Dannehy: Next Two Games Will Decide Season

| October 27th, 2021

While doom and gloom is popular amongst Chicago Bears fans, media and bloggers, it’s hard to argue the team scoring convincing wins over two AFC division leaders is bad. At 3-4, the Bears have played a brutal schedule, including three teams with one loss, two with two losses and a Cleveland Browns team that fell off only recently due to some injuries. (Football Outsiders ranks their first seven games as the hardest played in the league and their remaining 10 the third hardest.) As terrible as the Bears looked against Tampa Bay, the reality is the team still has a good chance at making the playoffs this year if they’re able to win the next two games.

This week, the Bears welcome a San Francisco team coming to Chicago for a noon start. Then they head to Pittsburgh for Monday Night Football before the bye week. There’s no reason the Bears can’t be 5-4 entering their bye. Both teams offer favorable matchups, with quarterbacks who can’t really attack deep and a lack of perimeter playmakers. Both teams have decent defenses, but nothing like Tampa Bay and maybe not even as good as Green Bay.

Looking at how the middle of the backend of the NFC playoff field is playing out, it will probably only take nine wins to make the playoffs this year. Eight might even do it with tiebreakers. The Saints have the six seed at 4-2. The Vikings and Falcons are both 3-3. The Bears and free-falling Panthers are 3-4. If the Bears can win their next two, beat Detroit, Seattle, New York and split with Minnesota then they’re gonna be in.

But they’ll need improvement from the quarterback position.

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Looking at Playoff Appearances – Over the Last Decade – Around the League

| December 10th, 2020

As a research exercise, I decided to compile playoff appearances from across the league for the decade 2010-2019. Here’s the breakdown. The teams in bold won the Super Bowl. The teams italicized lost the Super Bowl. And some, you’ll notice, did both.

10: Patriots

8: Seahawks, Packers

7: Chiefs

6: Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Saints

5: Broncos, Bengals, Colts, Eagles, Falcons

4: Panthers, Vikings, 49ers

3: Lions, Cowboys

2: Bears, Rams, Cardinals, Washington Football Team, Bills, Chargers, Titans, Giants

1: Jaguars, Raiders, Dolphins, Jets

0: Bucs, Browns

Thoughts on the numbers:

  • 13 teams made the postseason five or more times in this ten-year span. They won nine Super Bowls, with the Pats taking three. This league is about sustained success – getting into the tournament as often as you can and then getting hot in January.

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Using Points-Per-Game to Profile the Typical Playoff Team

| June 15th, 2018

I’ve been writing a bunch of articles lately about how the Bears are expected to improve, so now I want to focus on what level they have to reach in order to make the playoffs.

As I’ve said before, there is some precedent to teams who have been as bad as the Bears over the last few years going straight to the playoffs in recent NFL history, but not many make that big of a jump. I still think it’s more likely that the Bears end up somewhere around average this year and are poised to make a playoff push in 2019.

But if they are to be one of the few that jump directly to the playoffs, what type of improvement will they have to show? In an effort to answer this question, I looked at the offensive and defensive rankings in terms of points per game for every team from 2008-17. I then looked at what those profiles looked like for playoff teams.

Crunching the Data

Unsurprisingly, teams that had better offenses and defenses made the playoffs more often. I generally split the rankings into quartiles (1-8, 9-16, 17-24, and 25-32) and grouped teams based on their combination of stronger and weaker unit. We’ll tentatively call 1-8 good, 9-16 above average, 17-24 below average, and 25-32 bad. The results can be seen in the table below, or full raw data can be viewed here.

So we basically have four different categories of teams that consistently make the playoffs.

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Data Entry: Playoffs or Bust for John Fox in 2017?

| June 7th, 2017

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

I’ve seen a lot of speculation this offseason that John Fox is on the hot seat with the Bears in 2017. There were even some rumors that he might be fired following a disastrous 2016. But now his job is widely believed to be on the line should 2017 not show significant improvement.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at what history says about Fox keeping his job beyond 2017 based on similar situations around the NFL. Since this will be Fox’s 3rd year on the job, I looked at coach success in the first three years.

New Coach

Coaching turnover happens fast in the NFL. From 2000 to 2016, there were 142 coaching hires, an average of just over 4.4 per team. Thus in the last 17 years, the average head coach has lasted just under 4 years on the job.

Looking at the current list of 32 NFL head coaches, that 4 year marker also proves to be significant. Exactly half of the coaches are entering at least their 4th season, with the other half all entering their 3rd season or less (full data here). What do those 16 head coaches who have been around for 4 or more years have in common? All but one of them made the playoffs sometime in their first three seasons, with the lone exception (Jason Garrett) achieving that feat in year 4 after 3 straight 8-8 seasons that indicated the Cowboys were close.

It appears the achievement needed for John Fox to keep his job past 2017 is clear: guide the Bears to the playoffs.

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