The Eagles won in Week 1, while the Bears lost their first game of the season to the Texans. Is this a good sign for when the Eagles and the Bears meet up on Monday Night Football in Week 2? Who knows? We certainly don't.
To try and figure things out, I asked Jeff Berckes from Windy City Gridiron five questions to see if he could help me figure out the Eagles' second opponent of the season.
Here's what we talked about!
1. Jay Cutler is very hard to figure out for basically anyone, but someone who watches the Bears sixteen times per year has a better chance than someone who watches them once a year. WCG had him as one of their three winners after Week 1. What did he do well against Houston, and what does he (still) need to work on?
Cutler is a polarizing figure among Bears fans and there is no lonelier job in the world than trying to defend his game to the average football fan. I would argue that he’s been a slightly above average quarterback in his career with an arm that assumes he should be elite.
The arm is a blessing and a curse as he forces balls he shouldn’t and will sometimes implode with a string of bad decisions that seem to make him press harder. With a revolving door at offensive coordinator in his Chicago tenure, he’s dealt with ineffective and outdated schemes, outmatched coordinators, poor offensive lines, and a general lack of weapons in the passing game. Adam Gase was able to cut down on the mistakes last year with a largely untalented receiving corps as Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, and Eddie Royal all missed significant time. They ranked a surprising 10th in DVOA according to Football Outsiders.
New OC Dowell Loggains will try to put Cutler in similar positions to succeed and with weapons on the outside finally healthy, the table is set for an even better year this season. Like any quarterback, he can benefit from time in the pocket and receivers who convert their opportunities.
2. Three of the four teams in the NFC North won on opening Sunday. The Bears were the fourth team. What are your expectations for this team in 2016? Can they win eight games? Is that too optimistic?
The writers at Windy City Gridiron gave predictions and rationale ranging from 7 to 10 wins. The general consensus is that this team is a year away from making any legitimate noise in terms of pushing for the playoffs and maybe doing something when they’re there. Personally, I said 10 wins because I’m generally an optimist and the Bears benefit from a softer schedule with the NFC East and AFC South as two of the weaker divisions by record in 2015.
3. The Eagles kept the Browns' run game largely in check in Week 1. The Bears are entering the second week of the post-Matt Forte era. How did Jeremy Langford look against the Texans, and what kind of a runner is he, compared to Forte?
Matt Forte is a true class act and an absolute pleasure to watch. His game can be most accurately described as "smooth" and for a franchise known for running backs, he could be put into a Bears "Ring of Honor" if such a thing existed with no argument from me.
Jeremy Langford is no Matt Forte. Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus did a nice piece on why you want to avoid Langford in fantasy football. The short version is that he doesn’t break very many tackles and he doesn’t create opportunities for himself. He’s also not nearly the talent in the passing game that Forte provides. As the Bears move into a zone blocking running game, the hope is that his vision will get him to the second level more often and he will use his deceptive speed to break big plays.
The Bears drafted a bigger back in Jordan Howard this past April. The hope with Howard is that he can eventually be a between the tackles runner and goal line back, but he didn’t touch the ball in Week 1 and the progression will likely remain slow and steady this season. Ideally Langford, Howard, and third-year man Ka’Deem Carey form a backfield by committee that John Fox has favored in the past.
4. Brock Osweiler, playing his first regular season game with a new team and system, seemed to have a good game against Vic Fangio's defense. Carson Wentz is obviously only playing his second game, ever, on Monday. What can we (and Wentz) expect to see from Fangio's pass rush and the secondary?
The front seven is improved from last year with a pair of professional inside linebackers signed in free agency (Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman) and top draft pick Leonard Floyd at outside linebacker to go with last year’s free agent prize Pernell McPhee (watch and enjoy) and ascending rookie DT Eddie Goldman.
The hope is that the new front seven can fully make the transition from 4-3 to 3-4 base and stop to run and that there’s enough pass rushing talent with Floyd, McPhee (currently on the PUP), Willie Young, and Lamaar Houston to create pressure to hide the weak secondary. Fangio was a good get for Chicago at defensive coordinator and he was able to coax the 8th most hurries out of a lesser talented unit last year (tied with the Eagles).
Assuming that hurries and sack percentage increase with additional talent, Wentz can expect more pressure than he faced against Cleveland. If the Eagles offensive line can pick it up and give him time, he should be able to find success against an underwhelming secondary (31 passing TDs vs 8 INTs in 2015) filled with young players and the inconsistent Tracy Porter. For those of you who put stock in PFF, Matt Claassen ranked the Bears secondary 31st in the league and even the projected starting unit is banged up and missing time.
5. Y'all got rid of franchise kicker Robbie Gould, like, super close to the start of the season! How wild was that? Are you generally nervous about entering the season with Connor Barth, who hasn't kicked more than 12 games in a season since 2012, as the man? He didn't even get to attempt a field goal in Week 1.
Robbie Gould was a mainstay for the Bears for many years, the team’s all-time leading scorer, and the last remaining vestige of the 2006 Super Bowl team. He was scheduled to make a hefty salary despite his recent struggles (33-39 last year) including missing some pressure kicks. The club cut Gould and added Barth to help clear room for the Josh Sitton signing and claiming it was an upgrade based on Barth’s accuracy inside 40 yards. While I suspect it was more the former more than the latter, I don’t think Connor Barth solves the kicking problem for the future and it will be an offseason need to be addressed.
Bonus! Score prediction?