The Week 11 NFL Sweat Barometer 

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
10:25
AM ET

There's a saying that goes, "We all make mistakes; that's why pencils have erasers."

I can't erase this one. During the NFL lockout this past summer, I wrote an article proclaiming that the Chicago Bears would miss the playoffs.

For those who didn't read it, here's a summary:

    • The Bears' offensive line is terrible.
    • They have no offensive playmakers outside Matt Forte.
    Jay Cutler throws too many picks and locks onto Greg Olsen.
    • They will be hurt most by new kickoff rules because their special teams give them a huge edge every year.
    • They suffered an inordinately low number of injuries last season and have a tougher 2011 schedule.

Well, because the Bears have a 6-3 record, are winners of four straight and have an 82.87 percent chance of making the postseason according to numberFire's Playoff Predictor, it looks as though that prognostication might have been wrong.

Here's how they've done it or at least survived the weaknesses pointed out before:

• First, their offensive line is still atrocious. According to Football Outsiders, they have an adjusted sack rate of 8.5 percent (28th in the NFL), which is better than their dead-last 10.4 percent in 2010. But they've survived it for the most part.

• Second, Cutler has thrown only six picks, can't rely on Olsen (because he was traded) and, due to the offensive line's ineptitude, has had to get the ball out quicker. But in doing so, he's managed to reduce his propensity to make poor decisions. Who knew?

• Third, Chicago realized that Forte was its only offensive playmaker outside of Devin Hester's return ability. He's accounting for a startling 44 percent of the Bears' offense -- an even more amazing percentage, considering their running backs are being tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage 29 percent of the time, according to FO. But Forte has shown the ability to create big plays by himself, making up for some of that.

• Fourth, the Bears' special teams have been even better this season, No. 2 in the NFL with a 9.8 percent DVOA. (Last season, they finished tops in the league at 6.3 percent DVOA.)

• Finally, Chicago's defense hasn't suffered major injuries and is playing better than it did last season (minus-9.0 percent DVOA this year versus minus-7.7 percent last year).

And the offensive line is at least trending in the right direction. "The Bears' offensive line has been the key to their recent success," says Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton. "The defense has always been solid, along with the play of Forte. As long as Cutler doesn't force it in key situations, the Bears could make a run."

So how does this relate to gambling, you ask?

When I began writing this column back in Week 6, the Bears were 16th in the NFL Sweat Barometer (data provided by Sal Selvaggio from MadduxSports.com), with an SB number of minus-0.7. In their past four games (4-0 against the spread) they have covered the spread by an average of an astronomical 16.5 points per contest, catapulting them to No. 4 overall in the Sweat Barometer and an impressive SB number of 6.94.

This week, the Bears are 3.5-point favorites at home against the San Diego Chargers (4-5 SU, 2-7 ATS, SB number of minus-3.75), who have lost four in a row SU and ATS with an ugly SB number of minus-10 over that span.

Does all this mean that it will be a slam-dunk win -- and cover -- for the Bears on Sunday?

One Vegas expert thinks so.


To see a Vegas experts pick on the Chargers-Bears game, plus the full Week 11 Sweat Barometer, including which teams are the best and worst to bet on this season, you must be an ESPN Insider.

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