Pro Football Focus, one of the best places to go for the insider stats of the game, is an interesting place to go for an opinion on where Bears talent rates visavis the rest of the NFC North.
PFF has zero Bears named to its NFCN all-division offensive team, not impressed that center Roberto Garza was named to the Pro Bowl squad and going with Minnesotas John Sullivan. The close call was at running back where both Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte both ended the year on IR. Peterson edged out Forte, the far-superior receiver, on the strength of pure running ability. (Not sure Forte or his agent are seeing it that way in their contract negotiations with the Bears.).
Where this gets really fun is on defense.
Julius Peppers was a gimme along with Jared Allen at defensive end. PFF went with a 3-4 arrangement, so only Kevin Williams from the Vikings is at tackle. Henry Melton had more sacks than any other NFCN D-tackle but was downgraded for run-stopping.
Clay Matthews, Stephen Tulloch from Detroit, Erin Henderson from Minnesota and Brian Urlacher are the linebackers? And not Lance Briggs?
Charles Tillman is one cornerback. OK, Pro Bowl guy. And Tim Jennings is the pick over Charles Woodson, who was left as really the nickel guy. Woodson was a lot of reputation in 2011 but really...
Chris Conte was at safety alongside Detroits Louis Delmas, but it isnt an honor Contes likely to frame and cherish: didnt do anything spectacularly over the season but wasnt bad at anything, either, and was beaten less than the other options.
Special teams are worth a chuckle. Robbie Gould, Devin Hester and Adam Podlesh are the picks at their positions. But Detroits John Wendling was the coverage guy over Corey Graham, whos in the Pro Bowl.
Well, its an opinion thing.
Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents.
That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?
The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room).
So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure.
Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return.
“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”
If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length.
Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16
Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game?
Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.
Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: