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Starting this season, the NFL playoffs will have a slightly new look. A third wild card team will be added to each conference, bringing the total amount of playoff teams to 14.
With 44% of teams making the playoffs, there is some good value to be found in teams’ playoff odds.
FanDuel Sportsbook has set odds to make or miss the playoffs for all 32 NFL teams. We have identified our best value plays based on these odds, and will release them as part of a five-part series throughout the month.
The first part of our series focuses on why the new-look Chicago Bears will make the playoffs.
Will the Chicago Bears Make the Playoffs?
YES +146, NO -178 (odds courtesy of Fanduel Sportsbook)
2018 Was Not Long Ago
Just two years ago, the Chicago Bears were the class of the NFC North. They went 12-4 en route to winning the division by 3.5 games. They had goals of repeating as division champions last year, which makes their 8-8 third-place finish that much more disappointing.
What changed in one short year? For starters, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was much worse last year than in 2018. Despite playing in one more game and attempting 82 more passes in 2019, Trubisky’s yardage and touchdowns were way down. His completion percentage dropped over three percentage points from 2018 to 2019, and his touchdown-to-interception ration dropped from 2:1 to 1.7:1.
Trubisky was also not helped much by his offensive line. He was sacked on 7.2% of his dropbacks, up from 5.93% in 2018. In addition, the offensive line could not create any room for their running backs to run through. The Bears ranked 27th in rushing yards per game and 29th in yards per carry.
The positive news is that their defense remained elite in 2019. They finished eighth in total defense, and were top ten in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game. Thus, a defense that finished fourth in the league with 18.6 PPG allowed is a big reason why the Bears were able to finish .500.
A Quarterback Upgrade?
As a result of Mitchell Trubisky’s poor play in 2019, Chicago’s front office felt it needed to shake things up. They acquired former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles from in the off-season to compete for the starting job. Though Trubisky thinks the Bears are still his team, FanDuel’s odds suggest otherwise. Foles is currently listed as a -300 favorite to be the Bears starting quarterback in Week 1, while Trubisky has odds of +195.
Instilling Foles as the starter may be the spark this offense needs to complement their elite defense. Foles has familiarity with head coach Matt Nagy, as they spent one year together in Kansas City when Nagy was offensive coordinator. Nagy’s offensive concepts are similar to the ones utilized by Philadelphia where Foles had much success.
Having Foles under center should stand to help the running game as well. Foles has a better and more accurate arm than Trubisky, and thus the Bears will likely not face as many stacked boxes. If Foles is able to immediately connect with Allen Robinson II, Anthony Miller and Ten Ginn Jr., the offense can be taken to new heights. In addition, the Bears figure to be significantly better at the tight end position this year than in 2019 with the addition of Jimmy Graham and the drafting of Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet.
There are No Dominant Teams in the Division
It goes without saying that Chicago’s safest route to the playoffs is to win the NFC North. They currently have the third-best odds (+320) to win the division, trailing the Packers (+175) and Vikings (+175).
While Green Bay and Minnesota are formidable playoff contenders, each project to be worse than in 2019. Though the Packers rolled to a 13-3 record, their flaws were exposed in the NFC Championship by the 49ers. In addition, Green Bay did not do much to help themselves early in the draft. Instead of getting Aaron Rodgers the help he needs now to get over the hump late in his career, they drafted his replacement in Jordan Love who will not see the field for at least a couple years.
Minnesota enters 2020 with their share of question marks as well. They traded one of their best playmakers in wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. With one less perimeter weapon to complement Adam Thielen, will there be as much running room for Dalvin Cook to work? The Vikings also have a ton of questions in the secondary. They lost cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander. They have very little cornerback depth on the roster and are filling these holes with inexperienced players.
The NFC North has been decided by at least three games each of the last three years. I do not see any team running away with the division this year, which makes the Bears odds of +320 awfully enticing. Even if the Bears do not win the division, the weaknesses in all three of their rivals should allow them to accumulate wins.
With an extra playoff spot added, nine wins might be good enough to secure one of the three wild card spots. In fact, nine wins may even be good enough to win the division this year.