2018 Chicago Bears Betting Odds & Season Preview: Will Mitchell Trubisky Improve Under Matt Nagy?
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Mitchell Trubisky
- Win Over/Under: 7.5 (+110/-130)
- Make NFC Playoffs: +350 (29%)
- Win NFC North: +900 (9%)
- Win NFC Championship: +2000 (4.8%)
- Win Super Bowl: +4000 (2.4%)
Odds via Westgate as of Sep. 1.
The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 6.67 (22nd)
UPDATE (Sep. 1): The Bears acquired two-time first-team All-Pro pass-rusher Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders. This improves the team but has also raised the price on their futures. The article has been updated where appropriate to reflect his acquisition.
Your chances of a cashing an over ticket on the Bears’ win total the past five years were roughly the same as your chances of finding a relevant wide receiver on the team’s 2017 roster: nonexistent.
Since the franchise let head coach Lovie Smith go after a 10-6 season in 2012, the Bears are 0-5 against their win-total over, which is both the longest active streak in the NFL and a hilarious karmic glitch considering the Broncos fired John Fox after a 12-4 season and won the next Super Bowl.
In Year 1 under each of their previous two head coaches (Marc Trestman and Fox), the Bears fell short of their win total by only a half-game.
Are they in danger of doing the same under Matt Nagy?
The Bears went 5-11 last season, but their win total according to Pythagorean expectation was 6.2 overall — and 7.4 if you look at just Mitchell Trubisky’s 12 starts.
If the team realizes that improvement this season, it will be because the passing game re-enters the modern era.
Trubisky’s 2017 stats look like they came from Madden box scores with five-minute quarters and the accelerated clock. While people like to say that the coaches were hiding Trubisky, it’s probably more accurate to say they were really trying to hide a group of receivers who were all closer to the end than they’d ever be to the end zone.
Wide receivers Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman, Deonte Thompson and Markus Wheaton have been replaced by Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and 2018 second-round pick Anthony Miller.
Trey Burton, who is more like a slot receiver at 6-feet-3 and 235 pounds, replaces Zach Miller at tight end. Burton averaged a 3-45-1 line for the Eagles in games that Zach Ertz missed over the past two seasons, and Burton has looked like Trubisky’s No. 1 target in the preseason.
The 2018 version of Trubisky is reminiscent of 2017 Jared Goff in that it’s easy to let anchoring bias stemming from Trubisky’s mostly irrelevant rookie-year sample ruin your perception of him.
This is where player comps come in handy. Since 2012, nine first-round quarterbacks started 10 or more games in Year 2, and they collectively improved upon their Year 1 passer rating by an average of 8.7 points.
A spike of 8.7 would bring Trubisky’s passer rating to 86.2 — smack dab in the middle of the Blake Bortles and Derek Carr tier.
That’s not exactly reassuring, but it’s worth noting that the five quarterbacks with passer ratings between 83.0 and 89.0 in 2017 posted win totals as starter equivalents of 6.9-10 over a full season.
Trubisky’s development will largely determine how far the Bears go in 2018, because the rest of the roster is roughly that of a .500 team. The offensive line is ranked No. 13 by Pro Football Focus heading into the season, and the defense is mostly the same unit that ranked No. 14 overall in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average last season (13th vs. run and 14th vs. pass). though Khalil Mack gives it top-10 upside.
Anchored by a secondary that includes PFF’s No. 8-rated safety, Adrian Amos, the Bears allowed the second-fewest pass plays of 20+ yards in the league last season.
Now it’s on Nagy, Trubisky and Co. to produce more than the second-fewest pass plays of 20+ yards on offense.
If the Bears are going to exceed their win total and have a shot at the playoffs, their transition away from the Fox dead-ball era will need to translate into divisional wins after Chicago finished 0-6 against the NFC North last season.
Since 2013, only 17% of teams to win seven or more games have been able to do so without going .500 in the division, and only one of the 60 playoff teams over that span has a division record below .500.
It’s not hard to see the similarities between the 2018 Bears and the 2017 Rams. But the Rams were in position to take advantage of declining Cardinals and Seahawks teams, and they enjoyed one of two matchups with the pre-Jimmy Garoppolo 49ers en route to a 4-2 divisional record.
Playing the NFC North means that the Bears have four games against teams with win totals of 10 in the Vikings and Packers, and until Matt Patricia does a Josh McDaniels-style faceplant as a head coach, the two games against the former Belichick disciple shouldn’t be thought of as easy.
The Bears are +3 underdogs at home against the Vikings and Packers, and while there’s no lookahead line for Week 17 at Minnesota, it would likely be +8.5 based on the spread at Green Bay.
According to BetLabs, +3 home dogs have won 40.3% of their games since 2003, while road dogs of +8 to +9 have won 23.6% of their games over that same span, which comes out to only 1.28 expected wins for the Bears against the Vikings and Packers.
Meanwhile, -1 home favorites have won 54.7% of their games while +5 road dogs have won 32.9%, which equals 0.88 expected wins for the Bears against the Lions.
That’s only 2.16 expected wins in the division, which doesn’t bode well for the Bears’ playoff chances. They could conceivably take a major step forward and still finish last in the division.
Even if the Bears struggle in the division, there’s still a path to eight wins with home games against the Seahawks, Buccaneers and Jets and road contests against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Bills and Giants.
Lookahead lines have the Bears favored in only three games, so rather than pay a premium to feed into the hype, you’re better off targeting lookahead lines where the Bears are a pick ’em or a short underdog (Weeks 2, 3, 6 and 9), which they’ll have to convert to wins to actually hit the over on their win total. – Chris Raybon
The Bet: Pass on futures, bet lookahead lines
Chicago Bears 2018 Schedule
- Games Favored: 3
- Avg. Spread: +2.2
- Strength of Schedule: 14th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)
Survivor Pool 101
- Use the Bears: Week 8 vs. NYJ
- Use Bears’ opponents: Week 1 @ GB
Fantasy Football Outlook
- Top Pick: RB Jordan Howard
- Sleepers: TE Trey Burton, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR Anthony Miller
- Potential Bust: WR Allen Robinson
Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+
“Not much support for them in any of the markets.”
— Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff
Run Up the Score in DFS with Jordan Howard at Home
Howard’s stone hands have overshadowed the reality that he’s a good running back.
The Bears have been buried among bottom-five scoring offenses during Howard’s career, so improvement under Nagy should lead to more touchdown opportunities for Howard.
Like most big, physical runners, Howard thrives in his home stadium: According to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, he’s averaged a +3.9 DraftKings Plus/Minus and 62% Consistency Rating at Soldier Field over his career. – Ian Hartitz
More on the 2018 Chicago Bears
This article has been updated to reflect the acquisition of Khalil Mack.