Denver Broncos (7-2) at Chicago Bears (4-5)
The Broncos are in a really tough spot here this week, with probably their toughest and biggest game of the season on deck, a clash with Tom Brady and the currently undefeated New England Patriots in Denver, a game in which the Patriots are expected to be 5.5 point road favorites, per the early line. Teams tend to struggle before being huge home underdogs, as it can be tough to concentrate on the week and matchup in front of you with such a big home game on deck. Teams are 43-80 ATS before being 4+ point home underdogs, 22-52 ATS before being 6+ point home underdogs, and 14-30 ATS before being 7+ point home underdogs, since 2012. Making matters even worse is the fact that the Broncos are road favorites here in Chicago. Teams are 19-36 ATS since 2010 as road favorites before being home underdogs, as it’s understandably very hard to focus on an inferior opponent when you have such a tough upcoming game.
Speaking of the Broncos being road favorites, I think this line is way off, even with the Broncos only being favored by a point. Denver, despite their record, ranks 18th in the NFL in rate of moving the chains allowed. Their defense has been strong, ranking 5th in rate of moving the chains differential, though they haven’t been quite as good in the last 2 weeks without starting defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who will miss his 3rd straight game this week. The offense is what’s been the problem for the Broncos, as they rank 30th in rate of moving the chains.
The Broncos switch from Peyton Manning, who is old and banged up, to Brock Osweiler this week. Manning is officially listed as out with a foot injury, but he’s no lock to regain his job when healthy. He was playing so poorly (59.9%, 6.77 YPA, 9 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions) that Osweiler could easily be an upgrade and the variance and unpredictably of an inexperienced quarterback scares me when betting against one, because I just don’t know how good they are, but Osweiler will be hamstrung by the same weak running game and offensive line as Manning.
The Bears, meanwhile, rank 16th in rate of moving the chains differential and have been much better offensively with Jay Cutler healthy, as he’s playing some of the best football of his career under ex-Manning offensive coordinator Adam Gase. They move the chains at a 73.39% rate in the 7 games where Cutler has been healthy, as opposed to 56.25% in their other 2 games. Both wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Matt Forte are gametime decisions for this one, ahead of a Thursday Night trip to Green Bay, but Jeffery is expected to play and Forte’s replacement, Jeremy Langford, has been strong in his absence over the past 2 weeks. I don’t like that they play again in 4 days, but their opponent this week is tough enough that they should be focused and I don’t think they should be favored by any less than 4 points. Instead, Denver is favored by 1 in a bad spot. Chicago is my Pick of the Week.
Chicago Bears 24 Denver Broncos 17 Upset Pick +100
Pick against the spread: Chicago +1
Confidence: Pick of the Week