The Chicago Bears are receiving high projections in NFL preseason magazines like Lindy’s and Street and Smith’s. And as per BetOnline.ag, they boast an 8.5 over/under win projection.
For a team like the Bears who struggled all over the place on offense (they failed to rank better than 20th in every major category), they finished 8-8 thanks to strong defensive play.
In a league that now favors offense, 8.5 appears to be asking for a lot. But as the adage goes, winning in the NFL starts with great defense.
They may also boast the league’s biggest sleeper at quarterback and under-the-radar pass catchers. Overall, things may look better in Chicago than at first glance.
If they do, you can grow bullish on their projection in 2020 and perhaps sneak in a playoff bet. Here are five reasons to consider placing the over bet.
1. Foles Gold or Foles Errand?
Nick Foles is one of the most mysterious quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2013, he tossed for 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions after taking the starting job.
After a couple of unsuccessful stints elsewhere as a part-time starter, Foles returned to Philadelphia as a full-time backup to Carson Wentz. When Wentz went down with a torn ACL, the Eagles looked finished.
Foles had other ideas, taking the team through the playoffs, where they won their first Super Bowl win as a franchise. Foles won the MVP award for the game and pulled off one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl and NFL history.
After another year backing up and playing in Wentz’s spot as needed, Foles found himself in Jacksonville as the starting quarterback. He flopped in a season where a swashbuckling rookie sensation named Gardner Minshew outperformed him.
Now, he is in Chicago, where he faces Mitchell Trubisky, trying to win the starting job.
No one expected much out of the third-round pick back in 2013. Foles is heavy-footed and one of the least mobile quarterbacks in football, except he found his rhythm.
In 2017, everyone wrote the Eagles off as one-and-done in the playoffs. But Foles ended up beating Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl. In 2018, Foles and the Eagles upset the Bears in the playoffs with a little luck.
When teams handed Foles the starting job, as in 2014 and 2019, he stumbled. Foles went from stud to dud in 2014. In 2019, he went 0-4 in games he started while Minshew finished 6-6. Minshew became a fan favorite while they booed Foles out of town.
Now, he faces the same adversity in Chicago. Written off as a glorified backup quarterback who must learn the playbook fast because of the lack of workouts and preseason games. Foles faces arguably more adversity in 2020 than any other time in his career.
If Foles starts over Trubisky, the latter of whom is already on his way out with the team declining his fifth-year option, then the Bears are a safer bet at NFL betting sites for the over.
2. New Monsters of the Midway
The Bears continued to trim the fat and build lean defensive muscle. They cut draft bust Leonard Floyd and solid yet unspectacular defensive backs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Prince Amukamara.
They replaced the ineffective Floyd with Robert Quinn, who logged double-digit sacks with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019.
They also boast one of the best defensive units in football, and there isn’t a weak unit on the field.
The defense is at its best with end Akiem Hicks on the field, especially for outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who forced four fumbles with Hicks in the six games they played together and one fumble in the 10 games without Hicks.
Nose tackle John Jenkins won’t produce numbers on the stat sheet. Most defensive tackles in the 3-4 defense don’t. But he will force running backs to change direction, filling gaps and eating blocks. He will draw consistent double-teams, freeing up his converging linebackers.
He isn’t Eddie Goldman, who took advantage of the 2020 opt-out clause, but he is a viable consolation.
Kyle Fuller continues to lock down one side as the team’s top corner. He made back-to-back Pro Bowls and is looking for more. The other end is undecided, but rookie second-round pick Jaylon Johnson is the favorite. Johnson and Fuller can become one of the NFL’s top corner duos if Johnson catches on quickly.
Eddie Jackson returns as one of the NFL’s top safeties.
Jack will team with Tashaun Gipson, who continues his solid career in Chicago.
If the defense had a flaw, it was the starters struggling to stay healthy. Hicks and defensive end Bilal Nichols missed time with injuries, with Hicks missing 10 games. Smith missedfour4 games and Trevathan missed seven games.
They also finished fourth in points allowed.
One of the blessings given in a lack of preseason in 2020 comes in the form of outstanding units minimizing injury risk that is higher when preseason is a go. For 2020, it raises the chances of the unit entering the regular season healthy.
3. Hidden Pass Catching Gems
Allen Robinson regained his old form, hauling in 98 receptions. He will help either Trubisky or Foles perform well, regardless of who ends up under center.
Anthony Miller is another one to watch. He is injury prone, but he logged 52 receptions. If he stays healthy, the quarterbacks have another solid option to move the ball downfield.
You can’t say enough about Tarik Cohen’s pass-catching ability.
While he struggled in the running game, he caught 79 passes thrown his way. His yards per reception must increase, but he is a sure-handed target out of the backfield.
While the Bears appear set with Robinson, Cohen, and perhaps Miller, they brought in the aging but reliable Ted Ginn Jr. Ginn never impressed in his multiple stops since his rookie season in 2007, but he always performed well in a rotational role.
Finally, Jimmy Graham joins the Bears.
While he didn’t have the season many expected from him in Green Bay, he provides one of the NFL’s best security blankets for the quarterbacks.
While it is true, none of these names jump out and shout “game changer,” each is solid enough to produce regardless of who the Bears select as their starting quarterback.
If the right quarterback is in place and the Bears will insert them, they will make plays to put the team in position to win.
4. Manageable Schedule
For one, the NFC North looks like a toss-up between three decent teams. The Packers are the favorites in 2020, but the Aaron Rodgers front office drama can sink them. While an angry Aaron often wins, his performance continues to decline and his skill players aren’t the sharpest.
The Vikings look good on paper, but they let a lot of seasoned veterans go because of salary cap constraints. They also traded their best receiver in Stefon Diggs. The front office loaded the Vikings with talent, but their new players have big shoes to fill.
They reloaded rather than rebuilt, but the new kids on the Viking ship must catch on before they even face a staunch opponent. Justin Jefferson must replace Diggs. And you can expect Jeff Gladney to replace Trae Waynes. Third-year reserve corners Mike Hughes and Holton Hill must replace Xavier Rhodes and Mackenzie Alexander. Difficult when there are no practice games and a mere 50 days from the first day of training camp to Week 1.
The Lions look like the epitome of a mess in the NFL. Their defense is historically bad. Their starting quarterback is returning from another back injury. Their coach is on a seat hotter than any other in the NFL.
For the Bears, it plays well into their hands. They swept the Vikings in 2019. Sure, the Week 17 matchup was meaningless. They beat the Lions twice. And while the Packers swept them, it was with a content Rodgers.
The NFC South has three solid teams in the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Atlanta Falcons. The Carolina Panthers look like a sure win in 2020 given their roster turnover.
The NFC South will challenge the Bears, but given the talent on defense, they make for a good matchup with the entire division. Look for the team to put up a fight against each NFC South opponent with the defense keeping them in the games.
The AFC South is a division where the winner could finish 9-7. While it’s not a historically bad division, no team in the AFC South will strike fear in opponents.
The Houston Texans traded their best receiver and offensive playmaker for an ailing running back. The Indianapolis Colts have their faith in a 38-year-old gunslinger. The Tennessee Titans are banking Ryan Tannehill’s 2019 wasn’t a fluke, nor their Cinderella playoff run.
And the Jacksonville Jaguars are, well, even opposing NFL experts aren’t sure what’s going on. But when starting players are demanding trades, it is nothing good. Maybe they’re tanking for Trevor Lawrence?
You won’t see the Bears favored to win all these games, but they match up well against every opponent on the schedule.
If the 2017 or even 2018 version of Nick Foles shows, watch out.
Projecting 8.5 wins appears to be asking a lot for a Bears team who won’t figure out who will start at quarterback until teams take the field for training camp.
It also figures to be a weird training camp, and it isn’t the best year to have a quarterback competition.
However, this is often where Nick Foles excels, so expect the same in 2020. He has decent pass catchers to help him and the team overachieve, along with one of the NFL’s best defenses.
Hey, the best Bears teams always have excellent defenses. What is this? Monsters of the Midway 5.0, or something?
Give us your thoughts on the Bears. Can their defense hold and their offense improve to clear the 8.5 threshold and maybe return to the playoffs?