Chicago Bears (8-6) at Arizona Cardinals (5-9)
The Bears started the season 7-1 and looked primed for a first round bye, but now stand at 8-6 and need help to even get into the playoffs. How did this happen? Well, the simple answer is that they started playing tougher competition. In their first 8 games, they faced Indianapolis, Green Bay, St. Louis, Dallas, Jacksonville, Detroit, Carolina, and Tennessee, but in their last 6, they’ve faced Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota, Seattle, Minnesota again and last week the Packers.
The Bears have won every game this year in which they’ve been favored by more than 4 (going 7-0 SU and 5-1-1 ATS), but in their other 7 games, they’ve won just once, in Dallas, going 1-6 SU and ATS. Fortunately for them, they close out the season with two easier games, in Arizona and in Detroit and they should be able to take care of their business, but they need the Giants to lose at least once to get into the playoffs.
In their 7 games in which they’ve been favored by 4 or more, they’ve won 41-21, 23-6, 41-3, 13-7, 23-22, 51-20, and 28-10, winning by an average of 18.7 points per game. 5 of those 7 wins were by 18 or more and only the game against Carolina was actually close. They shut out the Lions were 59 ½ minutes before they got a backdoor touchdown to push and finish 13-7. They should get a 5th huge blowout win here against a crappy opponent. The other recent for their recent struggles have been defensive injuries, with Henry Melton, Brian Urlacher, and Tim Jennings out, but I don’t know how much that matters against Arizona.
We’re getting minimal line value with the Cardinals, as the Bears rank 9th in net points per drive at 0.31, while the Cardinals rank 23rd at -0.31. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per game per team), and add 2.5 points to Arizona’s side, you get that Chicago should be favored by 4.5 instead of 6. However, that’s pretty minimal and can be nullified by DVOA, which takes into account things like schedule. Chicago ranks 6th in both regular and weighted DVOA, while the Cardinals rank 26th and 27th respectively. They were on a 9 game losing streak before their win last week, in which they still got outgained by over 100 yards.
The Bears are also in a good spot as favorites before being favorites when their opponents will next be dogs. Teams are 93-66 ATS in this spot since 2011. Since 2002, teams are 89-54 ATS in that spot when both teams have a divisional game next on the schedule. The Bears don’t have a tough game left on their schedule, as they finish in Detroit next week, while the Cardinals have a game that will be much more important to them in San Francisco next week. Teams are 43-85 ATS before being double digit divisional dogs since 2002. They might not be totally focused for the Bears here, especially off a big win against the Lions and whenever a dog might not be totally focused, it’s normally bad news. The only reason this isn’t a bigger play is because Chicago is heavily publicly backed and the public always loses money in the long run.
Public lean: Chicago (80% range)
Sharps lean: CHI 12 ARI 4
Final thoughts: Debated going up to 3 units, but it’s at -5.5 in the Supercontest. I can’t do a significant play at -6. I like it a lot more on the other side of that key number.
Chicago Bears 27 Arizona Cardinals 6
Pick against spread: Chicago -6 (-110) 2 units