I’m willing to bet that most folks reading this site are aware of the fact that we got our start covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball at Bleacher Nation Cubs. Which means even as our coverage of the Chicago Bears and the NFL expands and improves, there’ll always be the tiniest bits of baseball-influence in our work – at least when I’m on the keyboard.
And today is a perfect example. When I was checking out Luis’ post on the updated Bears playoff odds (which are WAY UP there, by the way), I began thinking of the many different ways the rest of the season could play out, which reminded me of point differential – a tool we use often in our coverage of the Cubs.
If you’re unfamiliar with point differential, don’t be alarmed, but it will be on the final. Fortunately, it’s pretty self-explanatory. In short, point or run-differential is how many points your team has scored minus how many points your team has allowed. Obviously, that’s not inherently keyed into baseball or anything, but we do use it over there quite a bit. Indeed, various MLB projection systems often rely heavily on run/point differential to forecast the rest of the season, because it can be a good indicator of future results.
Unfortunately, thanks to (1) playing far fewer games, (2) a different scoring system, and (3) the existence of garbage time scores (and other idiosyncrasies), comparing MLB’s run differential and the NFL’s point-differential in terms of future results isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison … but I think it’s still one worth exploring. In a way, a team’s point differential can better reveal the true talent of squad than their record or standings – so let’s see how the Bears stack up.
Remember, higher is better (because it means more blowout wins and fewer blowout losses), so where do the Bears rank? Pretty high up there, actually.
Like, really high:
- Kansas City Chiefs: +113
- Los Angeles Rams: +104
- New Orleans Saints: +98
- CHICAGO BEARS: +94
- Pittsburgh Steelers: +70
- Los Angeles Chargers: +54
- Baltimore Ravens: +53
- New England Patriots: +44
- Houston Texans: +32
- Seattle Seahawks: +27
Bottom Ten Differentials: Raiders (-125), Bills (-114), Cardinals (-101), Buccaneers (-59), Dolphins (-57), Bengals (-53), Giants (-51), Jets (-46), Browns (-45), Lions (-42).
As you can see, the Bears’ +94 point differential this season isn’t just good, it’s elite. Perhaps they’re not in the upper-most (above +100 points) tier at the moment, but there’s a HUGE gap between them and the fifth-ranked Steelers. And I know it’s always dangerous to play this game, but the Bears did lose 8 obvious points due to Cody Parkey’s four misses on Sunday. Maybe scoring those points would’ve changed the game in unforeseen, negative ways, but it’s even more likely that the Bears would’ve simply wound up with another 8 additional points in their column, dragging their differential up over 100 and into the league’s top 3 teams.
In any case, the conclusion is just as strong: By point differential, alone, the Bears appear to be one of the best teams in football, which – loosely – means they should be one of the best teams going forward.
Moreover, they are absolutely CRUSHING everyone else in the NFC North: The Vikings (+17, 12th in the NFL) and Packers (+7, 17th) might both have positive differentials, but they’re not among the league’s top 10 and the Lions (-42) are among the ten worst in the NFL (no thanks to their Bears’ stomping last Sunday). So, yes, this is very good news and gives you an inkling about how you should feel regarding the rest of the season.
Of course, wins and losses are all that count in the end – and point differential won’t save the Bears during their primetime matchup against the second-place Vikings this weekend – but with a broad stroke, it’s easy to see that these first-place Bears have earned every single ounce of their success this season. And that’s a very good signal for the rest of the season.