Wednesday, December 27, 2006

27.3% Super Bowl Shuffle

The Bears are more likely than any other team in the NFL to win the Super Bowl. Let me know when you're done laughing, and we'll continue. Ready? OK. I'm not saying the Bears are the best team in the NFL. The Ravens, Chargers and Patriots are all better. Even the Jaguars, who will miss the playoffs without help, are probably better. But that's exactly why the Bears are more likely than any of those teams to win it all. They have a much easier road.

In fact, one mathematically inclined individual has crunched the numbers and determined that the Bears have a 27.3% chance of winning it all, better than any other team in the league. San Diego and Baltimore are next, but they're kind of splitting the AFC vote, so to speak. Overall, he has the AFC with a 58% chance of winning it all. On a purely subjective level, I'd say the AFC should have an even bigger edge than that. But of course, one NFC team will be in the game, and once you make the Super Bowl anything can happen. So, maybe the NFC team does have a decent chance to win it all. And the team most likely to be that NFC team is the Bears. So, here we are again, the Bears are more likely to win the Super Bowl than any other team.

It doesn't really feel that way watching the team play recently. The Bears once dominant defense has sputtered in recent weeks. Actually, it's been below average four weeks in a row. Some of this is cascade injuries. The Bears didn't just lose Tommie Harris, they lost Harris and Tank Johnson on the defensive line. The Bears didn't just lose Mike Brown, they lost Brown, Todd Johnson, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher in the defensive backfield. Cascade injuries catch up with you.

The good news is that some of these situations are resolving themselves. Only Harris and Brown should be missing come playoff time. When healthy the Bears' pass defense is really good. It's still the most efficient in the NFL. Tillman was tied for third in the league with a 63% Stop Rate through 13 weeks (Stop Rate measures percentage of plays that do not achieve offensive success by Football Outsiders standards: 45% of yards on first down, 60% on second down, 100% on third down). Vasher was just outside the top-10 at 57%, plus he was sixth in the league in fewest yards per attempt directed his way (it takes a while to compile these stats, so they always run a couple of weeks behind). The Bears' secondary is good and deep when healthy.

The run defense is more of a concern. The Bears are now seventh in overall efficiency against the run. That's not bad, but it's not the kind of dominance this team counts on from it's defense. What's the problem? The Bears have developed a vulnerability to two distinct plays, sweeps around the right side of their defense, and power runs attacking the left side of their interior. I actually have no explanation for the first weakness, nor do I see a quick fix. I wouldn't think Alex Brown and Lance Briggs are the problem, but given the Bears' below-average defense against runs in that direction, maybe its something that warrants further investigation. The second problem will be addressed largely through Johnson's return at left defensive. Alfonso Boone is a nice part of the rotation, but by moving him into the starting lineup, and Antonio Garay into the rotation, you significantly weaken the Bears at that spot as compared to when Tank Johnson is occupying it. Conversely, Ian Scott has done well filling in for Tommie Harris. It's not the first injury that gets you, it's the next one at the same position.

The bottom line, and there needs to be one because I'm rambling, is that the defense should be fine once some of the injured people return. I'm still more concerned about the offense. Nevertheless, I'm 27.3% sure the team can go ahead and record a new Super Bowl Shuffle.


Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

This may be third-person removed news, but something was postulated and/or reported on that coaches Smith and Rivera purposely called the wrong defenses to teach Danieal Manning and Devin Hester how to deal with certain situations.

It's nice to have the luxury to play whatever crap defense you want in the last few games to use as a training method for the rookies.

I'm not worried about the defense, yet. Talk to me at halftime of the first playoff game.

1:18 PM  

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