The numbers surrounding the Chicago Bears have changed dramatically since the start of the NFL season.
Before the year began, most top NFL bookmakers felt Chicago would be improved from last year’s dismal last 5-11 last place finish in the NFC North. Super Bowl betting odds were +2000 with an over/under on wins at 7.5.
But now after an 11-5 turnaround under new head coach Matt Nagy and a division crown that nearly resulted in a first round bye, the Bears appear in position to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.
The Bears open the playoffs Sunday when they host Philadelphia in the first postseason game at Solider Field since 2010. Chicago is a -250 moneyline favorite with 888Sport in Wild Card weekend betting.
Why should NFL betting fans climb aboard?
One word describes what’s most to like about backing Chicago in the playoffs – defense. Chicago’s defense finished the season with 50 sacks and 27 interceptions. They are the first defense since the 2006 Baltimore Ravens to accumulate 45+ sacks AND 25+ interceptions in a single season.
They set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season, allowing just 1,280 yards on the ground all year.
Among the standouts on defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s squad are Khalil Mack, who immediately impacted an already strong effort when the Bears traded for the All-Pro linebacker. Mack had 12.5 sacks in the regular season a stat even more impressive considering he missed two games with an injury.
Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is second on the Bears with 7.5 sacks while linebacker Roquan Smith finished second all-time among Bears rookies with 122 tackles.
Chicago’s secondary led by defensive back Eddie Jackson (six INTs) and cornerback Kyle Fuller (7 INTs) was also one of the league’s best.
Chicago is 12-0 this season when holding opponents under 24 points and are 0-4 when allowing 24 or more.
While Chicago’s defense understandably has been in the spotlight, things on the offensive side of the ball have also been strong if at times uneven.
Jordan Howard leads Chicago’s running game, which is an important component to complement Trubisky’s passing attack. Howard ran for 935 yards and nine TDs in the regular season.
Ultraback Tarik Cohen is the offense’s X-factor. Cohen ran for 444 yards and three TDs but added 725 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver. Head coach Matt Nagy has a penchant for using Cohen in an array of out of the box offensive plays and that won’t stop in the playoffs.
Trubisky has been outstanding this year but he is still a young quarterback prone to mistakes. A fierce Philadelphia pass rush led by Fletcher Cox or a second-round Rams match-up with NFL sack leader Aaron Donald will put the pressure on Trubisky to be perfect.
Chicago has dealt with injuries throughout the year but there are some key players they need healthy for the playoffs.
Eddie Jackson did not play last week still nursing an ankle injury. Robinson also missed the Minnesota finale with injured ribs while Taylor Gabriel left the game – after a spectacular 40-yard diving catch – with a similar malady.
Oh, and rookie wide out Anthony Miller also came out early last week after reinjuring his shoulder. The Bears will need all their walking wounded to contribute.
Kicker Cody Parkey could be the proverbial Achilles’ heel for Chicago. He missed an extra point against Minnesota and hit the goal posts four times against Detroit; a game Chicago still won 34-22.
Overall Parkey is 23 of 30 on field goals with three missed extra points. Those 10 misses might loom large when Parkey is put into a high-pressure situation.
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