Whether it be preseason or regular season, a team is subservient to the expectations table. When a team has expectations above their talent level, big trouble. When a squad has expectations below what their actual talent dictates, great things can happen.
Two teams that illustrate this factor meet tonight at Giants Stadium when New York hosts the Chicago Bears. Last year, the Bears were coming off four straight last place finishes in the NFC North Division. Even after the team acquired defensive standout Khalil Mack just before the regular season kicked off, fans were in a wait and see mode.
But, after vaulting the rest of their division to go from last to first, Chicago fans were out in spirited fashion as if it was 1985 all over again. When they opened the playoffs at home against the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears were favored. When a medium distance field goal, 43-yards, is all that stood between them and advancing to the Divisional round of the postseason, the crowd at Soldier Field was on their feet.
Then, the kick missed, and the Bears 12-4 regular season ended with a Wild Card playoff game loss.
But, fear not, the success of last season, the addition of a couple key players, and the continued development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, has Chicago fans expecting this to be a big year.
Problem is, no matter how much talent a team has, when they win big one season after years of disappointments, they face a monumental task the next season because now expectations are so high their talent has trouble excelleing while not motivated by an underdog role. Chicago started as underdogs last season, but when favored in their playoff game, they failed.
This season, is scheduled to be a downer in the Windy City … which if historical patterns repeat, is one down year before a more steady and long term surge to the top.
Contrast the Bears success last year with the unexpected collapse of the New York Giants. This is a team that had cracked the playoff field six times with Eli Manning at quarterback and won two Super Bowls. In the 2018 draft, there were a number of top quarterback prospects on the board when the Giants made the second pick in the draft, but instead of going for a long term replacement for the aging Manning, the Giants opted for Penn State standout runningback Saquon Barkley.
The move was an indicator that first year head coach Pat Shurmur thought he had a team that could win right now, and was going to cash in with his veteran quarterback and new offensive weapon.
The starpower on the New York offensive side of the ball never gelled to create success, and now Odell Beckham is gone, moving on to the Cleveland Browns, and the Giants come into the 2019 season with a new backup for Manning, Duke’s Daniel Jones. The fans in the Big Apple were not happy when the Giants drafted Jones, but were more pleased with him last week when the rookie opened his professional playing career with 5 for 5 passing including a 12-yard touchdown toss.
Tonight, both Manning and Jones will see action, and with that spirited quarterback competition and a Bears team likely headed for a down season, this is an ideal spot for the home team.
Simply put, the Giants expectations are now below their talent level, and the Bears above.
Qoxhi Picks: New York Giants (-3) over Chicago Bears