Chicago Bears (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-1)
The Bears are 3-0, but they were favored in all 3 games. Their “vaunted” defense has forced a league low 9 punts all season. Yes, they have 11 takeaways, but their combined punts forced and takeaways is just 20, which is also one of the worst in the NFL. In terms of preventing their opponents from moving the chains on any given 1st and 10, they are right around 75%, very middle of the pack, which is right around where their improved offense is as well. They can’t continue relying on takeaways and recovering 75% of fumbles they force. It’s very possible they miss Lovie Smith’s defensive leadership. Over 30 veterans Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, and Lance Briggs are all disappointing. And now they’re without Henry Melton. This is a very shaky 3-0.
Detroit, meanwhile, is 2-1, but I think they’re playing a little bit better. They are converting 1st and 10 for another first down about 76% of the time, while allowing their opponents to do so about 74% of the time and they are ahead of Chicago in terms of differential there. They also played better against Minnesota than Chicago, the one mutual opponent these two teams have faced thus far. The Lions are no longer suffering from the problems that plagued them last season (turnovers, poor special teams, inability to win close games, inability to stop opponents from scoring defensive touchdowns) and that has allowed their talent to shine through like it did in 2011. I don’t think they’re significantly better than the Bears, but I think they’re a little bit better and that these two division rivals will split the season series with the home team winning each time.
At least that’s what I originally thought until I realized Detroit is in one of the most negative trends situations. Divisional home favorites before being divisional road dogs are 16-48 ATS since 2002. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s very possible the Lions could be caught looking forward to Green Bay next week. It’s not enough for me to take Chicago and I think it’s possible the trend won’t apply here because Chicago is 3-0 and not someone to be overlooked, but I can’t have confidence on Detroit with that trend lingering. Maybe Chicago wins in Detroit and they get them back in Chicago later this year and they split the season series that way, I don’t know. But Chicago can beat Detroit in Detroit without being better than Detroit.
Detroit Lions 24 Chicago Bears 20
Pick against spread: Detroit -3