coleryan Posts:12023 Followers:20
On 09/01/2013 05:18 PM in NFL

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears: Preview and Pick

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears: Preview and Pick

The Cincinnati Bengals were featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks this season and they are one of the teams predicted to have a very good season. They will be tested in the very first week of the season as they head to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears Odds
The Bears have the home field advantage for this game and for that reason the current point spread on this game has the home team as (-3) point favorites. That number has not changed from the opening line and with an even amount of betting action on both sides of this game; don’t look for it to change anytime soon.

The Bengals come in with a team that is built to win and built to win now. Head coach Marvin Lewis has built this team from the ground up and they finally have all of the pieces in place to go for a championship. With Andy Dalton under center and AJ Green catching deep balls on the outside, this offense should be able to score against any defense in the league.

This includes a Bears defense that starts life without long time mainstay Brian Urlacher. The focus of this Bears will be the offense as new head coach Marc Trestman is being touted as a brilliant offensive mind. That is good news for Jay Cutler who has always wanted to open up the offense and go away from the usual Bear mindset of running the ball early and often.

Cutler has plenty of weapons to go to when he is throwing the ball to include Brandon Marshall who is one of the best wide receivers in the league. The Bears also have multi-talented running back Matt Forte who can break the big play when needed.
The football betting trends favor the Bengals in this game. The Bengals are 6-2-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last 9 games in September, 4-1 ATS in the last five road games and 7-2 ATS in the last nine games in September. The Bears are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games and just 1-4 ATS in the last five games overall.

With two teams with high expectations the first game of the season will be very pivotal. The Bears are expected to win this game since they are at home, but the road to the Super Bowl for the upstart Bengals starts in week one.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Chicago Bears Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:12023 Followers:20
09/02/2013 02:30 PM

Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic wanted to play. But the Bears wouldn’t let him. In just a few months and thanks to one key ­injury, Bostic had become too ­valuable to risk injury.

So he watched. And Bostic wasn’t alone. Fellow rookies Kyle Long, Jordan Mills and Marquess Wilson also strode the sideline with their arms folded and eyes on the field.

“[To] tell you the truth, it wasn’t very fun,” Bostic said of sitting out the Bears’ last preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. “I like to be out there with my teammates. A lot of guys are out there, guys that I came with. We kind of grew together, learned together.”

Those “guys” would be the Bears’ other rookies. And the team kept nine of them — the entire 2013 draft class and three undrafted players — then added one more Sunday to make up coach Marc Trestman’s 53-man roster. The Bears claimed defensive end David Bass, a seventh-round pick who was cut by the Oakland Raiders, and waived defensive end Cheta Ozougwu to make room for him.

This isn’t a case of the collective-bargaining agreement forcing a team to keep younger players over more experienced and expensive ones, either. The Bears might not be rebuilding, but general manager Phil ­Emery is deftly trying to reload while winning with his talented cast of veterans.

“We see signs of the team we can become,” Trestman said. “We’ve seen that in training camp, and we saw that [against the Raiders]. The preseason is tough. It’s tough to be conclusive about what you’re going to be. But we have an idea of what we can be. It will all start next ­Sunday [against the Cincinnati Bengals].”

So many rookies making the team isn’t a unique occurrence. The Bears had nine make the team in 2011 and 2008 under ex-GM Jerry Angelo.

But the circumstances make this year noteworthy. This is Emery’s second season in control, there’s a new coach and there are many players with expiring contracts, including some stars.

So getting younger always has been an underlying goal. Multiple age analyses show Emery was able to do that, but the Bears remain one of the oldest teams in the league.

There’s nothing wrong with that, especially with linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Charles ­Tillman and defensive end Julius Peppers still at All-Pro levels. Their strong play has given Emery the luxury of getting younger with the right players.

The Bears’ decision to keep their entire 2013 draft class, which also includes linebacker Khaseem Greene and defensive end Cornelius Washington, isn’t a case of a GM having a strong preference for his picks. The cases of safety Brandon Hardin and tight end/fullback Evan Rodriguez show that Emery isn’t overly stubborn when it comes to his selections.

It looks like Emery has hit a home run with his 2013 class, especially with Long, Bostic and Mills. There will be tough moments ahead, but getting three starters right away is impressive.

The undrafted rookies — defensive tackle Zach Minter, cornerback C.J. Wilson and running back Michael Ford — were aided by injuries to others, but they routinely outperformed older players.

It also helps that defensive end Shea McClellin, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and nickel back Isaiah Frey — Emery’s three keepers from his 2012 class — have important roles for this season.

The Bears seem to have a nice blend of young and old. “All of our players are going to have to earn their place on our team,” Emery said during camp. “To improve and to contribute more, obviously you want your younger players to ascend and continue to be a bigger part of your team.”

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:12023 Followers:20
09/03/2013 03:32 PM

From 1991 through 2008 the Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs one time. Their recent success — back-to-back postseason appearances and three trips to the playoffs in four years — has come from a plan built on patience.

And at the heart of that restoration project has been the Bengals’ defensive line. The franchise has built around its front four, a commitment reiterated again Monday as Cincinnati handed Pro Bowler Geno Atkins a five-year, $55 million extension.

Atkins, arguably the top defensive tackle in football, was to earn just $1.2 million this season on the final year of his rookie contract, with the specter of free agency looming after 2013. Rather than risk negotiating after the season or using the franchise tag, Cincinnati opted to pay up now, with Atkins securing $31 million in guaranteed money.

That move comes on the heels of the Bengals’ July decision to give DE Carlos Dunlap a contract extension worth $40 million. They then used the franchise tag on fellow end Michael Johnson, to the tune of $11.175 million. Add it all up and, per OvertheCap.com, the Bengals have committed more money to the defensive side of the football for 2013 (just shy of $64 million) than all but one other team (Kansas City).

Atkins’ well-deserved pay raise moves him near the top of the salary scale for interior defensive lineman, alongside Haloti Ngata (five years, $61 million) and Ndamukong Suh (five years, $60 million). Suh could be up for free agency after the 2014 season — his ’15 contract year is voidable, meaning he could walk. Suh and teammate Nick Fairley, whose deal also is set to end after 2014, could use Atkins’ contract as a barometer for their own demands.

The Bengals have mostly avoided contract headaches with their financial footwork this summer. The big decision forthcoming for them will be in relation to Johnson, who probably will become a free agent himself next offseason. Cincinnati prioritized contracts for Dunlap and Atkins over the 26-year-old end.

It’s hard to argue with either call. Dunlap, 24, appears to just now be tapping into his full range of talent. Atkins, meanwhile, is coming off a 12.5-sack 2012 season and, had it not been for J.J. Watt’s dominant season, may have had an argument for Defensive Player of the Year.

Cincinnati has molded the rest of its defense to work around what Atkins provides up front. Getting him locked up for the next several seasons ensures that the Bengals can continue on with that strategy, one that has paid dividends in the win column.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:12023 Followers:20
09/04/2013 03:48 PM

Cutler is the irreplaceable part for the 2013 Bears. You'd have a slot loose to think the Bears are going to put together a winning team without him, just as the Packers are unlikely to contend without Aaron Rodgers or the Patriots without Tom Brady. All are among the 14 NFL teams with just two quarterbacks on the active roster. Cutler has journeyman Josh McCown behind him, while 2012 seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman backs up Rodgers and third-year man Ryan Mallet is behind Brady.

You suspect the Bears could cut McCown if they wanted and he would be available to return any time they needed him. It wouldn't be a great idea to go into a season with just one quarterback, but metaphorically that's kind of what the Bears are doing.

The good news is Cutler has been amazingly durable with the Bears. He has started 56 of a possible 64 games since joining the team despite being sacked 148 times. The next time Cutler is sacked will mark the 200th of his career, counting his first three years with the Broncos. Nonetheless, if Cutler can be the primary starter for the Bears this season, he will become the first quarterback to do so in five consecutive years since Ed Brown's six straight years from 1955-60.

The Bears, of course, traditionally have been a team of great running backs and middle linebackers with the quarterback a true boogeyman position. Only four times in the last 31 years have the Bears had a single player start every game at quarterback, including just twice in the last 17 years. Scary stuff when you consider the Bears have needed three starters in eight of those 17 years, including four starters in 2004.

But quarterbacks are healthier than ever in the NFL. A whopping 20 teams started the same quarterback all season in 2012. Cutler missed just one game — at San Francisco because of a concussion. Four other quarterbacks missed only a single game too.

According to research by footballperspective.com, the 20 quarterbacks starting every game is an NFL record dating to 1953. On average, 13 quarterbacks started every game for their teams over the 10 previous years. Nobody seems quite certain if healthy quarterbacks are a new trend in the NFL or simply an aberration. Theories abound as to why signal callers have been able to withstand the pressure in a pass-happy league.

Part of the reason might be attributed to rules changes and points of emphasis among referees. The so-called "Brady Rule" instituted before the 2010 season prohibits a defender on the ground lunging at a quarterback. That presumably has prevented some season-ending knee injuries. Concussion awareness has led to an outlawing of helmet-to-helmet contact and the use of the crown of the helmet.

The Bears have made some strides to protect their quarterback better this year, bringing in four new starting offensive linemen, three new tight ends and a new offensive philosophy. Cutler has been encouraged to get the ball out quickly, hopefully to the point where he feels it is irresponsible to hang onto it. The Bears open their season Sunday against a Bengals defense that ranked sixth in the NFL a year ago, thanks in large part to a ferocious defensive line that produced 51 sacks, one off the league best and 10 more than the Bears managed. That's an average of 3.25 sacks a game and a frightening prospect even for a tough guy like Cutler.

He's durable but hardly shatterproof. And far too important to for any game of chance.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:12023 Followers:20
09/06/2013 02:20 PM

When Charlie Garner played for the Raiders, coach Jon Gruden nicknamed him I.O. for Instant Offense. Maybe Marc Trestman will come up with a moniker for Matt Forte because Garner, who enjoyed his best season playing in an offense similar to what has been installed for the Bears, calls Forte a better version of himself.

"I can't wait for the season," Garner said. "I am just looking forward to what they do with Forte because he possesses a lot of the same talents I had coming out of the backfield as a receiver and he's just a bigger, stronger individual. Have they been utilizing him like that?"

The Bears plan to have Forte all over the place when the season begins against the Bengals Sunday at Soldier Field. The running back also has roles that will have him lining up as an H-back, an F-tight end (also known as a move tight end) and wide receiver.

Garner, who played at 5 feet 10, 190 pounds, nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in 2002 when the Raiders reached the Super Bowl. Trestman was the offensive coordinator and Bears running backs coach Skip Peete had the same role then for the Raiders.

Garner ran for 962 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and caught 91 passes for 941 yards (10.3 ypc). While much of the Bears' success and the team's immediate future hinges on quarterback Jay Cutler, Forte could be the focal point of the offense.

The 6-2, 218-pound Forte has rushed for more than 1,000 yards three times in the last five seasons and had a career-high 63 receptions as a rookie in 2008 for 477 yards.

"He's going to be around that number (63) or better and he'll have a better yards per catch," Garner said. "They're able to isolate you against linebackers and safeties. With his size, speed and quickness, if he can get his route tree together, he is going to make them that much more effective.

"I like what Skip was trying to do with DeMarco (Murray) in Dallas, trying to get him more involved with the passing game. Trestman is the reason why I was able to touch the ball as many times as I did. He was getting me in those one-on-one situations and (quarterback) Rich Gannon was looking for me."

Forte has experience being lined up as a receiver as the Bears have done it in the red zone in the past to match him up on linebackers. Cutler is comfortable using him as a receiver, which is key.

Trestman lights up when talking about Garner, calling him a "violent" football player. "(Forte) is very similar," Trestman said. "Matt's definitely more explosive in the running game than Charlie was. Charlie was an exceptional third-down back, knew all the protections and excelled at getting out of the backfield and making things happen in the passing game — which Matt can do. If we can have Matt as a pass catcher as Charlie was and be able to run the ball as he can so well, it's a tough combo to deal with as a defense."

Forte's wide array of skills really has helped the Bears the last five seasons because they have had no need for a third-down back. Forte is superior to any situational option and that is what Trestman wants to maximize. The Bears have watched plenty of Raiders tape since Trestman arrived and Garner isn't the only back to excel under him. Derek Loville ran for 723 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 87 passes for the 49ers in 1995 when Trestman was the coordinator.

"I am not going to put a number on (catches)," Forte said. "There is an infinite amount of opportunities in this offense and I am excited about that, especially for the other guys too."

Forte has averaged 4.59 yards per carry over the previous three seasons after being at 3.78 in his his first two seasons. With offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer coming from the Saints, it gives the Bears a nice blend of ideas for the ground game. The Saints are known for a high-powered passing attack, but they ran the ball consistently well. Twice in the last four seasons, they ranked in the top five in yards per carry, and that was without the benefit of a mobile quarterback who can boost the average.

Kromer and the Saints pieced together the running back by committee. Forte and Michael Bush will share some roles and it's an upgrade for Kromer. "Matt graduated from Tulane with a finance degree," said Kromer, who was in Oakland with Trestman. "He's smart, he's tough, he works hard and he is a talented runner. You don't find those guys everywhere. You find parts of those guys and you put it together but it is hard to find the combination.

"Charlie was a sudden, small back. Phenomenal that year. But Matt is a different style because he is bigger, stronger. Charlie was sudden, really quick, tough little guy and he had his own way of going about it."

Garner agrees Forte has more dimensions. "It's going to be fun to watch what he does," Garner said. "Trust me."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0
coleryan Posts:12023 Followers:20
09/08/2013 08:32 AM

Pick

I have gone back and forth on this game trying to figure out what side to take. I can't pass on a game as I promised to make a pick but if I could it would be this one. The Bengals are hyped to be a very good team this year and the Bears are breaking in a new offense and a new coach. Until the front line shows they can protect Cutler, I will take the points and the better team.

Bengals +3.5

  • Last 7 Days Record: 6-4-0