St. Louis Rams (1-1) at Chicago Bears (1-1)
In 2010, I consistently ranked the Bears lower than most and lower than their record would have suggested because I simply didn’t trust the combination of Jay Cutler, that offensive line, and Mike Martz to consistently win 3 or 4 games in a row against playoff caliber teams, so I didn’t like their Super Bowl chances. This year, I thought with Martz gone, it was safe to put them near the top of my Power Rankings, but after last week’s explosion, now I’m not so sure.
They’ll still win a lot of games (they won 11 in 2010), but this offensive line is a mess. Cutler didn’t play well last week, but he was pressured on 21 of 35 drop backs. That doesn’t help. Mike Tice is a good offensive line coach, but he’s been too overconfident in the last two years or so, thinking he can coach up a group that just doesn’t have the talent and ignoring the position in the offseason and the draft.
The good news for the Bears, Jay Cutler always takes a shit like that once or twice per year and it’s never meant anything. He’s not declining as a player. He’s still what he’s always been and with a solid supporting cast (except for the offensive line), this team can still win a bunch of games and take a wild card spot in the crowded NFC. I just don’t know how much I like their Super Bowl chances.
The fact that it was a Thursday Night Game had a lot to do with the loss as well. If you haven’t read Jason Whitlock’s article about how hypocritical Roger Goodell is pretending he cares about player safety, while simultaneously expanding Thursday Night Football to a season long thing and trying to expand the season to 18 games, here it is. It’s a very good read and yet another reason to hate Thursday Night Football. You may be thinking, how can you hate Thursday Night football? It’s another night of football. Yes, but it’s also sloppy football and if it’s a good matchup, it’s cheating us out of the opportunity to watch it under normal circumstances.
Last week it was Packers/Bears, two bitter rivals and two of the better teams in the National Football League, and what we got, because it was on Thursday, was a sloppy mess of two tired and unprepared teams. If that game had been on Sunday Night football or Monday Night football or time slot other than Thursday Night Football, it would have probably have been one of the best games of the week. Instead, it was painful to watch.
If you don’t believe me, look at the over/under record for as far back as there is data (1989). Since 1989, the over has won 50 times and the under has won 67 times. These are typically games that are much lower scoring than they are expected to be and than they probably should be, and on top of that, it risks injury for players playing tired. Roger Goodell has never played football. He doesn’t understand that, or maybe he just doesn’t care.
Home favorites are 46-23 ATS since 1989 on Thursday Night, so the Bears were at a huge disadvantage. I went against that trend last week, only because I had a good reason. The Packers had really struggled the week before and the Bears had not, so the Packers would have more to work on during the week and be at a bigger disadvantage on a short week. Apparently not. Still, it’s important not to put a ton of value into that loss.
However, there was a big line movement from last week to this week on this game as the line was -10.5 last week and is -7.5 now, which is a big overreaction to one week. Matt Forte’s injury is a factor a bit, but Michael Bush can carry a load and the Bears will have had 10 days off since that big loss. Teams are 42-28 ATS since 2008 coming off Thursday Night football (excluding teams coming off week 1 Thursday Night games).
That being said, I still feel like the Rams, one of my preseason underrated teams, is still being underrated. This team has played well in their first 2 games, almost knocking off Detroit in Detroit and then beating an upstart Washington team in St. Louis last week. I know the Redskins suffered key injuries in that game on defense and that made it easier, but the Rams suffered key injuries on offense, particularly the offensive line, and survived.
Missing 3 starters, the Rams’ offensive line isn’t doing too well right now, but they seem to have schemed around that and Sam Bradford is doing a much better job of getting the ball out quickly than he did last year. Still, Chicago has a good pass rush, so he will be under pressure, but the Rams have a good pass rush too and the Bears’ offensive line is horrendous, so Cutler will be under pressure as well.
On top of that, this is a potential breather game for the Bears. They’re coming off a loss as an underdog and will almost definitely be underdogs next week in Dallas. Teams in that situation are 49-77 ATS since 2008. It’s unclear, however, if this will be a factor for them needing to make a statement win and after 10 days rest.
I’m pretty torn on this one. On one hand, we’re getting good value with the Bears because of an overreaction and while Jay Cutler has had trouble in big games recently, he’s 5-1 ATS as favorites of 7+ since joining the Bears. They’ve had 10 days to rest and even though this is a potential breather game for them, it might not end up being that because they need to make a statement and because they’ve had so much rest. They Rams are also public underdogs, despite the overreaction in the line, and I hate to pick the public dog in that situation.
At the same time, the Rams are really underrated. These teams also are dead equal in yards per play differential, which is my favorite stat and one I feel is the best indicator of future success. I also feel like both of these teams are going to end up in the playoffs and there’s just not a 4.5 point difference between them (3 points is home field advantage). I’m just going to take the points and hope for a backdoor cover that makes this less than a 7 point game or that the game will just be naturally close. My gut feeling is this won’t be a blowout. If this were the -10.5 it was before last week, St. Louis might have been one of my biggest picks of the week, but there’s a huge line overreaction here and I hate picking public dogs when there’s a huge line overreaction because typically that means I’m falling for the overreaction.
Public lean: St. Louis (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Chicago covers)
Chicago Bears 24 St. Louis Rams 17
Pick against spread: St. Louis -7.5 (-110) 1 unit