The New England Patriots travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures. Looking for value in the NFL Week 7 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 7 predictions.
The Influence of Brady
Having broken most statistical records in his illustrious career, Tom Brady now seems intent on adding longevity to his list of achievements.
He’s soon to be 42 years old and continues to perform at levels that are yet to persuade New England to seek a successor.
His game management skills were again showcased, as he marched New England down the field on Sunday night to take away Kansas City’s previously unbeaten record in the final seconds and return New England to the top of the AFC East.
New England’s dominance begins in the relatively easy AFC East, but extends into the post season.
You need to go back to 2009 to find the last time New England dropped below 12 regular season wins and the ever-present combination of coach Belichick and quarterback Brady have competed in four of the eight Super Bowls since then, winning two.
The ebb and flow of talent within a roster impacts on every team, bar it seems, the Patriots. As the supporting cast changes and core statistics, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, remain relatively unimpressive, the wins still relentlessly stack up.
Analysing the New England Patriots
There was nothing to suggest 2017’s 13-3 record was anything but deserved based on the points scored and allowed. The Patriot’s had a Pythagorean of 11.8 wins and two more narrow wins than losses, was hardly excessive for a divisional winner.
A positive turnover differential also helped, but again six more net takeaways aren’t wholly unsustainable.
The more perplexing question is how New England continually outperform their core efficiency statistics.
An above average Brady, (he passed for 0.8 yards per attempt further than the average defensive concession of the sides he faced) and a no better than averagely efficient running game, once again lit up the scoreboard.
The 2017 Patriots scored 6.5 points per game more than their opponents allowed on average and they are 4 points per game above par in 2018.
You need to go back to 2009 to find the last time New England dropped below 12 regular season wins.
In 2017, they compelled sides to pass against them. Therefore, a well below average running defence was not an issue and a merely average pass defence again restricted the opponent’s scoring by a field goal per game below par.
The Patriots aren’t quite performing to these typical defensive levels in 2018. They are better against the pass, again below par at defending the run, but haven’t quite managed to restrict their opponents scoring to the same degree as 2017.
There are hints that New England may be slightly slipping from their traditional highs.
Most notably, Brady has been only just above par in passing efficiency, placing him outside the top dozen quarterbacks in 2018. Albeit only after six games and he may easily retain his customary place inside the top six by January and the end of the regular season.
The Pats face a relatively benign, AFC East top heavy schedule that holds few fears and Chicago on the road on Sunday along with a similarly tough trip to Pittsburgh in mid-December are likely to be their biggest regular season challenges.
Chicago Bears Statistics
The Chicago Bears haven’t posted a winning season since 2012 and in the last four seasons they’ve propped up the competitive NFC North.
Three wins was the lowest they fell to in 2016 and a slight upward trend to five wins hinted at a possible return to a winning 2018 season.
The Bears lost three more narrow games than they won in 2017, their points scoring record suggested six, rather than five wins and they turned the ball over as frequently as they took it away via turnovers.
The cyclical nature of NFL teams suggested that the Bears are about to embark upon a roster based resurgence, as the high draft picks began to bear fruit.
Mitch Trubisky, the 2017 draft’s overall second pick took over the Bears’ passing duties in week five of 2017, but his rookie season was plagued by inaccurate throwing.
He was over half a yard per attempt short of the average allowed by the Bears’ opponents and a slightly above par ground attack couldn’t improve the scoreboard.
Overall, the Bears scored five fewer points per game than their opponents usually allowed and although an above par defence knocked a field goal per game from the scoring rate of the side’s they faced, they struggled to be competitive in 2017.
Free agency on both sides of the ball was used in anticipation of Trubisky’s likely development in 2018 and the Bears have reaped an immediate reward for their bold trades, with three wins sandwiched between two narrow, late losses.
They remain above average defensively and difficult to score against in a similar vein to 2017 and Trubisky appears to have put his completion problems behind him. He’s improved his completion rate from 60% in 2017 to 70% in the opening five matches of 2018.
He is passing at around league average efficiency after adjusting for opponents faced, the ground game remains good and the scoring is more impressive, if perhaps running unsustainably hot in terms of points scored.
Where is the value?
The 2017 versions of each side would favour the Patriots by a touchdown, but if we take at face value Trubisky’s growing experience and Brady’s slightly sub-prime showing in 2018, the game swings towards the hosts by six points.
Weighting these conflicting views together suggests that Brady’s more substantial body of work is perhaps a more reliable indicator than Trubisky’s five game uptick and New England is taken to win by four points.
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