Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 7:00 AM
This was supposed to be the year the Chicago Bears returned to the NFL Playoffs. They took a big step forward last season under new head coach Marc Trestman. Jay Cutler was maturing into a quarterback that was FINALLY figuring out what it took to win consistently (if he could stay healthy!). The defense couldn’t possibly be any worse than it was last year. Pencil in slight improvement here and there…and this is a playoff team.
That’s why Chicago was -7 last week against Buffalo. But…Chicago couldn’t even beat Buffalo! Jay Cutler returned to his past “horrible-decision-making” form, and the defense showed very little evidence that they had improved on last year’s debacle. There’s no way this is a playoff team right now. Which creates an immediate sense of urgency Sunday Night when the Bears face a franchise many are picking to return to the Super Bowl in San Francisco.
Let’s crunch some numbers from last week to see if there’s any upset potential for the Monsters of the Midway…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Chicago: 0-1 (lost to Buffalo 23-20 at home in overtime)
San Francisco: 1-0 (beat Dallas 28-17 on the road)
Important to remember that San Francisco wasn’t exactly tested last week. They took advantage of multiple early Dallas miscues to coast to a 28-3 halftime advantage. There’s a chance that, given more of a sample size, BOTH teams will fail to match summer expectations.
Chicago: 6.2 on offense, 6.4 on defense
San Francisco: 5.9 on offense, 6.1 on defense
That looks just like last year for Chicago. They moved the ball on offense, but couldn’t stop their opponents. And, in the case of Buffalo, the Bears couldn’t stop a BAD offense with an inexperienced quarterback who had struggled through the Preseason. Horrible! But, look at San Francisco. You can see that the blowout margin last week was a bit of an illusion. The Niners had the same -0.2 differential per play as the Bears.
San Francisco: +4
Pencil in zeroes, and what happens? Chicago beats Buffalo, and possibly covers their spread (turnovers are worth about four points each on average). San Francisco is suddenly in a battle in Big D because they weren’t gifted so many cheap points. Sunday Night’s game has DEFINITE upset potential based on this category. Last week’s scoreboard results were so strongly turnover-influenced that any sort of regression gives us a ball game. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. San Francisco will apply pressure. Jay Cutler doesn’t always handle pressure well. But, sometimes he DOES and Chicago can win a clean game.
Chicago: failed to cover as a 7-point favorite
San Francisco: covered easily as 4-point favorites (up 28-3 at half)
The market missed both of these games by exactly a TD at the end of regulation. But, you now know that turnovers were the driving force behind those market misses rather than outright misreads of the teams. San Francisco wasn’t as good as they looked on the scoreboard…and may in fact return to the offensive struggles their first team faced all through the exhibition slate in terms of driving the field.
Current Line: San Francisco by 7, total of 48.5
This one could really blow up in any direction, regarding the side or the total. If Cutler makes mistakes, SF showed last week they know how to turn those into points against a soft defense. Chicago would probably lose by at least two TD’s this week if they lose the turnover category 0-2. But, a clean game from the Bears puts us into a coin flip situation that could create a crisis of confidence for a 49ers offense that struggled through the summer.
On the total…last week’s yards-per-play numbers suggest a shootout that could soar into the 50’s. But, the game is being played at a brand new stadium that’s had turf issues since action started. You know how something like that can kill scoring.
Question marks everywhere! JIM HURLEY knows how much you want to win the Sunday Night TV game. If there’s an edge to be found here, he’ll post the side or total winner as part of a TV Triple Crown or as a separate major release. You can always purchase his top plays here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office Saturday morning before kickoff at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you tomorrow to preview the Monday Night game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles and the Indianapolis Colts. Here’s the rest of the week’s tentative NOTEBOOK schedule…
Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Philadelphia at Indianapolis
Tuesday: College Football Notes or MLB Pennant Race Game Preview
Wednesday: NFL Notes or MLB Pennant Race Game Preview
Thursday: NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Friday: College Football Early Look…probably Florida at Alabama
Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Clemson at Florida State or Mississippi State at LSU
The season is sizzling already…and THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING! Visit the NOTEBOOK every day for great handicapping information, and link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK if you love devouring BIG, JUICY WINNERS!