COMMENTARY | Like taxes, fans are never happy when ticket prices go up.
Just recently, the Chicago Bears announced that they are increasing ticket prices by 4.1% for the upcoming NFL season. I'll leave the economics of it all to someone else, but the "real question" is whether or not the Bears will be 4.1% better next season.
Let's take a look at the chances in a few select categories:
Offense - Passing
Between Jay Cutler (2,621) and Josh McCown (1,829), the Bears put up 4,450 passing yards in 2013. They also threw for 32 touchdowns. A 4.1% increase would mean that the Bears' quarterbacks would pass for 4,632 yards next season and throw for 34 (33.31) touchdowns.
When you consider the numbers the Bears put up in the first season in Mark Trestman's offense, it's a fair assessment to expect them to be even better next season, especially with 10 of the 11 starters already under contract.
With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte spearheading the passing game, the yardage seems like a doable feat. The touchdowns do too, but considering that Cutler has only ever made it up to 27 (and seems to miss a few games per season), the touchdowns are a little shakier.
It also depends on whether Josh McCown is back in the saddle as Cutler's backup.
Yardage: 75% chance
Touchdowns: 33% chance
Offense - Rushing
The Bears had 1,823 rushing yards -- 1,339 coming from Forte. The Bears would need to put up 1,898 rushing yards.
Picking a team to rush for almost 2,000 yards is tough to bet on. The Bears are also a stronger passing team than they have been in previous years. Forte gets a lot of attention in the flats as a receiver -- 74 receptions for 594 yards in 2013 -- so his yardage could easily fluctuate. If the Bears get that second, more-efficient running back behind Forte, then this number is a bigger possibility.
Rushing: 50% chance
The Bears converted 83-of-197 third downs in 2013 (42.1%). They'll need to get that number to 46.2%.
The personnel on offense should make this within reach, but getting a complementary power back to replace the disappointing Michael Bush should help the Bears convert on a few more short-yardage situations -- a stat they were near the bottom of the league in last season.
Third Down: 50% chance
Since the unit was a train wreck in 2013 (as in the worst defense in Bears history), it seems logical to assume they can improve by 4.1% in 2014.
This unit surrendered 3,919 passing yards, an astounding 2,583 rushing yards, and a depressing 478 points last season. To reach the desired increase, they would need to surrender 3,758 passing yards, 2,477 rushing yards, and 458 points.
There's no reason to believe the Bears won't improve by at least that much. In fact, it would be considered an unmitigated disaster if they only improve by 4.1%. Not only will the Bears get some injured players back, but there's also just no way the defense could be that bad two years in a row.
Defense: 99% chance
Turnovers and Sacks
The Bears' defense forced 28 turnovers and had 31 sacks in 2013. To fit our criteria, they would need 30 (29.18) turnovers and 33 (32.27) sacks in 2014.
If Charles Tillman does not return (and he very well may not), it would be a crippling blow to the Bears' ability to create turnovers. And with Lovie Smith long gone and the "ball-hawking" mindset of turnovers mostly gone with him, it's tough to see the current incarnation of the Bears as a top team in taking the ball away.
Thirty-one sacks is a fairly miserable number (and was good for last in the NFL), so you'd almost have to think the number will go up. But if Julius Peppers is cut and the defense is learning a new scheme (which it might be), who knows where the sack numbers end up.
Turnovers: 33% chance
Sacks: 66% chance
In 2013, the Bears were winners of 8 games. A 4.1% increase would mean 9 wins (8.33).
The Bears' 2014 schedule contains six teams with records over .500 in 2013, three teams who finished at .500, and seven who finished below. But among the teams that finished below were the Atlanta Falcons (4-12) and Detroit Lions (7-9), both of whom should be considered better than that.
The Bears should improve on 2013, but it's tough to scrape up 9 wins when you're looking at that schedule. If they don't play consistently, it could be a disappointing campaign. Personally, I think they will be even better next year, but that's kind of my job as a Bears fan.
Wins: 66% chance
So, is a 4.1% increase too much to ask?
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bears follower who thinks Phil Emery and Mark Trestman are going to win a Super Bowl in Chicago. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him an opportunity to closely follow the Bears and has soured him forever on the Cover-2 defensive scheme.
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