There is a narrative prevalent on social media that says the Bears can turn their season around with wins today against the Broncos and Thursday night against the Commanders in Washington. Denver is 0-3 and coming off a loss in which its defense gave up 70 points. Washington is 2-1, coming off of a 37-3 loss to the Bills, and barely beat the Broncos the week before.
Are we still giving Matt Eberflus and his coaches a little too much credit for believing they can turn this team around? Do we believe Coach ‘Flus when he said the Bears “are close?”
News flash…Chicago isn’t close to turning things around. The Bears have no pass rush and a depleted secondary. Then again, Mike White of the Jets burned a healthy Chicago defense for 315 yards in a 31-10 win over Chicago last November. Things haven’t been much better this year, either.
- Jordan Love was 15-of-27 for 245 yards and three TDs in Week 1.
- Baker Mayfield was 26-of-34 for 317 yards and a score the following week.
- Patrick Mahomes was 24-of-33 for 272 yards and three TDs last week.
If you’re looking for the silver lining behind those dark clouds it’s that the Bears picked off Blaine Gabbert twice in five passing attempts after he replaced Mahomes last week. Those were Chicago’s first two turnovers of the season, but the defense still has just one sack. Russell Wilson has struggled to win since being traded from Seattle to Denver, but nothing in those stats indicates the Bears have any chance of stopping him and knocking off the Broncos. You can’t allow the opposing quarterback to complete 70% of his passes and expect to win.
The offense isn’t much better. Justin Fields looks like he’s regressed since last season, and the Bears have yet to establish a ground game. Succinctly put, Chicago’s defense is spending too much time on the field. The Bears can’t stop anybody, and Fields has trouble generating chunk plays and sustaining drives.
Are the Bears as close as Eberflus thinks they are? They are not. Denver is favored by three and a hook, the Bears are +140 on the money line (bet $100 to win $140), and the over/under is 46.5. I’m taking the Broncos minus the points and the under. Chicago will show some improvement on offense, but its defense is in for a long day.
October is getting off to a beautiful start in Chicago. Today’s predicted high is 78 degrees with winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Weather will not be a factor in this afternoon’s game.
- The Bears and their opponents have combined to score more than 46.5 points twice this season.
- The average total for Chicago’s games this season is 43 points, 3.5 fewer points than this game’s over/under.
- The Bears are winless against the spread this year (0-3-0).
- The Bears have lost both games they’ve played as underdogs this season.
- Chicago has played as an underdog of +140 or more once this season and lost that game.
- The Bears and Broncos are two of four remaining winless teams. The Vikings are also 0-3, as are the Panthers, their opponent today. Chicago could be looking at a Monday morning where it will be holding the top two picks in the 2024 draft with 13 games remaining.
- Chicago has defeated Denver in three of their last five contests.
- Denver has an average point total of 43 in their matchups this year, 3.5 fewer points than this game’s over/under.
- The Broncos are winless against the spread this season (0-3-0).
- The Broncos have been money line favorites just twice before this year and lost both games.
- Denver has played as a money line favorite of -165 or shorter in only one game this season, which it lost.
- Based on this matchup’s money line, the Broncos’ implied win probability is 61.8%.
Why the Bears Will Win
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 22, 2023
The Bears won’t win unless offensive coordinator Luke Getsy can ignite a stagnant ground game. The Broncos are giving up 177.7 yards rushing per game, and their pass defense isn’t any better. Opposing quarterbacks are 72-of-93 for 842 yards, though those stats are heavily skewed because of last week’s game. If Getsy can get his offense untracked, Fields could have a big day on the ground and in the air.
Expect Getsy to force Fields to stay in the pocket again. Why? The Broncos have created pressure on an NFL-low 20.4 percent of opponent dropbacks this season. For fans, today’s game offers an interesting case study of QB1 holding the ball too long. Fields needs to make his reads and make good decisions or Denver will eventually get to him.
The Bears will need to control the ball to win today’s game. Wilson is a lot better than most think and usually plays well against Chicago. Still, the nine-time Pro Bowler has been nothing but a scapegoat since arriving from Seattle. The Bears will have trouble containing and stopping Wilson, but if they can keep him in check, Chicago will emerge victorious. That’s a big ask for a defense that makes third-string quarterbacks look like league MVPs.
Why the Broncos Will Win
The Bears defense over the last two seasons combined under Matt Eberflus:
– 32nd in EPA/Play
– 32nd in Dropback EPA/Play
– 32nd in pressure rate
– 32nd in pressure rate w/ four-man rush
– 32nd in sacks per game
– 32nd in yards conceded per coverage snap pic.twitter.com/5GzOO3hjJd
— Ollie Connolly (@OllieConnolly) September 24, 2023
Forgive me for saying so, but the Broncos have a better defense than the Bears despite giving up 10 touchdowns and 70 points to Miami last week. Ok, that’s not statistically accurate, but I’m done watching Chicago try to stop anybody. Head coach Sean Payton will ensure that the loss to the high-powered Dolphins will be Denver’s key motivating factor.
How bad is the Bears’ defense?
Chicago has just a 1% sack rate on defense, the worst in the NFL, and allows 8.7 yards per pass, which is 31st. Wilson threw for 306 yards against the Dolphins, and Denver is averaging nearly 360 yards of offense per game.
The Bears are 3-17 under Eberflus and have allowed 25 + points in 13 straight losses dating back to last year. Sadly, it seems like Denver is more tired of losing than Chicago is. The Bears haven’t delivered an inspiring performance since beating the Patriots 33-24 last October. Yes, it’s been nearly one full year since Chicago last won a football game. The Broncos will play energized football today and I don’t think the Bears will match their intensity. Eberflus seems to have lost his team, or, at the very least, his message is not resonating with his players.
- Fields needs a breakout game. QB1 is 5-23 as a starter, has a paltry 67.7 passer rating, and fans are already calling for backup Tyson Bagent. Fields has 109 yards rushing after running for 1,143 in 2023.
- Wilson is on a pace to throw for 4,482 yards and 34 scores, and should easily be able to pad his stats against a depleted and, let’s face it, downright bad defense.
- The Bears have a league-low one sack after finishing last in the NFL a year ago with 20. Eberflus insists that the sacks are there, but believes his defense has trouble finishing plays. Okay then, the sacks aren’t there.
- The Broncos missed 24 tackles and allowed 726 total yards in last week’s blowout loss. Denver ranks last in total defense and at stopping the run.
- The Bears have been outscored 529 (26.5 PPG) to 373 (18.7) since Eberflus took over.
- Chicago has yet to have a game this season where a running back gained at least 100 yards. Khalil Herbert has 93 yards on 23 carries in three games. Roschon Johnson has 90 yards on 17 carries, and D’Onta Foreman has been held to 16 rushing yards. The Bears have two rushing TDs, one each by Fields and Johnson.
Did You Know?
The Bears have started 11 quarterbacks since the beginning of the 2016 season. The Broncos have trotted out 12 during the same span. Both teams missed out on a potential star when they held a top-five pick. The Bears chose Mitchell Trubisky instead of Mahomes in 2017. The Broncos passed on Josh Allen in favor of pass rusher Bradley Chubb in 2018 (courtesy of The Athletic).
The Broncos also passed on Fields when he left Ohio State.
Game Day Quote
“You make excuses. You blame this, you blame that, you blame injury, you blame circumstance, you blame all these things. [We] can’t do that. The circumstance is the circumstance. You’ve got to execute and do what you’re supposed to do. Do your job every single day. You never know when it’s right around the corner. That’s our attitude. We’re determined.” – Eberflus
- Bears: Three of Chicago’s defensive backs have been ruled out due to injury. Eddie Jackson (foot), Josh Blackwell (hamstring), and Jaylon Johnson (hamstring) did not practice all week. Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson has been ill but is probable for today’s game. Running back Travis Hosmer has an ankle injury and he’s marked questionable for today’s tilt.
- Broncos: Linebackers Frank Clark (hip) and Josey Jewell (hip) are out. DT Mike Purcell has a rib injury and is also out. Safety Justin Simmons is dealing with a hip injury and is listed as questionable.
Chicago Players of the Game
Roschon Johnson is out here emasculating dudes pic.twitter.com/OMfMDnBxNW
— Nash (@NashTalksTexas) September 10, 2023
Fields will have a big game but it won’t be enough to sway the fanbase in his favor. Darnell Wright improves every week and will be a stud today. Jack Sanborn, T.J. Edwards, and Tremaine Edmunds will have good games, but only because Chicago’s front four can’t stop anybody. Herbert or Johnson will gain 100 yards today. The only person who can stop them is Getsy.
We could see the debut of Bagent if the Bears fall behind quickly. Nathan Peterman is inactive this week, bumping the undrafted rookie to QB2, which means the coaching staff is very confident in him. Chase Claypool is also inactive, meaning Equanimeous St. Brown will play. St. Brown is a tremendous blocker and should help Chicago’s running attack. Claypool was critical of the coaching staff this week.
Our own Sean Holland previewed today’s game on Friday and predicted a 28-24 win by the Broncos. I’ll take Denver 26-17 over Chicago, which means the Bears will probably squeeze out a victory. Like Chicago, I am 0-3 this season.