There are plenty of football analysts with opinions. But Football Outsiders bases their insights on numbers, trends and complex analyses.
And their conclusion of the 2010 Chicago Bears is that they are a playoff team.
By and a large, I'd say that's not a popular opinion. But their 10-page analysis of the Bears in the Football Outsiders 2010 Almanac has them finishing with a 9-7 record, good for a wildcard spot (they have the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC North).
I encourage you to read the Almanac (available at Amazon) for yourself, but I pulled a few points for your perusal.
* They expect Martz, based on his past, to improve the Bears offense to at least middle of the pack. "Our projection system is even more optimistic, with strong expectation of a rebound when it comes to Cutler (particularly his interception total) and Forte (especially his goal-line performance).
* They question Darryl Drake's ability to develop young receivers, despite his strong pedigree. "Drake really doesn't have a record of strong success," they write. "Hines Ward (at Georgia) is the only receiver Drake developed at any level who has achieved unquestionable success in the NFL."
* On Julius Peppers: "If Peppers is everything the Bears dream of, this year's defense should look a lot like that of the 2006 Bears, which dragged that team to the Super Bowl."
* They note that Devin Hester was targeted just 11 times in the red zone, although the average No. 1 receiver was targeted 16 times. Hester caught five of those passes, including one touchdown. "In the most important part of the field, where execution and
precision route-running are most important, Hester completely disappeared. Things may get even worse for the young receiver in 2010, adapting to a new playbook and call system which is orders of magnitude more complex than any he has dealt with before."
* On the offensive line: "No matter how you want to distribute the blame pie, the
offensive line deserves a large piece, as [Matt] Forte spent the year running into wall after wall of defenders and [Jay] Cutler was constantly under pressure."
* On Cutler's time to make decisions: "One reason for Jay Cutler's problems: He was hurried on 22.0 percent of pass plays, the fourth-highest rate in
* By their rating, the Bears had the worst red-zone running offense in the NFL, "the worst
in the league by a country mile.
"Forte took the ball 19 times inside the opponent's five-yard line and came away with only two touchdowns, compared to an expected total of 7.7."
* On the linebackers: "The addition of Julius Peppers, the almost comic misuse of Chicago's linebackers should come to an end. Brian Urlacher should return without any lingering issues from his gruesome wrist injury, but there are serious questions
about how effective the six-time Pro Bowler will be in the coming year.
* On the secondary: "Chicago's cornerbacks will not be the most fearsome pair in the league, but they are both a good fit for Lovie Smith's scheme and should once again provide consistent coverage should the Bears be able to transition back to a more
Tampa-2 style defense."
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