Over the last four seasons in Denver, John Fox had a run most coaches can only dream of, tallying a record of 46-18 during the regular season. But his 3-4 showing in the postseason ultimately led to his dismissal this offseason.
He wasn’t unemployed for long, as the Bears snapped him up in the offseason. And while wins have been hard to come by for Chicago, you can bet their Week 11 game against the Broncos (Sunday, Nov. 22, at 1:00 PM Eastern at Soldier Field) is one Fox wants in the worst way .
With Gary Kubiak bringing a brand new staff to Denver, they’ve kept up their winning ways, but have transitioned to a defense-first team. Leading the league total defense, scoring defense, and takeaways (17), this Broncos D should be licking their lips at a matchup with the turnover-prone Jay Cutler.
However, when Fox left Denver, he took offensive coordinator Adam Gase with him, and Gase has done wonders working with Cutler so far. Running a simplified offense, Cutler’s interceptions are down – averaging a pick every 49 attempts – and his quarterback rating is improved. Since returning from injury in Week 4, the Bears have gone 3-2 and held a lead in the fourth quarter of every game.
The Broncos just had their undefeated streak snapped at the hands of the now 4-5 Indianapolis Colts. Heading into the game, Denver appeared to be unstoppable. But the success they had found with their ground game all but dried up. And when tasked with leading the offense by himself, Peyton Manning made one too many mistakes against a sub-par Colts defense.
The Broncos D also couldn’t generate a single turnover against an Indy offense that ranks second-last in the league in giveaways. Throw in a suspension to Aqib Talib and an injury to DeMarcus Ware that could keep him sidelined for up to a month, and this was more than just a loss for the Broncos: it could be a sign of things to come.
Six of the Broncos’ eight games have been decided by seven points or fewer. And when a defensive team loses the turnover battle, it becomes very difficult to win close games. Add in the fact that Manning has thrown at least one interception in every game this season, and it’s a lot of pressure to put on a defense that is getting more banged up as the season wears on.
Fox hasn’t managed to stamp out all the stupid mistakes in the Bears’ game. But even though Chicago ranks 26th in penalty yards per game and 25th in red zone efficiency, they’re still better than Denver in both those categories.
While it’s hard to convince anyone to bet on Cutler against a top-tier defense, when you consider the familiarity the Bears’ coaching staff has with Denver, this game deserves a look as an upset pick. If nothing else, Chicago should manage to cover.
Straight-up pick: Bears.
(Photo Credit: Joe Bielawa (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/].)