CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 27: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears throws a pass in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 27 2010 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The only power ranking that matters is the standings. The only statistic that really matters is the final score. The Chicago Bears are 3-0, BEST IN THE NFC. But before we start planning for home games in January, let's look at some numbers to see where the Bears need to improve so this win streak (now 5 games) can keep going.
First, the raw offensive numbers have the Bears 11th in total offense (349 ypg), 5th in passing (277 ypg), and a woeful 29th in rushing (72 ypg). The bad rushing numbers are not quite as bad as they seem when you compare them to some other good teams. Baltimore, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Dallas, and Green Bay are all under 100 yards per game as well. Super Bowl champs New Orleans are in fact, 32nd in the NFL in rushing at 57 yards per game. Some really good football teams are equally as inept as the Bears... that's good right?
On defense, the Bears are 15th overall (319 ypg), 28th in passing (279 ypg), and 1st in rushing at 39.7 yards per game. The Cover-2 "bend but don't break" philosophy was used to great effect against explosive offenses in Green Bay and Dallas. The proof is in the Bears only surrendering 17 points per game, good for 10th in the NFL. That's quite an accomplishment, and one of the keys to the Bears being 3-0.
One of the other keys to being undefeated is in the turnover margin. The Bears are currently 8th in the NFL with a +3. All nine teams with a +3 or better turnover margin are a combined 20-7 (all 2-1 or 3-0). The bottom 8 teams with a -3 or worse turnover margin are a combined 8-16. Taking care of the football has a lot to do with winning games in the NFL. So far, the Bears are doing a pretty good job of that.
Where it starts to get ugly for the Bears is on 3rd downs. They are only converting 29% of the time, good for 28th in the NFL. On defense, the Bears are allowing their opponents to convert 38% of the time, good for 16th in the NFL: pretty much mediocre.
Back in July, I wrote about the Bears 2009 performance in the RedZone. The numbers were horrific (27th on offense, 31st on defense). This season, in the RedZone, the Bears offense ranks 28th in the NFL. They've scored a touchdown 27% of the time they get there so far this year. That's not getting it done. A couple of 4th and goal misses, and coming away with field goals against Detroit early and Green Bay late contribute to that bad number. Philadelphia and Green Bay lead the NFL with a RedZone Touchdown percentage of 88% and 78% respectively. That is impressive.
On defense, the news is just as bad. The Bears are allowing their opponents to score 71% of the time they enter the RedZone. The Bears' opponents have only been in the RedZone 7 times all season though (5 touchdowns off those 7 trips), so the overall points scored isn't too bad, even if the percentage is.
On offense and defense, the Bears need to improve in the RedZone. They NEED to convert some touchdowns plain and simple if they want to continue to win ball games.
Football Outsiders Advanced Stats:
Football Outsiders has the Bears ranked 14th with a Total DVOA of 3.8%. On offense they rank 15th, on defense 18th, and on special teams 8th. This makes sense when you see how the Bears have done on 3rd downs and in the RedZone. Those failings on offense and defense drive the Bears statistical DVOA down. Also, this early in the season, FO does not yet adjust for quality of opponent since the sample size is too small. After week 4, the defense-adjusted part of their calculations should improve the Bears rankings based on quality opponents in Green Bay and Dallas.
Jay Cutler's overall numbers look real good this year. He's completed 66% of his passes for 870 yards and 6 touchdowns vs just 2 interceptions. His QB Rating is an impressive 109.7, good for 3rd in the NFL behind Peyton Manning and Michael Vick. Jay's FO DYAR ranking has him 9th in passing and 4th in rushing for QBs. His 3 total turnovers and the Bears lack of success on 3rd downs and in the RedZone are hurting his FO numbers a bit.
The Bears RedZone follies have been mostly associated with the run game though. Cutler is currently 8 of 13 for 42 yards, 3 touchdowns and a QB Rating of 106.4 in the RedZone. That's infinitely better than last year in the RZ when Cutler was 38/76 (50% completion %) with 19 tds, 6 ints, with a passer rating of just 63.5.
We saw a little bit of 2009 Jay Cutler late in the Green Bay game, I hope we see a lot of Dallas Cowboy game Jay Cutler the rest of the season. Zach Zaidman tweets this:
Jay Cutler has won 5 starts in row & has completed 102 of 162 (63 %) passes for 1,419 yards with 14 TDs, 3 INTs and 112.1 rating
That's the Jay Cutler we traded for, that's the Jay Cutler we want and need the rest of this season.
In summary, the Bears are 3-0 because they have taken care of the football and their playmakers are making big plays when we need them too: Briggs' strip sack on 1 yard line, Peppers' blocked field goal, Urlacher's tackle & strip on James Jones, Cutler to Olsen in Dallas for a TD, Cutler to Knox for 59 yards on 3rd and 15, Tillman's punch fumble on Roy Williams, Forte's 89 yard screen TD, Hester's incredible catch in the end zone, Hester's punt return TD. The Bears best players...playing their best.
There is lots of room for improvement on 3rd downs on both sides of the ball and most importantly scoring touchdowns in the RedZone, especially from the 1 yard line.