Hiring a new head coach means a fresh wave of optimism and energy surrounding an NFL team. It’s rare the man in charge has anything less than a rosy outlook portrayed before games have been played. This is something Matt Nagy has become used to with the Bears prior to his first regular season at Halas Hall. The hype at times can be overwhelming and a little out of bounds.
There’s plenty of reason to believe Nagy’s Bears are ready to turn a corner and become a viable contender again. Most of that rides on Mitchell Trubisky’s development and a relatively young core coming into it’s own. Circumstances haven’t seemed this fortuitous and balanced for this organization in a long time. However as with most aspects of betting are concerned, until these Bears prove they’re ready to shine under the lights: they’re rightfully considered among the league’s also-rans.
Gambling website Odds Shark, which aggregates betting sentiments from various outlets, currently has the Bears tied for the fifth-worst 2018 NFL playoff odds with the Bills at +450. Only the Browns (+600), Dolphins (+600), Jets (+600), and Cardinals (+800) have worse preseason and pre-training camp playoff odds according to bettors.
Opening odds to make the 2018 NFL playoffs (@betonline_ag):— OddsShark (@OddsShark) July 5, 2018
It should be noted that this doesn’t necessarily reflect the caliber of the Bears’ roster or any other team with low odds. Bettors go with what they feel is a public sentiment on the quality of a team and how they factor into the postseason race. Teams that have been consistently successful for years or most recently dominant, will always have higher and more favorable initial betting odds to make the playoffs.
Take the Patriots, for example. New England is on one of the NFL’s greatest runs of all time, and naturally have a -1500 to make the playoffs: by far the best of the entire league. They’re as safe and low risk a bet as there is in professional sports.
If the Bears are ever winning half of the NFC’s conference titles over an 18-year span, then they can assuredly reach the same public confidence as the Patriots. For now, they’ll have to settle for being forecast in the shadows among other franchises that have recently struggled like the Browns and Dolphins. You only get the benefit of the doubt when it’s earned.
Other notable preseason playoff odds across the NFL turns towards the NFC North. The defending division champion Vikings have a -260, the highest of their primary rivals. That’s what adding Kirk Cousins does for a team that won 13 games in 2017. The Green Bay Packers check in at -170, buoyed by the return of a healthy Aaron Rodgers and additions like Jimmy Graham. And the Lions, who have won nine out of the last 10 meetings with Chicago, are slated at +260.
Meanwhile, the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles are tied with the Vikings at -260 for the best playoff odds in the NFC. Philadelphia’s roster hasn’t changed much since their fateful win in February, save for a healthy Carson Wentz back in the fold. It makes perfect sense to have them among the league’s heavyweights once more.
Generally, from a wider perspective, most AFC playoff contenders such as the Steelers (-550), Jaguars (-140), and Texans (-135) have higher playoff odds than teams in similar fighting positions in the NFC. An illustration of bettors rightfully believing the AFC is a less difficult gauntlet to run through in order to play meaningful games in January, than thinking AFC teams are definitively of a higher class. One could make a case that at least 10 to 11 NFC teams are on the verge of appearing in the postseason this year depending on how the balls bounce.
Quite obviously, when examining public sentiment and good will with this vantage point, the Bears have a lot of catching up to do. Though if Nagy and company are capable of anything moving forward, it might be reversing deep set previously earned narratives and a lack of conviction in their vision.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.