Can the Bears Beat the Packers?

The Bears aren’t who I thought they were. I thought David Haugh was crazy when he was talking about the Bears potential back in September:

Something has clicked, and the appeal of the NFL lies in the weekly surprises proud teams such as the Bears provide when they put it all together. In that respect, this team resembles the 2001 version nobody expected to go 13-3. But the style of winning is closer to 2006 — and we all remember where that season ended.

I seriously thought Haugh was clinically insane. Then the Bears went out and went 11-5 and made the NFC title game and people are ready to pop the champagne corks.

Not so fast my friend…

The Bears went 3-3 against teams with winning records (which means they went 8-2 against non-winning teams). Their only playoff win so far came against a 7-9 team from the league’s worst division that went 3-7 against non-division foes. Now they will play arguably the hottest team in the league with the guy who is playing the best quarterback in the league. Let’s look at some numbers.

Bears Offense vs. Packers Defense

The Bears finished 30th in the NFL in total offense, while Green Bay had the 5th best total defense in the league. The Bears passing offense was 28th in yards and 20th in QB rating. They also gave up 6 more sacks than any other team in the league and tied for 4th for most interceptions. Conversely the Packers’ defense had the lowest QB rating in the league and were 2nd in both interceptions and sacks.

Things don’t improve much on the rushing half of things. The Bears were 22nd in rushing yards and 23rd in yards per attempt. Amazingly, the Bears only fumbled once while rushing all season. Which is either extreme luck or some amazing ball control1. Green Bay’s rush defense was only 18th in total yards and tied for 28th in per attempt. Plus they only forced 6 fumbles all year. They did have a bunch of injuries so maybe the numbers are deceiving. Either way, it’s likely the Bears will need to try and take advantage in the running game.

Bears Defense vs. Packers Offense

The Bears defense — likely unsurprising to most — is actually pretty good. They were 9th in the league in total yards and 4th in points allowed. The Packers offense was also — ironically — 9th in total yards and 10th in points. They were 5th in passing yards, 3rd in QB rating and 19th in sacks allowed. Conversely, the Bears defense was 20th in passing yard, 5th in interceptions, 17th in sacks and 3rd in QB rating.

Green Bay struggled some in the running game, finishing 24th in total yards and 25th in yards per attempt. They were tied for 5th in fewest fumbles. Defensively the Bears were 2nd in rushing yards and 6th in yards per attempt and also forced 15 fumbles.

Something’s Gotta Give

Green Bay is good with passing on both sides of the ball and struggles with the run on both sides of the ball. The Bears have a strong rush defense but not a whole lot else.

The Packers played pretty much the same schedule and went 4-2 against teams with winning records. But the Packers outscored their opponents by 100 (!) more points than the Bears did. Meaning their average margin of victory was more than 6 points higher per game.

My first instinct was that the Bears run the ball a lot more, but they in fact had fewer rush attempts than the Packers. The Bears also had the fewest pass attempts in the league, about 80 less than the Packers.

Offensive Plays: Bears – 880. Packers – 962
Defensive Plays: Bears – 968. Packers – 922
Total Plays: Bears – 1848. Packers – 1884

So the Packers run about 5 more offensive plays per game and the Bears have about 2.5 defensive plays more. Those could potentially explain why some of the counting numbers are different.

Chances for the Bears

I assume the Packers’ rushing defense numbers are influenced by the injuries they have had this year and don’t think they are as bad as advertised. The Bears passing defense relies heavily on interceptions2 and the Packers’ had the 9th lowest total in the league.

Bears’ fans can hope for bitter cold and wind3 to neutralize Rodgers. Otherwise Jay Cutler will have to play flawlessly. The Packers defense just got done dismantling two quarterbacks (Vick and Ryan) that most people would say are superior to Jay.

The Packers did struggle on the road this year, and they lost once at Soldier Field. But there is a reason they are 4 point favorites on the road against the division winner. I know I am the constant pessimist, but I hope in fact the Bears prove once and for all they aren’t who I thought they were.

  1. I am betting on the former []
  2. Likely a product of their weak schedule []
  3. So far not in the forecast for Sunday []