The Bears On The Cusp Of Greatness

So the Chicago Bears won, like, big on Sunday. And so it is very much time to start thinking about the bigger aspirations for this team. Playoff-type aspirations.

Which means comparing the Bears to the the other top teams around the league. One of the easiest ways to take an advanced look at the Bears versus other elite teams is considering the EPA (expected points added) and WPA (winning probability added) offered on the NFL Advanced Stats visualization page.

Here's the executive summary:

The advanced stats agree with the talking heads: The Bears have a great defense, hampered by a poor offense. It's not that Jay Cutler is making terrible decisions, or that Brandon Marshall isn't a legit receiver, or that Matt Forte isn't one of the league's better all-around backs. It falls all directly on the o-line's inability to pass block.

The Bears offensive line is not actually a bad run-blocking unit (ranked No. 13 entering Week 9, according to Football Outsiders), but they are horrid at stopping a pass rush (No. 31, says FO). Considering the league is moving towards an even more pass-heavy system (what with additional protections offered to wide receivers and quarterbacks every year, this makes sense), the Bears really need to prioritize pass defense above run blocking.

They have the skill players for a successful passing system -- Marshall and Earl Bennett have great hands and after-the-catch skills, Devin Hester could become a screening demon, Forte does everything, and Cutler has the arm of a demigod. The missing component is pass blocking, but unfortunately, that is something they may not be able to correct until 2013.

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