Chicago. Cutler was limited to 11 games last year, completing 63.1 percent of his passes (best as a Bear) for 2,621 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was much more accurate under Trestman although he still relies too much on his arm at times and forces the ball into places it shouldn't go. He was picked off 12 times. Marshall has always been one of the NFL's best receivers, and that didn't change in 2013 as he caught 100 balls for 1,295 yards and 12 scores. Jeffery was one of the breakout stars of the league in his second year, catching 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. Cornerbacks can't cover both of those guys, each of whom is at least 6-foot-3.
Matt Forte (almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 12 TDs) remains one of the best all-around running backs, and Martellus Bennett gave the Bears a weapon at tight end they hadn't had since trading Greg Olsen to Carolina in July 2011. The offensive line, a major problem area in recent years, was stabilized by rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills on the right side and free-agent Jermon Bushrod on the left. Every starter is set to return on the offense, but the big loss was McCown, who got starter's money in Tampa Bay from Smith. Cutler's backup is either going to be Jimmy Clausen or Jordan Palmer, and that's not good.
Trestman's job is safe no matter what happens this season, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's most certainly is not. It was a minor upset that he was retained after the Bears had arguably their worst defensive season ever. Chicago had no pass rush to speak of and perhaps the worst group of safeties. The Bears ranked 30th in total and scoring defense (29.9 ppg) and last by far in rushing, allowing a franchise record 161.4 yards per game. By comparison, the second-worst rushing defense was Atlanta, and the Falcons allowed more than 400 yards less overall.
Emery went nuts on this side of the ball. Chicago bid farewell to past-his-prime end Julius Peppers and tackle Henry Melton, who missed most of last season injured. The additions up front were Lamarr Houston (Raiders), Jared Allen (Vikings) and Willie Young (Lions). The team also will have a full season of tackle Jay Ratliff after acquiring him last season when he was waived by Dallas. Emery added free-agent safeties Ryan Mundy (Giants) and M.D. Jennings (Packers). Emery's first three draft picks were also on defense: first-rounder Kyle Fuller (cornerback, Virginia Tech), second-rounder Ego Ferguson (tackle, LSU) and third-rounder Will Sutton (tackle, Arizona State). This defense will barely be recognizable compared to the one that took the field in Week 1 last season. Veteran stalwarts Lance Briggs (linebacker) and Charles Tillman (cornerback) remain but not much else.
2014 Chicago Bears Schedule Analysis
The Bears have the 15th-toughest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 125-127-4 last season, a winning percentage of .496. It's the second-toughest in the NFC North behind Green Bay. Chicago's road slate (.539) looks much harder than at home (.453) and teams would rather that be switched. The Bears' road schedule is the eighth-toughest, while their home is fifth-easiest. So they better do well at Soldier Field this season.
Chicago is a 6.5-point favorite for Week 1 against visiting Buffalo, with a total of 49. The Bills are 0-5 all-time in Chicago, for what that's worth. The Bears probably weren't too upset that they Bills lost stud second-year linebacker Kiko Alonso for the season recently or that Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is likely a lock to be suspended at least the first couple of for a few offseason arrests.
The Bears' schedule can definitely be broken into pre-Week 9 bye and post. Pre is very, very tough. Chicago should beat Buffalo but then might be a dog the next five weeks: at 49ers, at Jets, vs. Packers, at Panthers, at Falcons. The Bears will be favored Week 7 vs. visiting Miami but then they have to visit the Patriots. Anything 4-4 or better and the Bears have to be happy. The first game post-bye might be a loss as it's in Green Bay. However, the Bears might be favored in every other game: vs. Vikings, vs. Bucs, at Lions (maybe not), vs. Cowboys, vs. Saints, vs. Lions, at Vikings. It's a nice break that Chicago gets three teams built for the indoors in Dallas, New Orleans and Detroit in the expected wintry conditions of Soldier Field.
2014 Chicago Bears Futures Odds
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Bears are +2200 to win the Super Bowl, +1400 to win the NFC championship and +333 to win the NFC North. The Bears have a wins total of 8.5, with the "over" a -165 favorite. Chicago is +220 to make the playoffs and -285 to miss out. Cutler is +3000 to win NFL MVP and +2000 to lead the league in passing yards. Forte is +2000 to lead the league in rushing. Marshall is +2000 to top the NFL in receiving yards, and Jeffery is +2500. Fuller is +1500 to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
2014 Chicago Bears Picks and Predictions
I think the Bears are a Super Bowl contender if Cutler plays all 16 games and Chicago doesn't have to play at Seattle, San Francisco or New Orleans in the playoffs. The Bears can win everywhere else, even in Green Bay. Cutler's backup is the top concern on this team. The offense looks great otherwise and the defense simply has to be better with that huge infusion of new blood. Can Cutler play all 16? His history says no. Could Clausen or Palmer win one game? Sure, if it's against maybe the Vikings, Dolphins, Bucs or Lions. Against anyone else? Doubtful.
I'm going with Chicago to win the division, purely because it's nice value at +333. I think the Packers are far from perfect. Presuming Cutler doesn't miss more than two games, over 8.5 wins should be a lock. I can't recommend anything more than that, nor any individual props even though Marshall and Jeffery are terrific. There aren't quite enough balls to go around for one of them to top the NFL in receiving yards.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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