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2013 Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears came roaring out of the gates last season, going 7-1 in their first eight games (5-3 against the spread) and convincing many football bettors they were serious Super Bowl contenders. However, they quickly faltered and lost all momentum as they went 1-5 in their next six games, also costing their backers dearly during this stretch with a 1-5 ATS mark. Chicago won its last two games of the year to finish the season at 10-6 overall, but it was not enough to earn the team a playoff spot in the loaded NFC North with the Green Bay Packers capturing the division title and the Minnesota Vikings winning a playoff tiebreaker due to a better divisional record.
In many ways, the performance of the Bears begins and ends with quarterback Jay Cutler. Last year, Cutler was entering his fourth season as Chicago's QB, and many experts thought he was set up for a career year after the team acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins. Cutler and Marshall played together with the Denver Broncos at the beginning of their careers and had developed into a deadly tandem. This success carried over to the Windy City, as Marshall was an absolute beast in his first season with the Bears, setting franchise records for receptions (118) and yards (1,508) while also scoring 11 touchdowns. Outside of his connections with Marshall, Cutler really had a letdown season, throwing for just over 3,000 yards to go along with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Chicago running back Matt Forte had a nice season, rushing for just under 1,100 yards and scoring six total touchdowns. High-priced defensive end Julius Peppers also did not disappoint, totaling 11+ sacks for the second straight season.
After the Bears failed to make the playoffs, GM Phil Emery decided it was time for a big change and fired head coach Lovie Smith, who had been with the organization for nine seasons. Smith took Chicago to the Super Bowl in 2007, but the team missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons and failed to beat the Packers when it mattered the most. The Bears hired former CFL coach and QB guru Marc Trestman as Smith's replacement. Trestman has mentored former NFL QBs Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer and Rich Gannon, who all played well under his guidance. Cutler hopes to follow those names and take his game to another level under his new head coach as well, and he will need to perform well while playing in a contract year. The team also lost a future Hall of Famer in linebacker Brian Urlacher, who decided to hang up his cleats and retire this offseason. Urlacher's leadership will be sorely missed, and the hole in the middle of the defense will try to be filled by veteran D.J. Williams, who joins fellow vet James Anderson and rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene alongside Lance Briggs in the rebuilt linebacking corps.
With the 2013 NFL season just a few months away, the oddsmakers at 5Dimes set Chicago's O/U win total at 8.5. If the defense can overcome Urlacher's loss and play like it did last season, and Cutler can turn the corner and start to reach his offensive potential under Trestman, the Bears could reach 10 wins again and might just sneak into the playoffs this year.
Recommended Play: OVER 8.5
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