NFL Football News

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bears Still the Best

Apparently defense does win football games after all.

The Chicago Bears got a stinker of a game from their starting quarterback last week. Rex Grossman completed just six of 19 pass attempts against the visiting Minnesota Vikings, hoisting up three interceptions and posting an abysmal QB rating of 1.3. If Grossman had spiked the ball every time, his QB rating would have been 39.6.

Despite Grossman’s sub-par performance, the Bears escaped Soldier Field with a 23-13 victory, cashing in as 9-point favorites and improving to 10-2 straight up and a very profitable 8-4 against the spread. Coach Lovie Smith was quick to squash any talk of a quarterback change, pointing repeatedly to the club’s winning ways and questioning why he would want to change anything.

Smith, of course, doesn’t want Grossman to play this poorly. After committing 18 turnovers in his last seven starts, the former Florida Gator has steered Chicago’s offense toward the bottom of the NFL in efficiency. The Bears were ranked 21st in that department after Week 14; the Green Bay Packers were No. 20, and they’re just 4-8 SU and 4-7-1 ATS. But with everyone else on the Bears playing so well, Smith has the luxury of giving his still-developing QB some time to grow. Chicago’s defense and special teams are ranked No. 1 in terms of efficiency.

Both top-ranked units were on full display against the NFC North Division rival Vikings. Devin Hester ran a punt 45 yards for a touchdown, Ricky Manning found the end zone on a 54-yard interception return, and Tank Johnson tackled Vikings RB Ciatrick Fason for a safety to account for nearly all of Chicago’s scoring on the day. That win over Minnesota was no fluke; the Bears are so dominant on D that they lead the NFL in expected wins at 9.2, edging out the San Diego Chargers at 9.1.

Chicago will try to add a little bit more offense to the winning formula on Monday night when the St. Louis Rams play host. The Rams are in freefall at 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS over their past seven games to fall well behind Seattle in the NFC West. The biggest reason behind that slide is the St. Louis defense – it’s ranked 29th out of the 32 teams in efficiency, coughing up 153.3 yards per game on the ground. This should be a welcome breather for Grossman as he hands the ball off early and often to talented tailbacks Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson.


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