Chicago Bears (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
The Cowboys ended last season by getting destroyed defensively by, among others, the New York Giants. They lost 4 of their last 5 to blow the division and finish at 8-8, while they watched the Giants go on to eventually hoist the Super Bowl trophy. Given that, it’s no surprise that they spent as many resources as they did on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. It really seems to have paid off as they rank 1st in the league in yards per play allowed. Guys like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are playing really well, while several youngsters have stepped up.
Though they’ve faced the Seahawks and Buccaneers in 2 of their 3 games, they also did a solid job defensively on the Giants in the opener, holding them to 5.0 yards per play and 17 points. What’s even more impressive is that they’re doing this without Jay Ratliff, one of their best defensive players. He’s not expected to be able to go in this one either, but they might not need him much if they keep playing like they have.
While their defense has been excellent, their offense has been surprisingly middle of the pack. They’re normally one of the better offensive teams in the league and if they can get it together offensively and the defense continues to play well, they’re going to be a scary team. The biggest reason for their offensive issues is how many penalties they’ve committed. They lead the league with 22 offensive penalties. What’s even more concerning is that these penalties are mostly simple procedural penalties. I’d say they should be able to turn it around, but this isn’t a new issue for them. They were the 5th most penalized team in the league last year. Still, I don’t expect it to be THIS bad all year for them so there’s some room for improvement offensively and even with their offensive issues, they rank 2nd in the league in yards per play differential.
The Bears, meanwhile, rank right in the middle of the pack with an even yards per play differential. Their defense is also very good, as it normally is, but the offense is really sputtering. They had a huge performance week 1 against the lowly Colts, but they’ve struggled in the last two weeks against the Packers and the Rams. This was a top-5 offense last year before injuries struck so they should improve things eventually. They do have talent offensively; they’re just not playing up to it. Facing a tough defense this week though, this might not be the week to turn things around, especially with Matt Forte questionable.
I’ve gone into detail about these two teams’ yards per play differentials. The difference between these two teams’ differentials is 1.3 yards per play. An old gambling formula says to divide that by .15 and then add 3 either way to get the “real line.” That suggests that this line should be -11.5 in favor of the Cowboys. Obviously, it’s a little bit more accurate later in the season, but it’s definitely worth noting. 8 points of line value is nothing to sneeze at. On top of that, the Bears are a public underdog and as much as I love the fade the public, I love to fade public underdogs even more.
Public lean: Chicago (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 Dallas covers)
Sharps lean (sharps is defined as anyone with a 66.7% winning percentage or higher in Las Vegas Hilton): CHI 7 DAL 3
Update: Sharps are not only afraid to bet this game, but they pick Chicago when they do. Anthony Spencer is expected to be out for the Cowboys, while Matt Forte is expected to play for the Bears. I’m dropping a unit.
Dallas Cowboys 27 Chicago Bears 23
Pick against spread: Dallas -3.5 (+100) 1 unit