Vince Lombardi


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10 Reasons the 40-1 Bears To Win the NFC North is the Best Bet of 2017 NFL Pre-Season

QC was in Las Vegas last week and while he was there he stopped in on his friend Chris "Mr. Peabody" Andrews' joint--the sports book at the South Point Casino & Hotel--to place a bet he has been itching to make for months:

Bears to win the NFC North at 40-1.

The so-called experts have been crushing Chicago. Not only did the Bears finish an abysmal 3-13 in 2016, they signed Tampa Bay backup QB Mike Glennon to a big bucks FA deal and then turned around and traded multiple picks to San Francisco to move up one spot and draft QB Mitchell Trubisky. The moves left the "experts" scratching their heads and thinking Chicago at best is unsure of what it is doing and at worst, in the words of Colin Cowherd, a "dysfunctional dumpster fire."

This is sweet music to QC's ears.

Here is what Mr. Peabody, Cowherd and the other experts are missing:

1. NFL bottom feeders rebound to win division championships much more frequently than 40-1.
Of the 59 NFL teams that finished a season 4-12 or worse since 2005, 7 rebounded the next year to win a division title. In other words, teams like Chicago go from worst-to-first 11.86% of the time. That is far more often than the 2.44% chance that the South Point's 40-1 odds imply. The Jaguars, Browns, Rams and 49ers also fit this description, but, as will be shown below, only Jacksonville might be considered to have comparable potential to the Bears and Mr. Peabody's 5-1 odds on the Jags is nothing to dream on. If 11.86% is Chicago's true chance to win the divisions, their odds should be far closer to what Mr. Peabody is dealing on Jacksonville, (i.e., between 7-1 and 8-1) not 40-1.

2. Chicago actually was pretty well coached and designed in 2016.
The Bears +.0050 play differential ranked 15th in the NFL in 2016, well ahead of 2016 division champ and 2017 favorite Green Bay (-.0178, 24th). Since 2008, 6 of 11 NFL teams (54.5%) that finished with a losing record despite being positively designed rebounded the next season to post a winning record. As the Packers won the division in 2016 at just 10-6, a winning record should put Chicago right in the thick of the divisional race. The Chargers (+400) and the Bengals (+450) also fit this description, but, again, Mr. Peabody's San Diego and Cincinnati odds have no sex appeal.

3. Vic Fangio and Dowell Loggains
Chicago HC John Fox is fairly uninspiring, but the same should not be said for his play designers. DC Fangio is from the same zone blitz family that produced master designers Dick LeBeau, Dom Capers, and Marvin Lewis. The Harbaugh Brothers have kept him on staff for most their careers. Loggains is a rising star as an offensive play designer. The Bears ranked 13th in QCYPA in 2016 (7.349) despite a grab bag at QB of Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkely. Trubisky is a sponge who will soak up Loggain's designs quickly and assume the starting role if Glennon cannot demonstrate that he can at least minimize TOs and produce at middle of the NFL rate of efficiency.

4. Hedge Value
Of course, even if Chicago's true odds are between 7-1 and 8-1 that is still quite a bit of risk. So while in Vegas QC bought a little insurance on Minneota and Detroit. If the Vikings or Lions end up taking the divisional flag, then Mr. Peabody has only borrowed QC's money, not won it. Combining Minnesota's and Detroit's odds to win the NFC North yields a +860 figure. The only divisions where you can get better value is the AFC East (where you would have to topple New England) and the NFC West (where you would have to best Seattle), which are the only divisions with bigger favorites than Green Bay. In addition, your third choice in those divisions is a 15-1 shot (Buffalo & LA Rams) whereas your third choice in the NFC North--Detroit--is a tasty 6-1.

5. Packers and Vikings backers will pay Mr. Peabody's margins for you.
QC calculated that the South Point book's margin on betting the winner of the NFC North is 17.84%. If you allocate that margin on a pro rata basis, each team bears 4.46% of the margin. The Packers (13.08%) are carrying 285% of their pro rata share of the margin. The Vikings are carrying 111% of their pro rata share of the margin. The Lions are carrying 57.2% of their pro rata share of the margin. And the Bears are carrying 10% of their pro rata share of the margin.

6. Somebody in the NFL almost always goes worst-to-first.
In 7 of the last 8 years, a team has won a division after finishing last the year before an in 2011 two teams turned the trick (Denver and Houston, albeit the Texans tied with the Titans for last in the AFC South in 2010). So it is almost a sure thing that somebody is going to go from worst-to-first in 2017. Here are the candidates: Jets (forget about it), Browns (worst designed team in NFL in 2016), Jaguars (a possibility), Chargers (a possibility), Eagles (a possibility), Bears, Panthers (a possibility), and 49ers (2nd worst desiged team in the NFL in 2016). If we conservatively say worst-to-first occurs in 87.5% of all years and that there are 5 genuine candidates to go worst-to-first, then Chicago has a 17.5% chance to win NFC North (.875 x .2). In addition, of the 5 genuine candidates, only San Diego was better designed than the Bears in 2016 and Chicago's 40-1 oddsd are far more attractive than next best offer of the 5-1 Jaguars.

7. Turnovers tend to turnover.
What destroyed the Bears in 2016 was their ghastly -24 TO differential. On average, the 7 teams that rebounded from 4-12 or worse to win a division averaged -12.85 TOs when they bottomed and improved by about +19 TO when they triumphed. Jettisoning Cutler and Barkley should create addition by subtraction (of turnovers). In addition, Fangio's defenses in San Francisco excelled in creating TOs. It is highly likely Chicago will provide fewer and receive more subsidies in 2017. In addition, Bill Barnwell pointed out that in 2016 opposing NFL kickers nailed 94.3% of their field goals against the Bears, the highest percentage against any team in the league. The Bears also lost the most points due to field position according to Barnwell's source. As Barnwell acknowledged, "[t]here's no evidence that teams can pull this off deliberately from year to year...."

8. Chicago has some players ready to emerge.
Almost everybody knows that RB Jordan Howard (1313 yards) finished second in the NFL in rushing in his rookie year in 2016. But probably not as many know that WR Cameron Meredith was the highest graded receiver by Pro Football Focus over the final 5 games of the season. Or that LB Leonard Floyd flashed the second most productive pass rush pressure for 4 weeks before he suffered a concussion. Or that PFF graded Jerrell Freeman as the best past coverage and overall LB in the NFL in 2016. Or that PFF found DT Akiem Hicks to be the third-best pass rusher on third-down in 2016. Or that PFF graded the Chicago O-line led by rookie C Cody Whitehair to be the NFL's 5th best. Or that solid S Adrian Amos will be joined by all new personnel in the secondary, including CB Prince Amukamara, who was a Top 25 corner in Jacksonville in 2016. The cupboard is not bare. If Glennon or Trubisky can manage the game and not turn the ball over, there is enough talent in Chicago for the Bears to compete.

9. Green Bay is in decline.
The Packers resurrection and stunning playoff win over Dallas masks the fact that Green Bay has been getting old and declining for several years. This year, Green Bay will be without DE Julius Peppers--who drew most of the attention of opposing OCs--and C J.C. Tretter and G T.J. Lang--who both received fairly nice pay days on the free agent market. Without them, Green Bay will be without its most feared defender and the interior core protection that is critical to preventing gut pressure from quickly getting to QB Aaron Rogers. Furthermore, since blowing the 2014 NFC Championship Game, the Packers play design differential figures have fallen precipitously and HC Mike McCarthy has come under fire. Only Rogers' red zone magic has kept the Pack from falling out of the playoffs the last two years. Green Bay won the NFC North last year despite a negative play design differential. It was just the sixth team since 2008 to win a division with negative play design. Only 3 of those teams (50%) came back the next year to repeat as division champions. So it seems like at best the Packers should be even money to win the division, not -250 (implies 71.43% chance of NFC North title).

10. You probably can hedge against Green Bay after Week 6 cheaper than you can today.
The Packers first six games of the season are against teams that were positively designed in 2016. That is a tough stretch for any team and rarely do any teams emerge from such a stretch better than 3-3. The Packers do get 3 of their first 4 at home including a Thursday night visit in Week 4 from Chicago, which seems like too tall a mountain for a new QB to climb. And superstar RB Ezekiel Elliott may or may not be on the field when the Packers take the field against the Cowboys in Week 5. But the home opener is Seattle, who was embarrassed last year in Lambeau Field, and all 3 of the road games are difficult (at Atlanta, at Dallas, and at Minnesota). Unless McCarthy and Rogers can regain their past play design excellence, it is probable that the Packers will be even money or at worst a short favorite to win the division after this stretch and you can hedge your exposure to the Packers at this time at discount to Mr. Peabody's current -250 price.

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