Chicago Bears Week Seven: Numbers give Bears fighting chance
While many are quick to write off the Chicago Bears this week, they do enter the game with a chance at the upset
I get it. If the Chicago Bears play as they did against the Miami Dolphins, they are going to get embarrassed by the New England Patriots. However, that is the thinking that had everybody thinking that they would blow out Miami because they were going to play like they did against Tampa Bay.
The fact of the matter is that the matchup and situation matters. The Bears are back at home, they are going to be motivated coming off of a loss, and some numbers point in their direction heading into this game.
First, the Chicago Bears are listed as just three-point underdogs in this game. The oddsmakers think that there is a decent chance that this game comes down to a field goal.
While this may surprise some, many were surprised that the Bears were “only” three points favorites against the Dolphins last week.
More interesting than that is to see that in most sports books, the opening line was 2.5. A standard win in the NFL will be by three points, and to take the Patriots to just win by a field goal seems too easy. However, there is a reason those casinos get fancier and fancier and even more of them to start to pop up. They have no problem taking money from people who think the Patriots will win by more than 3. Why?
While many look at yards allowed and points per game to decipher the game, none of that factors in the opponent you played, and the game flow that was established in each game. DVOA does that best job at considering all factors and ranking each team based off of an efficiency metric that weighs opponent and situation.
Last year only one team in the top ten in DVOA missed the playoffs. In 2016, the Patriots and Falcons finished first and third in the metric. Through five games and six weeks, the Chicago Bears rank third in DVOA. They still have the number one defense in DVOA, and their offense is officially above average at 14th in the NFL.
The metric is saying that while yes, the Bears gave up two big plays to Albert Wilson, Wilson is also extremely efficient with the ball in his hands, and the Bears typically do not miss those tackles. Do we really think Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson, Roquan Smith and the gang just lost their mojo forever?
The New England Patriots rank ninth right now in DVOA. They rank seventh in offense and 12th on defense. Before you say that the first couple of games skewed them, DVOA weighs most recent performances the most. That is how well the Bears played heading into the Dolphins game.
So, when the Chicago Bears have gone five games, a much larger sample size than just the Miami game playing more efficient football than the Patriots, you start to buy into the idea that oddsmakers are welcoming bets on the Patriots.
When it comes to Bill Belichick coached teams, no one has his number. However, there are a few coaches who give him a run for his money. That starts with Andy Reid. Since taking over with the Kansas City Chiefs, Andy Reid is 2-2 against the Patriots.
His protege, Doug Pederson took on Belichick and company in the Super Bowl and knocked them off. Even John Harbaugh, an Andy Reid tree coach is a respectable 3-6 against the Pats.
When looking at teams who have put up 40 points on the Pats since 2013 a noticeable trend comes up.
Andy Reid did it three times, and Doug Pederson did it the other. Even Harbaugh has put up 28, 31, and 23 in three of their four most recent performances with Joe Flacco at the helm.
Matt Nagy was in the rooms that drew up game plans for two of those four games listed above. He at least stands a fighting chance better than most coaches.
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When you break down the tendencies of the New England Patriots, they throw the football to their running backs more than any team in the NFL, 35% of the time. Only the Saints and Chargers throw it to their backs more than 30% of the time.
While the Patriots do a good job of playing to an opponents weaknesses, their greatest strength does match the Bears greatest strength.
The Bears are the most efficient team in the NFL at stopping running backs in the passing game, and allow the fifth least yardage to running backs through the air.
The Patriots are 15th in success rate despite throwing it to their backs more than any other team.
The Chicago Bears are coming back home off of an embarrassing loss looking to stand up strong in a bounce-back spot. The New England Patriots have to travel to Chicago off of a thriller that took them right to the wire late Sunday evening.
The Patriots have to play a team who will take away their bread and butter and force them into an exotic game plan. The Bears come in playing more efficient football on a snap-by-snap basis and have a head coach who was in the room that put together two 40-point performances on the New England Patriots.
When you add in that the people who typically make money off of this are not afraid to take bets on the Chicago Bears, you start to think that maybe they are onto something. Maybe the Chicago Bears have a fighting chance.