NFL Picks: 2013 Chicago Bears Predictions and NFL Futures Odds
by Alan Matthews - 8/8/2013
Coach Lovie Smith led the Chicago Bears to a combined mark of 18-14 the past two seasons. If he does that in Buffalo, he gets a contract extension. In Chicago. he got the gate. The main problem under Smith is that while his defense was annually terrific and was easily the best in the NFL at forcing turnovers, he could never find the right offensive coordinator to spark Jay Cutler and those quarterbacks before him. Even when the Bears went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, it was essentially in spite of QB Rex Grossman, not because of him.
Another recent trend emerging under Smith was that the Bears would collapse down the stretch. In 2011, the Bears started 7-3 and then closed 1-5. To be fair, Cutler was out those last six games. Last year the Bears looked like NFC favorites after hanging 51 on the Titans to start 7-1. Then the offense went in the tank -- Cutler missed the Colin Kaepernick breakout game loss at San Francisco but none others -- and the Bears finished 10-6. They were the only 10-win team to miss the playoffs.
Ownership and new GM Phil Emery -- who had no personal ties to Smith -- had enough and chose to focus on offense for once by hiring Marc Trestman, who had turned the Montreal Alouettes from a lousy team in the CFL into a powerhouse. He's considered a QB guru and was praised by the likes of Steve Young, who played under Trestman in San Francisco. Yes, Bears fans, your team is actually in the 21st century now when it comes to coaches. There are two sides of the ball.
No one really knows what Trestman's offense will look like other than that it should be certainly at a quicker pace and could see Cutler rolling out more. That's often when the strong-armed Cutler is at his best. Plus, it gets him out of the pocket, and he was getting killed there behind a bad offensive line. That group was totally overhauled this year with likely four new starters at new positions, led by left tackle Jermon Bushrod (signed from Saints, where current Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer made him a Pro Bowler) and right guard Kyle Long, the team's 2013 first-round pick.
Cutler has some talent, to be sure. Matt Forte is one of the best all-around backs in the league and should easily catch more than the 44 balls he did last year. Brandon Marshall remains a Top-5 receiver and was a monster last year with 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 scores. It was the best season ever for a Bears receiver. His numbers may drop because Cutler focused too much on Marshall, and coaches are trying to spread it around. Alshon Jeffery showed signs of being an impact player when healthy as a rookie. New tight end Martellus Bennett seems a lock for at least 50 catches if healthy.
Despite having a new coordinator in Mel Tucker, the Bears will still run the Tampa-2 scheme for the most part, with Tucker adding a few wrinkles. The thinking was this side of the ball wasn't broken and that there are so many veterans it would be much easier to just stick with what they know. The question is how much aging stars Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman have left in the tank. The QB of the defense, Brian Urlacher, wasn't brought back and retired. The defense already has lost two rotation guys to torn ACLs in camp, defensive end Turk McBride and cornerback Kelvin Hayden. The latter was in line to play a lot as the nickelback. Hayden accounted for 37 tackles and an interception last season in two starts in 472 total snaps, a number that was likely to increase.
2013 Chicago Bears Schedule Analysis
The Bears really need to start 2-0 if they have playoff aspirations, and they certainly can with Cincinnati and Minnesota visiting Soldier Field the first two weeks. Then it gets tougher: at Pittsburgh, at Detroit (which should be better), vs. New Orleans, vs. New York Giants and at Washington. A 4-3 mark at the bye would be pretty good. Other than two games against the Packers after the bye, there's nothing to be too scared about. The two best other opponents are likely to be Baltimore and Dallas, and they both visit Chicago. The Bears have the No. 17 strength of schedule (No. 1 being hardest) with an opponents' 2012 winning percentage of .502.
2013 Chicago Bears Futures Odds
Odds courtesy of BetOnline and Sportsbook.ag: Chicago's “over/under” wins is set at 8.5, with the over a -130 favorite. The Bears are +350 to win the NFC North, +1800 to win the NFC and +4000 to win the Super Bowl. Cutler is +6000 to win NFL MVP and +2500 to throw for the most yards. Marshall is the +650 second-favorite to have the most receiving yards. He has an over/under of 1,375.5 receiving yards. Forte is +1500 to lead the league in rushing.
NFL Picks: 2013 Chicago Bears Predictions
Other than the Eagles, the Bears might be the most mysterious team in the NFC heading into 2013, at least on offense. Trestman seems to have succeeded everywhere, but why then is this his first time coaching in the NFL in eight years? I don't recommend any of the futures props and would go under on Marshall's yardage. I do think the Bears will win at least nine games barring a Cutler injury, so go over there.
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