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*A look back at a piece we did summer/June of 2018 -- Skol and I looking over our reasoning for why the Bears were a great 6.5 'over' win total, and a legit NFL North title bet and a neat long-shot NFC winner/Super Bowl rep and a long-shot for a Super Bowl win. Skol was one step ahead on this the entire time -- I was enthusiastic about the Bears, my #1 'over' win-total bet for 2018, but Skol was much stronger about it and more correct about the steps along the way. He was placing bets on individual games months ahead along with the win total bets, etc., and made a killing and was more 'right' than I was. Had we known Khalil Mack would be added...I'm sure we would have gone even crazier, but then wouldn't have nabbed the great odds that we did.
It's easy for me to pat myself of the back for the Bears vision, but Skol's was better, and one of my downfalls (as you'll read here) was fearing Arizona on the Bears schedule and in general -- I thought Arizona would fight for a wild card...instead they fought for the #1 draft pick, so I'm not as visionary as I believe on all this. Steve Wilks deserves to get fired for making me look bad -- how do you get fired after one year of coaching? Like, how bad at this do you have to be?
Based on the info we had in June 2018, pre-injuries, trades, etc., here was our pitch for the Bears are a moneymaking enterprise for 2018. One of my favorite memories of 2018, and I'm re-posting it to start 2019. Please to enjoy...
...from June 2018
Two handicapping enthusiasts (RC Fischer and the Notorious ‘Skol’ from our handicapping group) going through an NFL team’s schedule to examine the logic of betting early win total over/unders and division title bets, etc. We are going back and forth on email and the transcripts of that are below. Just casual conversation as-is, so forgive any typos, misspells, etc.
And now, a look at the Chicago Bears 2018 schedule in Four Parts (because it’s near 8,000 words total…and to build the drama!!)…
2018 Bears Schedule Discussion (Part 1 of 4)
RC: We're going to take a unique look at the 2018 Chicago Bears team and schedule, with the purpose of betting the over/under win total and looking at the odds of an NFC North title, an NFC title, and possible Super Bowl shock.
We'll explain why as we go. I'm going to take this special look because I'm pro-Bears 2018...and I thought they could've won the NFC North last year if Sean McVay were coaching them.
I'm doing this special look with 'Skolman' from our Handicapping group. A notorious Vikings fan...and he's looking to place some heavy, real bets on the Bears -- to exceed the 6.5 win total Vegas line (-130), and looking at some juice on a divisional, conference, and Super Bowl title as well.
As we were discussing the favorable, long shot lines/situation, we thought walking through the schedule might help figure out how good (or bad) the opportunity was. So, we're going to go week-by-week and debate the schedule and see where we wind up at win total wise and discuss all-things Bears and anything else along the way.
Before we get started with Week 1 'at Green Bay'...Skol -- your opening statement on your Bears excitement...
SKOL: I initially was checking in on the Bears because of the fortunate landing spot for Trey Burton for FF. Then I became interested in how excited the defensive players were that they kept D-Coordinator Vic Fangio and the entire defensive staff. It may come as a surprise that the 2017 Bears defense was a top 10 unit based on almost every important category. (Scoring defense, Yards per play, Yards per pass (12th in yards per rush). They weren’t quite the Jaguars or Vikings but consistently better than defenses we love like the the Rams and Saints. The best part about those stats to me is that they did it with little help from their offense...evidenced by only 6 defensive units in the NFL being on the field longer. They achieved this with 0 players selected to the pro-bowl. Offense is fun, but I love cheering for / betting on defense.
Obviously, the Bears added some key pieces on offense that could make them potentially explosive. That is well documented. The offensive line is very good. New O-Coordinator Mark Helfrich worked under Chip Kelly for 4 years of greatness at Oregon then took over for several years as HC of Oregon including the Mariota team. Nagy has recruited a super staff.
After reviewing what I (and many) consider a favorable schedule, all I was hoping for is the Bears to draft Roquan Smith (or at least another top defensive player) with the 8th pick in the draft and it would be “on” in my mind. I noticed before the draft that the odds for Bears futures came out awfully high. 45-1 to win the NFC and 85-1 to win the Super Bowl. After the draft, the odds continued to climb to as high as 65-1 to win the NFC (now at 50-1) and 100-1 to win the Super bowl (still at 100-1). I know we’ll get into this later but by comparison, the Redskins and Buccaneers are 28-1...the Lions 22-1 to win the NFC.
RC: I think the Bears' odds are suffering because while some are paying lip service to the Bears 'finding their QB' with Mitchell Trubisky...they don't believe Trubisky is all that good. I would argue he might be the single best QB in the NFL within 3-5 years, and I maintain he's the best QB talent I've ever scouted in near a decade of deeper NFL Draft pre-draft studies.
Trubisky + fresh offensive-minded coaching + weapons + a decent O-Line + a great O-Line coach + a very respected defensive coordinator and a defense that was top 10 in PPG allowed in 2017 (#9) -- despite a terrible offense and several injuries...this is a team waiting to pop.
I think there are two key issues with getting too excited about the Bears making a deep run to the title, however. (1) The Rams exist. The NFC is tough, and the Rams and Saints, and your Vikings are pretty hot teams not to mention San Fran, Green Bay, Dallas, etc. It's a giant wall to climb. (2) If Trubisky goes down, this whole thing goes up in smoke. There's no Nick Foles safety net.
SKOL: If Kirk Cousins goes down, what happens to the Vikings ship?! I think the QB depth issue is there for all NFC contenders except the Eagles. I will concede that if Trubisky goes down for the season we will have to take a lighter to our futures tickets, but if he goes down for a few weeks I think there is enough talent around Chase Daniels to keep hope alive. If Trubisky’s development is another step forward in year 2 then we are in good shape...if it’s a hockey stick jump in year 2 then are we talking ‘99 Rams?
No doubt the Bears are long shots for a reason, I just think the odds are too long. The great equalizer in the very tough NFC is the schedule. As we will see when we go through the Bears schedule, the NFC North plays the AFC East giving them an advantage over the other NFC divisions IMO. Bears get the two toughest teams on their 2018 schedule at home (Rams and Patriots). As far as the division, Bears have 14 common opponents with the Vikings and Packers...the two that they don’t have in common are below...
Vikings - at Philadelphia, home vs New Orleans
Packers - at Washington, home vs Atlanta
Bears - at New York Giants, home vs Tampa Bay
You can never tell, but I would argue that based on what I just typed the Vikings very well could be spotting the Bears two games! And of the Vikings out-of-division road games, they drew 0 domes. All outdoors on grass/turf, not where they do their best work.
If we catch lightning in a bottle and the Bears get a BYE or even a home playoff game, think about the NFC teams we are scared of...New Orleans, Dallas, Rams, San Fran...breathing smoke out of the front of their helmets in a freezing Soldier Field. Unlike the upstart Rams of last year, the Bears have a home field advantage.
RC: You shut your dirty, Kyle Sloter-ignoring mouth! The Vikings may have a top 3 best QB depth situation in all of football. Trevor Siemian is solid...don't kill him because he flopped after Vance Joseph got figured out in two weeks of 2017 season. And if Sloter gets a chance...boom. Super Bowl Cinderella story.
OK, let's go through the schedule.
You can't give the Bears a Week 1 win at Green Bay, can you?
SKOL: I reject the thinking that a starter who failed miserably is automatically a good/solid backup. He looks like a bad QB. I could get behind Sloter as a backup...I’d certainly take what’s behind door #2 vs Siemian.
Ok, the best part about betting the 2018 Bears is we start with a free roll! No pressure. My guess would be the Bears lose but have a good chance to cover this game. Aaron Rodgers making his return at Lambeau is a lot to overcome. If I had to put $100 on the game with no spread at even money I would take the Packers along with the rest of the world. If the Bears serve notice in week 1, I’ll be out of my mind!
RC: I project that the Bears will win this game, and it's one of the pivotal moments in the Bears' uprising...and it's a bit of a fortuitous scheduling situation. You get a game at Lambeau not in the winter. You get a new coaching staff/playbook facing a known, tired one in Green Bay. New coaches were 3-1 (4-2, really, but two of them faced each other) in debut games Week 1 of 2017. The following Week the newbies went 1-5. New coaches tend to confuse opponents for a week or two as teams don't know their tendencies, alignments, etc. (but do figure them out quickly). The Bears staff is a radically rebuilt one on offense...and I think they steal one here. But for logic's sake, we have to give Green bay the edge here.
The early spread on this game is Packers -8.0, I'll take the points.
The Bears have an edge with coaching, O-Line, RBs, WRs, and defense. Green Bay has Rodgers + awful Joe Philbin needing to pull off the magic, and I don't think they will in a debut game for Matt Nagy...but for sure not to cover the -8.0.
After Week 1, the Bears are likely 0-1.
Week 2 they host Seattle on a Monday Night Football game. How is that not all positive for the Bears? Seattle stinks and the Bears have all the advantages...except QB, but maybe not even QB at this point if Trubisky is hitting on all cylinders.
SKOL: I am hopeful about week 1 at Green Bay but if we need to count on winning as an 8 point underdog then we should not make the futures bet. So I’m proud of being responsible adults and putting our exuberance aside and taking the 0-1 start.
Week 2 hosting Seattle is the first of many delightful sights on the schedule. The Westgate look ahead line for his game is PK. I would love to bet today but the play I’m even more excited to make is the alternate point spread, something like Bears -7.5 (+220). That’s just a guess but it’s in the neighborhood. If the Bears pull the week 1 upset then this may go off at Bears -3 maybe even -3.5; if the best case is playing out for the Bears and the worst case (real case) is playing out for Seattle. If the Bears lose week 1 then I like this bet even more and the line will be lower. Seattle lost 1/2 of their TD receptions on offense and much of their identity on defense this offseason. The O-line will be better but that upgrade is from “awful” to “bad”.
Soldier Field is another key reason for my 2018 Bears optimism. This team beat Pittsburgh and Carolina at home last season. Here is a refresher of the 2017 Bears at home...
Atlanta (17-23 in a game they easily could have won), Pittsburgh (23-17), Minnesota (17-20), Carolina (17-3), Green Bay (16-23, maybe the worst home game since it was Hundley), Detroit (24-27), San Fran (14-15), Cleveland (20-3).
So I am very confidently that by midnight on Sept 17th we are 1-1. The only question is who gets he game ball, I think Nagy gives it to T. Cohen for scoring 2 TDs and making a key block to allow Trubisky to hit Allen Robinson for a TD. Don’t worry Trey Burton owners...he throws one of the Cohen TDs.
RC: Chicago has to project for a win over Seattle in their home opener. They lose to Green Bay and then lose to Seattle...the playoff potential is drifting away. The Bears need to be at least 1-1 after two weeks to set the stage for a playoff run.
Week 3 at Arizona is interesting...you want to lean that the Bears go and win this game because 'Cardinals', but I think the Cardinals are a potential playoff team -- and the Bears would be going to Arizona, on a short week of the emotional (assumed) win over Seattle. Getting the win here for the Bears is the trumpet blast that they're arriving/here for real. Our computer models booked this game as a loss pretty solidly. The Computer thinks sneaking up on Green Bay Week 1 is more viable than beating Arizona in this spot. What say you?
2018 Bears Schedule Discussion (Part 2 of 4)
SKOL: I don’t think we have a game on this schedule with more questions that need to be answered. Who will be under center for the Cardinals? Wilks is going from a 3-4 to a 4-3, how does that impact Chandler Jones who had 17 sacks last year? Lots of turnover in the defensive backfield which we assume is for the better? DJ is back which is awesome, how does the offense look under McCoy?
In researching this, I read that Wilks’ early message to the team was not to focus on the Super Bowl, just win the day. Nonsense like that doesn’t leave me overcome with confidence that this is a coach that lights the world on fire in year 1. I expect him to build a great defense (and he may have the pieces already) but I have a lot of questions on offense.
In an ideal scheduling situation, the Bears travel to the desert later in the season where the likelihood of Rosen being in at QB is higher. However, the Cardinals open the season at home vs Washington then 3 of the next 4 games are in the division. The outlier is this game vs the Bears. This game follows a Cardinals trip to LA Rams with the Seahawks and Niners on deck in weeks 4 & 5.
I can’t find look ahead lines beyond week 2, I will keep searching. In the odds to win the NFC, the Cardinals are only sightly better than the Bears so maybe they need to be the next team reviewed! I think this is a winnable game for our Bears but I’m ok going to 1-2 here. We can lose this game and still finish with 3-4 road wins.
In the end, I think we will have three groups of games...expected to win (Seahawks), expected to lose (at GB) and coin flips where we need 50%. This one goes in the third bucket for me.
RC, do you agree with that and do you have any closing thoughts before we head back to Chicago to host Jameis Winston?
RC: I think the winner of this game may be one of the wild card teams from the NFC...or a 9-7 team that doesn't get in. Arizona will have a stable QB. The best RB in the NFL. Defensive talent above the Bears. 'At' Arizona and coming off a Monday Night game, short time to prepare for a team with a new coach that might not have 'a book' on him yet -- I think you have to give the edge to Arizona. A lot can happen between now and then, obviously -- Bradford hurt again, etc., but I think the circumstances/lead in to this game favors Arizona and I say we give the Cards the win here and the Bears go to 1-2...and this is going to sting the Bears if these two teams flirt with 9-7 and the final wild card, like I think they might.
On to Tampa Bay with a 1-2 Bears team. At home, facing a weak Bucs team...I'm guessing we'll both agree a 'win' here for Chicago?
SKOL: I know I offered you the last word on Week 3 but I think you and the computer are doing a good job suppressing hope for the Bears while being wildly optimistic about the Cardinals. I tracked down the look ahead line for week 3, it is Cardinals (-1). The Bears win total is 6.5 (-130 on the Over) and the Cardinals win total is 5.5 (-110). I’ll roll with 1-2 but am more comfortable with my 1-1-1 bucket idea. If the Cardinals do wind up threatening 10 wins, I think that really helps the Bears best case (which is a 1st round bye) because it will likely add a loss or two to the Rams and Niners. Feel free to “last word” my last word.
Ok, week 4 hosting the Bucs and maybe some payback for the beat down the Bears took in Tampa last year...Glennon was a turnover machine. I choose to look at this as a positive, perhaps some revenge or at least the Bears defense has seen the Bucs offense. Bucs revamped their D-line and it looks pretty impressive but I feel good about banking a win here. Projected road wins should be reserved for the biggest mismatches in the NFL, not the worst team in their own division traveling to an upstart Bears team. Note that we might get an 0-3 desperate team in the Bucs as they start with @NO, then home games vs Eagles and Steelers. We must protect our house and take care of the rebuilding Bucs for a projected 2-2 record at the quarter pole of the season. Bears are (-2.5) here by the way.
RC: Week 3...Arizona...the Cardinals are in a very similar 'enthusiasm' spot as the Bears, on paper. Comparing the 2018 Cards to the 2017 ones...it's like they added the greatest RB in the history of football in the offseason, which trumps the Bears WR/TE adds. At WR, the Cards jettisoned Arians' guys and kept Fitz and added quality Kirk and useful Butler. A whole brand new O-Line is the question mark. Defense...arguably better than the Bears top to bottom, and both defenses good. Both teams have new coaches, so there is a bit of mystery to the playbook still early on. Sam Bradford won't lose you games. I just think these are two talented teams that you end up giving the Cards the edge with 'home' and the Bears coming off a MNF game.
Week 4 -- the TB DBs cannot hang with the Bears passing attack. Winston is a turnover machine. The Bucs have no run game. Dirk Koetter has long been figured out. The team quit on him a long time ago. I think the Bears steam roll the Bucs coming off a tough Arizona loss and we're at 2-2 Bears after 4 weeks.
Week 5 is a BYE week and then we have Week 6 at Miami. I think this is where the Bears upswing starts picking up steam starting with Week 6 for the next several weeks.
SKOL: Interestingly we get to play the entire AFC East over the next month. Coming out of the bye the Bears take their talents to South Beach where Cody Parkey squares off against his old team. If the game is close, I like the story line of him hitting the game winning kick. I think that more likely scenario when the clock reaches 0:00 is Darrell Loggains hugging his former players and wishing them good luck in their new dynamic offense. Not only did Gase come from the Bears but new Bears O-line coach came from his staff with the Dolphins. A randomly high amount of coaching familiarity between these two teams.
I don’t mind the 2018 Dolphins, I think there is reason to be optimistic. They get Tannehill back but I read he is going to wear a brace all season and I don’t love that. Also, I think there is this feeling that the Dolphins were “on their way” when he got hurt...they were a playoff team but certainly weren’t Super Bowl contenders. Talent on the offensive line but will it come together? I feel like the best case scenario for the Dolphins defense, O-line and offense overall is all of the pieces fall into place and they are as good as the Bears defense, O-line and offense overall. Last year the Dolphins defense was bottom tier based on scoring but about average in terms of both rushing and passing yards per play in a lost season with Jay Cutler. Raekwon McMillan is a leader on defense so getting him back from injury is a huge positive.
I like the young talent on Miami’s defense but I think to make a future’s bet on the Bears this has to be a game we expect to win coming off the bye. To me, this feels a lot like @ ARI in that the opponent isn’t as good as the Bears IMO but we are on the road. While I expect a win I’m going to put this game in my 50/50 bucket. This Bears team can run and play defense which is the formula for winning on the road. The look ahead line is Miami (-1.5). That line suggests that this game is 1/2 tougher than @ ARI which I disagree with but I do feel like these games are in the same neighborhood. My projected record stands at 2-1-2. In my best case scenario where the Bears offense looks like an Eagles / Chiefs unit, we can’t be sitting at 4-1.
RC: Adam Gase purposefully hiring Darrell Loggains tells me all I need to know about Adam Gase and his 'culture change'. He's the Gus Bradley, circa the Jacksonville years, of culture change. Purposefully going into 2018 with dos-ACL'd Ryan Tannehill and making no other real effort to develop a backup to challenge/be ready -- I think Adam Gase is like most all other coaches, his coaching is what wins not the players. Sneaking into the playoffs in 2016 only solidified how smart he things he is. The trend of new coaches like this...new coach, crappy team, fluffy schedule because they are so bad, catch a few breaks and sneak into the playoffs one year and everyone loves the coach and then two years later they are firing the guy because the team has face planted -- that's Miami 2018 to me. Bad drafts, bad a free agency, bad coaching hires...and a lot 'culture change' yammering.
This should be a 70-80 degree game, not a broiler, and coming off a BYE with Miami off a two game road trip getting beat up by NE-CIN...I feel good about the Bears here. I think a 3-2 Bears team projection, at this stage, is fair.
I know we're going to go 'loss' with Chicago hosting the Patriots...hopeful for a sneaky win, but odds are you don't bet against the Patriots. I would then also assume we'll say 'win' hosting the Jets the following week. Am I safe to say, after a Miami win, a loss (NE) then win (NYJ), and a 4-3 record?
SKOL: Yes, I agree. If we throw in the layup in upstate NY (BUF) the following week then we are 5-3. The loss of offensive lineman and lack of QB for the Bills are the top reasons for booking a road win but I can go on!
I feel really good about the Bears at home this year. I have no problem calling the Jets a victory and while I agree we’ll book a loss, I give them a better shot than most against the Pats. With New England playing three straight home games before heading to Chicago, I’ll be keeping an eye on potentially getting a really good betting line for this game.
This brings us to mid-Nov and we are looking at 3 straight division games culminating in a Thanksgiving Day game that I can’t wait for. First up though...hosting the Lions. These teams split last season both winning by a FG. With the Lions perpetually stuck in neutral and the Bears on the verge of something special I’m calling for a season sweep starting with a win at home vs the Lions. Matt Patricia earns a promotion to head coach due to presiding over some terrible defenses in New England. The resources they added to try to help the running game are offset IMO by coaching that doesn’t inspire me. I’m comfy with 6-3 after hosting the Lions. Your thoughts on @Bills and hosting the Lions before the Vikings come to town?
Also, because I choose to look at the world this way, after booking the Jets, @Bills and Lions as likely wins and the Patriots as a loss we are at 4-2-2 (4 likely wins, 2 likely losses and 2 50/50 games where we have hope but responsibly call a coin toss).
RC: I think at the Bills Week 9 is a sound 'win' projection for the Bears. The Bills were a lucky playoff team last year, and have gotten markedly worse in 2018 given all the O-Line degradation and the giant step back at QB.
I think hosting the Lions Week 10 is prime for a Bears win. I didn't see the Lions getting any better in the offseason and if they commit to Blount-Kerryon Johnson, I'm even more confident the Bears will blow them out at home. The Lions will have had a tough game vs. MIN the week prior, and the Bears would have snoozed past the Bills. Wins vs. BUF and DET takes our Bears projection to 6-3, and if so...I think the Bears will be sitting in first place as the Pack and Vikings have brutal schedules heading towards Week 11...and that's the problem for the Bears -- the SF-LAR games and an 'at' NYG is coming up.
GB and MIN will be in a hole because they've already dealt with a tough schedule...and thus a desperate MIN team hosts the Bears with the Vikes 2018 life on the line. The Bears and Vikings season's, for different reasons, rely upon the outcome of this game...Bears win and are likely making the playoffs and potential NFC North champs, a loss opens the door for GB and MIN with a very tough CHI schedule after this. The Vikes lose to the Bears in Week 11, considering their schedule prior...Minnesota's season is probably over without winning out.
You are the Vikings expert...are the Bears the team that is ready to put a dagger in Minnesota in Week 11, and effectively seize the division and end the Vikes 2018 hopes...or does Minnesota rise up with two weeks to prepare/coming off their BYE week?
I have my thoughts but I turn it over to you first as a Vikes expert. Week 11 MIN (4-5?) at CHI (6-3?)...the winner is...?
2018 Bears Schedule Discussion (Part 3 of 4)
SKOL: To reset, in the Week 11 game the Bears host the Vikings. I think these teams will split the season series with each team winning at home. The Bears have the Thanksgiving Game vs Detroit up next but that is negated IMO by the Vikings having their home game vs the Packers next as well. GB is the Vikings biggest rival by far. The Bears were so good on defense at home last season that I’m banking on Soldier Field being a tough place for opponents to get a win in 2018. If the Bears offense looks like I think it will then upgrade that to “very tough” place to get a win. If the Vikings are in the desperate situation you described and they win at Chicago, then I think they could let the home game slip away vs the Bears. I’m comfortable chalking up a Bears win here (and taking the loss at Min later). The scary thing with the Vikings is that either Cousins or Rhodes getting hurt would turn the carriage into a pumpkin. QB I understand, but most teams don’t have a guy on defense that subtracting them take the unit from a top 10 to bottom 10 instantly.
Even by a conservative estimation we can call this another 50/50 game and bring that record to 4-2-3. (Probably obvious that at the end of the season we split the 50/50 jump balls half Ws, half Ls). If you agree, that would run the record to 7-3 and cash the season win over. Otherwise, we get to do that on Thanksgiving! Which is it gonna be?!
RC: Well, what if the answer is neither? What if the Bears lose both those games?
Hosting Minnesota, but a desperate Vikings team (because of their early schedule dragging them to a .500 team) -- I could see the set up for a Bears fall. BUT...this game reminds me of the Rams-Seattle game Week 15 of last year. The Rams had started to become the 'it' team and Seattle desperately needed a win to stay alive/relevant. The game was at Seattle and EVERYONE thought that's where Seattle would right the ship, at home, and send the upstart Rams reeling a bit. The Rams went in and put a 42-7 dagger in Seattle's heart AT SEATTLE and officially killed off the fan and media respected Seahawks, and officially took control of the division for years to come. I think Week 11 the Bears have that moment where they can end the Vikings' 2018, almost...and establish that Chicago is no fluke. Soldier Field would be rocking. I will give this pivotal game to Chicago.
But...then I will turnaround and deal them a loss at Detroit. Coming off such a huge playoff atmosphere game, the Bears go to DET on THANKSGIVING and get caught looking. The 7-3 team falls to 7-4 and opens the door for the rest of the NFC North because the Bears schedule is about to turn very dark...at NYG, LAR, GB, at SF, at MIN. A 7-4 Bears team must win at least two of those games to have a shot at the division and playoffs.
At NYG is no gimme. Are you willing to split the Bears MIN-DET Weeks 11-12 games and take them to 7-4...and if so, what happens Week 13 at NYG?
SKOL: I just checked and the week 1 line for Bears-Packers ticked down from 8 to 7.5...was that you RC?!
If the Bears lose both of these games then we are in trouble for sure. I agree there is a potential let down after winning a big game, but it doesn’t always mean it will result in a loss. If the Bears let down they can still win a close game at DET. It is also true that the let down can come after playing well several weeks in a row. I’m only agreeing to 7-4 because it’s your website!
Under the scenario where the Bears lose to the Lions, I think the Giants game is a gimme (or at least a game we need to have to make a Bears bet). Bears will be coming off a loss, get 10 days off, and the Giants come off of playing at Philly with at Washington next. I like that we are sandwiched between 2 road division games for the Giants and we bring a top defense and a running game (along with a passing game where multiple guys get a little daylight and they are gone!) to the Meadowlands. Saquon Barkley owners are not going to love the box score from this one. Your thoughts on at NYG? Do we get to 8-4 before the real fun starts?
RC: The Week 13 game with NYG is potentially the other make-or-break for the season (playoffs, etc.) game on the Bears' schedule. I think Week 3 v. ARI is their biggest game because I believe ARI could compete for a 9-7/wild card spot with the Bears (if they don't win the division). Also, a critical game -- I think the Bears Week 1 at GB sets the tone for the season...that the Bears win that game catching GB by surprise with the new offense, etc. Week 13, the Giants may be hanging around the wild card scene with the Bears heading into this game...the Bears not as desperate as the Giants at this stage. The Bears should be desperate because the schedule turns nasty after this...and they could be looking ahead to the Week 14 game hosting the Rams.
I am going to propose we give this to the Bears over NYG...two reasons, besides being the better team and despite it being a road game -- (1) NYG will have just come off a big game with Philly. (2) The Bears will have had 1.5+ weeks of rest/time to prepare given they would have played on Thanksgiving.
If the Bears really are 7-4 heading into this game, and with the schedule ahead, and if/then losing to NYG...the season may get away from them. So, this is a huge game and I lean it towards the Bears for extra prep time and a hidden sense of urgency after a DET loss and the schedule to come.
If the Bears are 8-4 going into a two-game home stand with LAR-GB, Soldier Field is going to be rocking.
I'd propose, in lieu of overthinking it...we just assume the LAR-GB home stand Weeks 14-15 are a split, however they split...and that the Bears will be heading to Week 16 at 9-5, a playoff contender a possible division title in their grasp but a huge problem closing the deal, potentially, with at SF and at MIN Weeks 16-17. Before we get there...the LAR-GB stretch -- 1-1, right?
SKOL: Yes, I like to group games in that way since the likelihood of us projecting every game correctly is pretty low. So 1-1 in the Rams/Packers home-stand works for me and IMO is reasonable. The Bears were very good at home last year playing with no offense, just defense and special teams. Their three toughest home games were (Atlanta, Carolina and Pittsburgh)...they got 2 out of 3 and almost a sweep. That is what I’m basing getting one of those home wins vs either the Rams or Packers on. I also think we can group @Ari and @NYG as needing one or the other.
So 9-5 and looking down the barrel of a gun to end the season...along with the opener vs GB, I think these are the two of the three most difficult games of the year.
RC: So, if 9-5 and likely in a position to win the division with one more win...because the schedule for the NFC North is tough (NFC West, AFC East) as it is, but then MIN draws PHI and NO on the rotational 'by order of finish the year prior' this season due to finishing first in the division, whereas the Bears draw TB and NYG for their terrible 2017. I think MIN and GB are hard-pressed to get to 10 wins. Nine wins gets you a stake and 10 wins should either lock the division or at least a playoff spot. The Bears would need one of the next two, both on the road, to hit the 10 win mark.
I think we'll probably both agree the at 49ers is a likely loss all things considered. The 49ers should be in the thick of the playoffs as well, so I give that one to the 49ers. All the marbles come down to Week 17 at your Vikings. I turn it over to you...CHI (9-6) at MIN, Week 17, who wins?
2018 Bears Schedule Discussion (Part 4 of 4)
SKOL: Projecting both teams a full strength I would pick the Vikings in that game, but what do I know! I love the Vikings and I will be cheering for them to go 19-0 this season.
However, chokes follow chokes and Vikings fans know the universe will not allow us to have nice things. So if that game is close at the end, with the division or a playoff spot on the line, why would the Vikings be able to stop the Bears? They were unable to stop the Saints when they needed to. The Bears will be rolling out a dynamic offense built to exploit mismatches and the Vikings defense is built to stop whoever Rhodes is covering. And we don’t know what the Vikings offense will look like with Cousins and Cook, I feel like everyone is jumping to the conclusion that it will be great. I think it could be...
l’ll do some research tonight, but I can’t think of a team that got stomped out of the playoffs then returned to post season glory to avenge that loss the following season. I think there will be a gravitational pull on the 2018 Vikings in the wrong direction.
San Fran should be good in 2018, but before we hand then the Lombardi Trophy (or the week 16 game) lets consider that Jimmy GQ played the Bears last year and came away with 5 FGs. It was at Chicago but at least worth considering that while I absolutely concede the projected loss, if everything isn’t firing with the 49ers at the end of the season it’s not mission impossible. That’s the silver lining to the brutal end of the schedule...let’s say last year we were looking ahead to finishing the season with GB, Hou, Den, Dal...we would have been thinking murders row but in reality it would have been a cake walk.
I don’t want to jump into my closing arguments too early but we are talking about a team that is tied for the longest shot to win the SB at 100/1 and 50/1 to win the NFC who we have realistically/conservatively projected to be playing week 16 & 17 for a chance to win the NFC North or at least make the playoffs.
SKOL: I accidentally found something I find very, very interesting. I suppose very, very interesting is in the eye of the beholder! Dealing with super small sample sizes but I’m keeping this in my hip pocket.
I tracked teams that got blown out to exit the playoffs (lost by 18+) to see how they did the next year. (‘03-‘17). It certainly looked as if I hit a dead end. As you can see below a very normal distribution...then something caught my eye that could change lives!!!!
7-9 (5) (one was actually 7-8-1)
If you take the leap with my that there is something about a team that got blown out of the playoffs the year before and made it back the following year. Maybe they need to lie on the couch and tell us about their problems...maybe their coach can’t prep his team for a big game...something. Then check this out...
There were six times where these teams returning to the playoffs were underdogs at some point in the playoffs the following post-season (getting any amount of points) and they failed to cover the spread 6 out of 6 times.
**my hypothesis is that they are the worse team and whatever is fragile about them is causing them to lose by more than the spread**
There were three times where these teams returning to the playoffs were favorites of a touchdown or more...all three lost the game outright. (Two were (-9) and the other was the Steelers (-7.5) last year vs Jax.
**my hypothesis is that these are the better teams but when punched in the mouth have their choke reflex activated**
The teams that fit for the 2018 playoffs are the Vikings and Titans. I’m really cheering for one or both to make the post season so I can fire on this!
RC: I think teams in the playoffs, non-Patriots, are very likely to go 8-8 or worse the following year just on the premise that the NFL is the Patriots and 31 other random marbles bouncing around...based on schedule and injuries. The coaches are so bad and the GMs/personnel is so awful (it's why there is never a team just crushing the draft year after year after year) -- it's just random ups and downs + the Patriots. I think the data I shared last year stayed alive in 2017 end -- no team has won their division 3-straight years in a row currently...except the Patriots have won it like a billion years in a row. Betting all winning teams to do the opposite of their prior year is likely a winning bet no matter the team, except the Pats. The schedule is devastating to the Vikings this year -- 'punishment' for doing good the year before.
With that being said...I am giving the Bears a Week 17 win over MIN. Why? I think the Vikings will be out of the playoffs at that time and nothing to play for...and that gives the something-to-play-for Bears a win. Worst case, at SF, at MIN...the Bears split it and go 10-6.
If we minus a win for our general zeal, if the Bears go 9-7...I think they could win the division with that or at least sneak in as a wild card. As a division winner, imagine them hosting a playoff game at Soldier field in January!! Maybe facing the wild card 49ers...a precision, decent weather team flying Midwest in possible bitter cold.
SKOL: Instead of a Starbucks gift card, I’ll grab you a 50/1 NFC bet!
RC: What bets (O/u's, early game calls) are you making on the Bears this season, and which one of them are you putting the most juice on?
SKOL: PASPA being ruled unconstitutional will impact me most on futures bets. I was always hesitant to do them because having weekly credit limits makes hedging a long shot future difficult.
I’m all in on the Bears in 2018. I want to bet them every way I can. Once I’m free to fire away at these legally I plan to have...
NFC 50-1 (3 units)
SB at 100-1 (3 units)
On draft night I bet the Bears +8 week 1 vs GB my old school way (2 units). I want more of that legally but I’ll stand pat if it’s +7.5 because I have enough to be happy.
I only have access to week 1 games at this time...if NJ posts lines for week 2 through 16 games like Vegas does, then I will bet week 2 hosting Sea as a PK (3 units) and week 4 hosting Tampa Bay -2.5 (3 units).
Over 6.5 wins (-130) (5 units)
7-1 to win the division (1.5 units) because everything Bears this year needs to be more than 1 unit.
The plan is to get to weeks 16,17 and possibly hedge out some of those NFC/SB futures. Hopefully, the playoff landscape is such that we don’t have to. I think there is room to lock in a small profit and still do very well if the Bears pull a Vegas Golden Knights on us.
RC: I love the Bears over 6.5, hate the vig to bet it but 6.5 is sweet. I'd almost say it's a lock but the Bears have done that thing that I don't get and scares me a touch...no real backup QB to step in Trubisky goes down, a guy that could still win games. I don't think Chase Daniels is that guy, but there are worse out there.
I'd only bet small on the Bears to win the NFC and/or SB because the NFC is so loaded...I cannot see the Bears realistically getting past LAR, NO, figuring they'll have home field advantage if it comes to it.
Today, I LOVE the Week 1 CHI +pts over GB...that game is so perfect for the new coaching staff and all the weapons getting unleashed in a confusing manner, like most 1st year staffs do opening weeks. If it were CHI at GB Week 4, I don't love it -- but Week 1...LOVE it.
SKOL: I just read that Anthony Miller told Matthew Berry that he will score at least 8 TDs this season. Sounds about right to me!
I agree about the vig in general, I try to avoid it. But if you look at it as a price to pay to buy down from 7 wins it actually seems cheap. The idea that we can finish 7-9 and cash is worth 20 cents IMO. Chase Daniels is interesting to me. He spent 3 years with Nagy in KC and has been behind starters that haven’t been hurt. He’s only 31 so it wouldn’t be a Shawn Hill situation. Top half, top third maybe even top 5 backups given that he’s been in the offensive system for 5 years? I’m thinking if Trubisky missed only a few games.
I also agree about the futures...I would throw a tiny bit on those if I didn’t have the ability to hedge without limits.
RC: I think Anthony Miller is off by about 8 TDs on his 2018 projections. Was he talking about Taylor Gabriel's TD tally by Week 10 and got confused? Yeah, I hate the expensive vig but to get 6.5 it's almost a gimme, willing to pay heavy to take their money.