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Bears vs. Bengals Preview: Key Stats for Sunday

A statistical outlook for Bears vs Bengals. Including roster analysis, week one stats, and recent history of ATS trends.

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Week Two is finally here. Bears vs Bengals. A chance for redemption for our beloved Chicago Bears. The Andy Dalton revenge game against the team he quarterbacked for nine seasons. On Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Soldier Field for a noon kick off. Hopefully, we see a little more of Justin Fields this game, but only Matt Nagy seems to know the plan on that front. The Bears come into this game as narrow favorites, with a spread of -2.5 coming into the game. 

Bears vs Bengals Betting Lines

In the above table, I have noted the spread, and the projected spreads according to my model (@ButkusStats), PFF, and 538’s two models for Bears vs Bengals (one adjusted for QB production, and the other using their traditional model).

I should note that my model is very hit or miss in the first three weeks of the season. There is just not enough data available on current roster production and trends for the model to avoid using previous year numbers to some degree. 

I do not love this game for betting. Two props that I did bet are Allen Robinson and Jamar Chase overs for receiving yards. I might sprinkle Bengals Money Line, and would take Bengals to cover if the spread somehow moves in the opposite direction to +3. Ultimately, this is a game I can see going any number of ways, and I think the safest bet here would be over 45. 

Bears vs Bengals 2021 Stats Through Week 1

On average, the Bengals offense ranks 16th in the NFL using DVOA, EPA per Play, success rate, and PFF Grades. While the Bears defense ranks 24th in the NFL using the same metrics for the other side of the ball. 

The average ranking for the Bears offense is 14th using those same metrics. Their ranking is skewed by success rates. They had strong first down rates in week one, but struggled to convert in opponent and red-zone territory. The small sample size here should normalize after a few games. Meanwhile, the Bengals defense ranks 11th in the NFL and is skewed by small sample size. 

Bengals 2021 Roster

The “Production Percentile” uses historical production, and a few 2021 projections. The stats used to generate the percentile are in the “Criteria” section. The PFF Grades represent each player’s offensive or defensive PFF grade for 2021, and their previous two seasons.

  • Joe Burrow looked very good as a rookie, and seems to have carried that into his second season. As a rookie, he ranked 13th in EPA/Play, 10th in success rate, 5th in usage rate, 18th in CPOE, and 21st in TANY/P.
  • Joe Mixon can be a problem. He ranks 11th in touches and 17th in yards. He’s sitting in the 62nd percentile among 82 RBs analyzed, his overall rank is 23th.  Mixon can move the ball on the ground as equally as he can in the passing game, and he doesn’t come off the field often. The shifty RB has carried the load for the Bengals offense for the last few years.
  • Cincinnati wide receivers are very good. Jamar Chase and Tee Higgins both rank in the top 20% of NFL WRs averaging 50+ targets over the past two seasons (or projections).  Also, Tyler Boyd ranked 12th in receptions over the past two seasons.
  • The Bengals offensive line is susceptible, with Riley Reiff being the most known quantity on the unit. 
  • The defensive line has some talent, but lacks players who excel in all facets of the game. DJ Reader was a very good interior presence in 2019 for Houston, but had injury issues in 2020. Meanwhile, Larry Ogunjobi has had some strong statistical seasons and can make some splash plays. He has lacked consistent production against the run. On the edge, Trey Hendrickson is a pass-rush only type of player. Across from Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard is a run defense only type of player. 
  • The LB unit is middling at best, and susceptible against the run. If the Bears get Hendrickson and Wilson lined up on the strong side of the formation, they could open some large holes to run through. 
  • The CB room is full of band-aids trying to cover up major wounds. Chidobe Awuzie has had some good seasons in Dallas, but has ultimately had an up and down career. Eli Apple is now on his fourth team in six seasons. While Mike Hilton was a solid slot CB in Pittsburgh, he allowed six catches on six targets for 66 yards and a touchdown last week against Minnesota. 
  • Jessie Bates is very good. He is one of the more underrated safeties in the league. In 2020, his production finally matched up with the tape. Bates plays well in coverage, as well as against the run. Across from Bates, Vonn Bell is a seasoned vet who is excels against the run.

Bears 2021 Roster

  • Andy Dalton sits in the 15th percentile of QB’s for 2020 production, or 23rd among a pool of 27 QBs. In 2020, he ranked 19th in EPA/Play, 15th in Success Rate, 14th in Usage Rate, 12th in CPOE, and 24th in TANY/A. Justin Fields. Please.
  • David Montgomery sits in the 7th percentile, ranking 18th among 83 RBs. He looked better than he ever has in Week One, and clearly gained some pickup this offseason. He ranks 5th in touches, 10th in yards, and 15th in TD’s. 
  • Outside of Allen Robinson, the Bears WRs have underwhelming historical production. All Bears fans know that Darnell Mooney is capable of more than the numbers he put up as a rookie (hence 30th percentile). For the remainder of the Bears WRs, speed does not always equal production. Marquise Goodwin’s career is a reminder of that. They should be able to take advantage of a weak CIN CB room. Here is to hoping the Bears can make some explosive plays with their speed.
  • Cole Kmet’s production has lacked against NFL averages. He did play well in Week One, it bears watching whether he can build on that in Week Two.
  • The Bears offensive line is scary, but maybe on par with Cincinnati. The most sure thing on the Bears OL is Cody Whitehair. He had a hellacious matchup with Aaron Donald in Week One. To his right, Ifedi ranks 30th among all OT’s for his recent production, however, a good portion of those snaps came at OG. His previous history at RT in Seattle says otherwise. In the middle, Sam Mustipher is the least known entity on the offensive line. He’s a UDFA who is coming off a brutal first week of action. To his right, James Daniels is somebody to watch at LG, coming off a solid Week One. He is a free agent next season. The assumption at LT is that Jason Peters will be available. The aged vet played well in his limited snaps Week One. Although, he is clearly not in playing shape after being a late signing and Hendrickson’s speed could be an issue.
  • The Bears front seven (EDGE and iDL) are a very talented group. The exceptions here are Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree, who have struggled in recent history. Both players have a lot of talent that they have not played up to, with multiple mental errors in Week One. 
  • The cornerback room, similar to that of the Bengals, is an issue. Jaylon Johnson played well in Week One, and showed a lot of promise as a rookie. Opposite him, Kindle Vildor still has a lot to prove, but got off on the right foot in Week One. I am not sure whether this had to do with him playing well, or the Rams just not needing to attack him. In the slot, Marqui Christian was the reason why Vildor and Johnson did not see much action. If Christian cannot play better, I am not sure what purpose he serves on this roster. It is that simple.
  • At safety, the Bears had an atrocious first week. Gipson is in the same boat as Christian. He simply needs to play better than he did, and his contract does not dictate his place on the roster. On the other hand, Eddie Jackson is a conundrum. As recently Robert Schmidtz put it:

Head Coaches Cover History

Since the start of 2019, Matt Nagy has been a close home favorite seven times, posting a record of 1-7 ATS. Betting the Bears to cover as home favorites on a spread of less than a touchdown is a bold decision. Nagy is 3-4 on the money line (Bears to win straight up) in these situations. He is 2-5 on the over. While history says the under should be the play, I might consider the over given the Bears recent defensive struggles. Regardless of being home or away, Nagy is 2-7 ATS as a close favorite.

Since the start of 2019, Zac Taylor has been a close road dog seven times, posting a record of 3-4 ATS. Based on Taylor alone, betting the Bengals to cover as road dogs on a spread of less than a touchdown is a toss up. Taylor is 0-6-1 on the money line (Bengals to win straight up) in these situations. He is 2-4-1 on the over. Regardless of being home or away, Taylor is 8-8 ATS as a close dog.

QB Cover History

Since the start of 2019, Dalton has been a close home favorite four times, posting a record of 0-4 ATS. Dalton is 0-4 on the money line (Bears to win straight up) in these situations. He is 1-3 on the over. Regardless of being home or away, Dalton is 1-7 ATS as a close favorite.

Since being drafted (2020), Joe Burrow has been a close road dog three times, posting a record ATS of 2-1. Burrow makes the Bengals covering seem much more appetizing than Zac Taylor did. Burrow is 0-3 on the money line (Bengals to win straight up) in these situations, and 1-1-1 on the over. Regardless of being home or away, Burrow is 4-1 ATS as a close dog.

Bears vs Bengals Summary

Gif: Tenor

These teams feel very similar when it comes to talent. Both have questions across the offensive line, strength at running back, and issues at cornerback. The difference is between the Bears front seven talent, and the Bengals wide receiver talent. If Justin Fields were starting, I would think that Bears vs Bengals is a high scoring shootout. However, Justin Fields is not starting, and Andy Dalton is. 

Prediction: 

Bengals – 26

Bears – 27

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I like spreadsheets and football. I aim to take an analytical approach to my football research while also realizing the physical nature of football and how that impacts the numbers. While my main focus is Chicago Bears, I also write about the NFL as a whole.

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