Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9)
This line was 4.5 last week, but it’s since moved to 7 in favor of the Lions, a line movement of 2.5 points that crossed both significant numbers of 6 and 7. It’s easy to understand why the line moved after the Bears were embarrassed on national television by the Saints. However, I love fading a significant line movement whenever it makes sense, especially if I get to fade the public in the process, as the public always loses money in the long run. This week’s game meets all those conditions as the public is all over the Lions, despite the line movement, and the line movement was unwarranted and an overreaction.
Yes, the Bears looked bad at home last week against the Saints, but the Lions didn’t exactly look good either, needing 3 Minnesota missed field goals and two Minnesota interceptions, including one that set the Lions’ offense up at the Minnesota 11, to beat the Vikings by 2 at home. The Vikings won the first down battle in that game by 10, 21-11. In terms of rate of moving the chains differential, the Lions moved the chains at a 57.14% rate, as opposed to 74.19% for their opponents, a differential of -17.05%. That’s actually worse than the Bears, who moved the chains at a 62.07% rate, as opposed to 78.38% for their opponents, a differential of -16.31%. And the Bears did so against a much better team, as the Saints rank 9th in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, while the Vikings are in 27th.
When you look at how both of these two teams have done on the entire season in terms of rate of moving the chains differential, it becomes obvious that there’s significant line value with the Bears, especially after that unwarranted line movement. The Lions rank 15th on the season, moving the chains at a 70.60% rate, as opposed to 70.41% for their opponents, a differential of 0.20%. The Bears, meanwhile, rank 22nd, moving the chains at a 74.43% rate, as opposed to 75.92% for their opponents, a differential of -1.48%. There’s no way the Lions deserve to be favored by a touchdown here.
On top of that, the Lions are in a terrible spot. Favorites of 6 or more are just 47-81 ATS before being underdogs of 6 or more since 2002. Even worse, teams are 18-33 ATS since 1989 as road favorites of 4+ before being road underdogs of 4+. The 49ers lost straight up in Oakland in this exact same spot as 8 point favorites a couple weeks ago, ahead of a much bigger game in Seattle. The Lions could easily slip up here with a much bigger game in Green Bay next week, especially since the talent difference between the Bears and Lions isn’t nearly as much as the Raiders and 49ers.
Update: The Bears made the surprise move today to go to Jimmy Clausen instead of Jay Cutler at quarterback. I apologize to anyone who put money on Chicago +7 at my recommendation. I didn’t see this coming. Clausen is definitely not an upgrade on Cutler, who hasn’t been the problem in Chicago, leading this offense to be 11th ranked in rate of moving the chains differential. This move was likely just made as a wake up call to the rest of the team and it may do it’s job, at least for the time being, as everyone is getting fired in Chicago this off-season. The line has moved to 9 as a result and I still like Chicago at +9 with Clausen, which is the good news for anyone who took Chicago +7. I’m not as confident as I was before because I don’t think 2 points is enough of an adjustment for Cutler being out, so we’re losing some line value, but the Lions are still in a terrible spot and we’re still getting some line value by fading a Detroit offense that hasn’t moved the ball well all season as massive road favorites. There’s also some small Josh McCown potential with Clausen, who looked good in the pre-season, in Trestman’s system. Chicago is still the pick here and it’s still a money pick, but not as high a confidence pick as it was before.
Detroit Lions 20 Chicago Bears 17
Pick against the spread: Chicago +9