cnotes Posts:33167 Followers:38
08/22/2012 12:02 PM

NFL Season Preview: Chicago Bears

To get you prepared for the upcoming NFL season, we continue our run of all 32 team previews, rolling out one per day from August 1 to September 1. For complete coverage, download your copy of the 2012 StatFox Edge Football Preview. Up next is the Chicago Bears, whose odds are set at 3/1 to win the NFC North division.


2011 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-8
ATS Record: 7-8-1
Over/Under: 9-7
Points Scored: 22.1 PPG (17th in NFL)
Points Allowed: 21.3 PPG (14th in NFL)
2012 Odds:
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Odds to Win NFC North: 3/1
Odds to Win NFC Championship: 8/1
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLVII: 15/1
Regular Season Wins Over/Under: 9.5

2012 Preview:
New offensive coordinator Mike Tice coached the offensive line for the past two years, so there will be few changes to the running game. They figure to skew as run-heavy as they did under Mike Martz last year (46.6 percent rush percentage, seventh-highest in the NFL). Tice’s scheme involves a lot of stuff outside the tackles, then a healthy mix of inside zone plays. Assuming he’s signed, Matt Forte figures to have only a slightly lesser workload than a year ago, when he played about 70 percent of the reps. Michael Bush should take closer to 35-40 percent of reps, and he could end up stealing short-yardage duties as well. The Bears often struggled to get a push in a short field last year, so it’s no guarantee they’ll stay run-heavy in the red zone.

The Bears’ passing game will look different. They brought in Jeremy Bates, who was close with Jay Cutler in Denver, as quarterbacks coach. Rather than the anticipatory throws required in Martz’s offense, Cutler will be hitting big receivers facing him. Brandon Marshall is reunited with Cutler and should see a heavy majority of passes. Rookie Alshon Jeffery is expected to start and, despite his questionable long speed, will probably be asked to stretch the field a bit more. They’ll go three-wide with Earl Bennett playing the slot often. The tight ends will be used more than they were in Martz’s offense, especially Kellen Davis.

The star of the defense is Julius Peppers, who still dominated in all facets in 2011 despite playing through a knee injury. He sees a lot of double teams playing on an otherwise mediocre defensive line whose only other notable player is Israel Idonije. After years as a backup, Idonije worked hard to become a starter in 2010 and has had two strong seasons. Linebacker Brian Urlacher is coming off back-to-back 100-tackle seasons, but he’s also coming off a major knee sprain that could linger at least into training camp. Lance Briggs looked half a step slow last year, failing to record double-digit total tackles in a game even once after Week 3. Charles Tillman is outstanding in run support, not so much in coverage, where he’s undersized and was targeted an NFL-high 117 times last year. He’s involved in as many plays as anyone on this defense. Special teams is where Chicago continues to excel, largely because of the reliable right leg of kicker Robbie Gould and superstar Devin Hester, the best return man in NFL history.

Key Offseason Moves:
QB Jason Campbell (from Raiders)
RB Michael Bush (from Raiders)
RB Lorenzo Booker (from Vikings)
WR Brandon Marshall (from Dolphins)
WR Rashied Davis (from Lions)
WR/KR Eric Weems (from Falcons)
G Chilo Rachal (from 49ers)
DT Brian Price (from Buccaneers)
DT John McCargo (from Buccaneers)
LB Geno Hayes (from Buccaneers)
LB Blake Costanzo (from 49ers)
CB Kelvin Hayden (from Falcons)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (from Broncos)

QB Caleb Hanie (Broncos)
RB Marion Barber (retired)
T/G Frank Omiyale (Seahawks)
DT Amobi Okoye (Buccaneers)
DT Anthony Adams (released)
CB Zack Bowman (Vikings)
CB Corey Graham (Ravens)
S Brandon Meriweather (Redskins)

2012 Schedule:
2012 Schedule Strength: 20.00 (21st toughest in NFL)
Week 1 - Indianapolis
Week 2 - at Green Bay
Week 3 - St. Louis
Week 4 - at Dallas
Week 5 - at Jacksonville
Week 6 - BYE WEEK
Week 7 - Detroit
Week 8 - Carolina
Week 9 - at Tennessee
Week 10 - Houston
Week 11 - at San Francisco
Week 12 - Minnesota
Week 13 - Seattle
Week 14 - at Minnesota
Week 15 - Green Bay
Week 16 - at Arizona
Week 17 - at Detroit

StatFox Take: Although this franchise has reached 10 wins just once in the past five seasons, this friendly schedule is definitely conducive to double-digit victories for the Bears. They will be heavily favored in non-divisional home games versus the Colts, Rams, Panthers and Seahawks, and trips to face the rebuilding Jaguars, Titans and Cardinals should also provide favorable road outcomes for Chicago. As long as the Bears can finish .500 in a tough NFC North division, they should have no problem reaching the Over here.
Prediction: OVER 9.5 wins (-115)

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