Chicago Sun-Times

Football Outsiders projects Bears to reach playoffs

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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
the league."

* 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."

To learn more about Football Outsiders, check out their website

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Sean, did you get any good points from that Almanac? It says the Bears will make the playoffs but every point you say is negative! You're as bad as 90% of you're bloggers! GO BEARS!

I always like to see these guys getting mentioned, though I tend to find their pure statistics much more interesting than a lot of their more traditional editorial analysis. For instance, you don't mention it here, but they write about Al Afalava as if he's practically a shoo-in for a starting safety spot. He didn't even make the roster. And I can't think anyone who follows the Bears closely was especially surprised by that.

I would be interested to hear what you think about their new DVOA projections that have the Bears with the #2 defense in the league.

Good to see Sean Jensen's true purple and piss colors after reading his tweets during the Saints/Vikings game.

I don't think these guys know anything about football. Analyzing stats has nothing to do with knowledge of the game. Stats can be used to supplement what you see, but what you see has to be the foundation of what you know. Otherwise, you end up with conclusions that have no basis in reality, like Afalava being a starter in 2010. And the Bears having the No. 2 defense? Based on what, the fact that they can't tackle, get consistent QB pressure, or stop other teams on 3d down?

marcusm-- You may be mistaken. They have the Bears D projected as the 2nd best fantasy defense in the league, not the 2nd best defense in the league.

Actually Warren, believe it or not their numbers really do project the Bears as the #2 DVOA defense, behind only the Ravens (with the Bills(!) in 3rd and the Jets 4th).

Also, Sky High rocks.

I love the footballoutsiders, and its a good point that you can't rely on stats but they specialize in breaking us out of our mold of looking at the same QB rating, yards per game, total defense.

By specifying niches and trying to isolate effects in any realm of numbers, you'll get much more transparent rankings. For a vanila example, removing spiked balls from the completion ratio. Think of how baseball has changed since Moneyball, with players OBP+SLG shown when they reach the plate. That wasn't happening 10 years ago.

DVOA is a great judge of defense, although I sometimes question the projections. I fully expect the Bears D to be top 10 this year, though, so I don't think they're that off.

It's just statistical analysis, similar to any type of forecasting. But I'd encourage you all to take a look at the calculations of their numbers before you read into/dismiss them outright. The beauty is in the breakdown and even if you don't agree with the implication, chances are you will gain some insight or fresh perspective.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on September 9, 2010 8:31 AM.

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