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Saturday, September 18

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Bears Tue Sep 29 2009

Footballic Ramblings: Are the Bears Good or Lucky?

With MegaTron and the rest of the suddenly "hot*" Detroit Lions rolling into Chicago this weekend for what is very much a "must-win" scenario for the Bears, I thought it'd be a good time to step back and look at how Chicago has gotten to its 2-1 record. Why is it already a must-win game for the Bears, you ask? Believe me, I'd love to say it's to avoid the cheap punchline of losing a game to Detroit [Wokka-wokka! -Ed.] but with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson manhandling entire defensive units and the Vikings winning games even when AP is help in check; the Vikes are shaping up to be the cream of the NFC North crop. Meanwhile, the Packers are tied with Chicago in the standings and essentially have a one game lead on the Bears thanks to Green Bay's Week One victory. So, there you go, Chicago needs to beat Detroit to keep up with their divisional Joneses.

Now the real question for Chicago is: "Exactly how good are the Bears?" If we're willing to wipe away the statistical aberration that was Cutler's first game, Jay-Bot 5000 has reverted back to his predictive performance models (lots of yards, TDs and few INTS, see also: the Inverse Grossman Principle). The receiving corps has flourished under Cutler with rookies such as Johnny Knox getting involved in the action right along with veterans such as Hester, Olsen and Bennett.

The question for the offense seems to be, shockingly, centered around the running game. Matt Forte could be struggling through an early season, sophomore slump, and at least in the Pittsburgh game, the offensive plan, for all intents and purposes, was to abandon the rush and let Cutler do the damage and he did pick apart the Steelers secondary for most of the game. The concern comes into play when we look at who else Forte has struggled against: Green Bay and Seattle, who aren't exactly "lighting" things up on defense. Forte is averaging 50 yards a game on 2.5 yards per carry and no touchdowns. [Insert frowny face emoticon -Ed.] These numbers beg the question, "Can Cutler and the Bears receivers win games all alone consistently?" Well, yes, probably, however, Cutler as proficient as he is at avoiding mistakes will throw more picks if he throws more attempts so it would behoove the offense to avoid turnovers and to get the running game going. The bad news? Detroit's run defense is actually fairly stout and much better than either Green Bay or Seattle and that's after the Lions played against Adrian Peterson. More bad news? MegaTron, Matthew Stafford and the rest of Detroit's aerial offense is shifting into high gear, well, a higher gear than MoTown has seen in a number of seasons decades. So the always hilarious potential for flaming cornerbacks and en flambe safeties is high on Sunday. However, since Nate Vasher's benching after Week One, the secondary has been modestly adequate against the Steelers and was, eh, oookay against Seattle.**

However, this all still leaves wiggle-room in the area of "Is Chicago good?" Arbitrarily the record says "YES!" "The Bears are 2-1 and have beaten the defending champs and won in a very hostile NFL arena (Qwest Field). Yet, the Bears have needed two missed field goals in each game to get to that record, so the Bears could just as easily be 1-2 or even, gulp, 0-3 at this point. Not to nerd out too much or belabor the luck factor when it comes to kicking field goals, but if you'd like to know about randomness and NFL kicking, peep here a great read from a great blog. So maybe for Chicago the adage proves true once again: "Tis far better to be lucky than to be wise good at football."

*Yes, a one-game winning streak qualifies as "hot" considering the last time the Lions won was 2007.

**Thanks largely in both cases due to the defensive line constantly creating pressure for the qb.

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