You Can't Run on the Bears!

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

BEARS DEFENSE HAS BEEN OVERSHADOWED
BY HYPE ABOUT MARTZ, CUTLER

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

The Chicago Bears are off to a 3-0 start in the 2010 season as they head into a nationally televised Sunday Night game against the NY Giants. Most or all the credit has basically gone to quarterback Jay Cutler and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Yes...the Bears are playing better on offense than they have in years (decades). But, it's only three games...and that's still a volatile mix of ingredients. Martz attacks are turnover prone. Cutler is prone to make horrible decisions (Green Bay penalties bailed him out of a few this past Monday Night). That's likely to matter against somebody even if turnovers haven't been an issue since a sluggish Week One vs. Detroit.

What nobody is noticing so far is how well the Chicago defense is playing. Part of that is because they're allowing 'bend but don't break' yardage in a way that doesn't help the stat rankings. If you focus on rushing yardage allowed, takeaways, and drive points allowed, you'll see that the Bears may have become a force on BOTH sides of the ball.

RUSHING YARDS ALLOWED
20 yards vs. Detroit
36 yards vs. Dallas
63 yards vs. Green Bay

You know the benchmark for a team is 100 rushing yards. Offenses hope to crack the century mark. Defenses try to prevent opponents from doing so. Nobody's cracked the century mark, or the 90-mark, or the 80-mark, or the 70-mark so far against the Bears. Two teams failed to reach 40! Talk about a brick wall!

This is one of the big underreported stories of the year thus far. The Bears rush defense is solid as a rock, and it needs to start getting attention. This could be very important down the road once the weather turns too. If opponents HAVE to pass to move the ball, and inclement weather is making it difficult to pass, the Bears are going to squash some opponents like a bug.

TAKEAWAYS
3 forced turnovers against Detroit
3 forced turnovers against Dallas
2 forced turnovers against Green Bay

An advantage of stopping the run cold is that opponents have to go to a more high risk attack to try and move the ball. It's very difficult to play mistake-free ball in the air. Chicago has done a good job of forcing mistakes through three games. You regulars know that forcing 1 or 0 on a consistent basis is soft. Two is okay, because the league average is a bit below that. Chicago is CONSISTENTLY doing a good job in this category.

DRIVE POINTS (allowed on drives of 60 yards or more)
7 points allowed to Detroit
7 points allowed to Dallas
17 points allowed to Green Bay

We consider this the best indicator stat in all of sports. The 17 vs. Green Bay is far from heroic. But, these are the Packers we're talking about...one of the most explosive offenses in the game. Dallas has an explosive offense too, but could only score a TD. We're looking at an average of 10.33 against a reasonably challenging schedule. And, the median (midpoint) is just 7, which is excellent.

Normally we use third down conversions in defensive evaluations too. That can be misleading with the 'bend but don't break' because they bend on midfield third down plays before not breaking closer to the goal line they're defending. Chicago is giving up some third downs conversions in their efforts to challenge opponents to stay perfect. To this point, they're winning that battle.

So, from this point forward, be sure you're considering the Chicago DEFENSE in addition to its offense as you handicap their games and their potential run at the playoffs. Sure, there's a lot of football left to be played. A 3-0 start is a big deal based on historical precedent. And, if Brett Favre is toast. The divisional race just got easier.

What does all of this defensive stuff have to do with TONIGHT'S game against the Giants? Let's look at what New York has done on the ground.

NY GIANTS RUSHING YARDAGE
118 yards vs. Carolina in a blowout win
120 yards at Indianapolis in a blowout loss
107 yards vs. Tennessee in a home implosion

The Giants can run. This will provide a very good test for the Bears defense. If they can hold the Giants below 100 yards, we may well be looking at a contender for the conference crown as odd as that sounds. It's been a while since we thought of Chicago as being up with teams like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and the NY Jets as a defensive elite. Stick Jay Cutler and a productive offense with a defensive elite...and you're really on to something.

But, if the Giants are able to own the point of attack, we'll have a better sense of where Chicago really stands in the big picture.

To us, the turnover category will probably be the key.

NY GIANTS GIVEAWAYS
4 turnovers vs. Carolina
3 turnovers at Indianapolis
3 turnovers vs. Tennessee

What a disaster! It's as if Jamarcus Russell is throwing passes rather than Eli Manning. Some in the media are blaming receivers for interceptions rather than Eli. That's fair in some cases. But, Eli has a tendency to throw too hard, or to throw too high. That's when interceptions off deflections happen.

Clearly, Sunday Night's game shapes up as a risk/reward battle where the Bears will bend a little in hopes of taking the ball away...against a team that's been way too generous with the ball so far this season.

Let Bob Costas and the guys talk about Jay Cutler and Mike Martz. We're sure the pre-taped interview with Cutler about his disappointing past will be captivating in high def! YOU need to focus on what's going to determine who covers.

*Will Cutler stay cool?
*Will Eli keep imploding?
*Will the Giants rally in a must-win spot?
*Will Chicago fall flat after a huge divisional MNF victory?
*Are these two ships passing in the night, or two ships about to regress to the mean?

JIM HURLEY has trusted sources in both of these great gambling cities. He's got a read on the mindset of each team heading into the big game. He's got a read on what the money's doing as well as it tracks its way offshore and to Las Vegas. If there's an edge to be found, NETWORK WILL FIND IT!

You can purchase our entire Sunday slate right now online. You'll have to sign up to see if Chicago/NYG is part of the package. Other games of interest that could show up on the card are:

Baltimore at Pittsburgh
San Francisco at Atlanta
NY Jets at Buffalo
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Washington at Philadelphia

If you prefer doing business over the phone, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to check on our BLUE RIBBON, CLOSED CIRCUIT, and TOUCHDOWN clubs as well. Hey, the baseball playoffs start this week. You can add in postseason baseball to any football package at a great rate.

Back tomorrow to preview the New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins game on ESPN. Right now, you've got Sunday action to worry about. Take care of business NOW so you get full value!

JOIN JIM HURLEY FOR ANOTHER SUPER SUNDAY IN THE NFL!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

22
Nov

Today’s Hot Plays