Arizona Cardinals (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1)
Earlier in the week, I really liked Chicago here as 2 point home underdogs and was strongly considering putting money on them. The Cardinals had an impressive performance last week at home against the Saints, but that was at home and the Saints aren’t that good. The Bears aren’t that good either, but the Cardinals aren’t at home anymore. The Cardinals are 30-12 ATS as home underdogs or favorites of less than 3 since 2007, but they have no such advantage on the road.
For that reason, they don’t deserve to be 2 point road favorites here. They have Carson Palmer back from injury, but they’ve already lost Andre Ellington with injury again and they weren’t as good as their 11-5 record last season. Arizona’s 11-5 record was buoyed by a 4-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and their +11 point differential was 2nd worst among qualifying playoff teams. The Cardinals also benefitted from tough to sustain things like a 62.07% rate of recovering fumbles (best in the NFL), a +8 turnover margin, and a +4 return touchdown margin. They finished the season just 17th in rate of moving the chains differential, worst among playoff teams.
They’re not that much better than a Chicago team that is improved over last season and gave the Packers a fight last week. Jay Cutler should bounce back from the worst season of his career, the addition of Eddie Royal will help make up for the loss of Brandon Marshall, while the addition of Pernell McPhee more than makes up for the loss of Stephen Paea and Tim Jennings defensively. They also should have significantly fewer injuries than they did in 2014, when they were one of the most injury prone teams in the NFL. Importantly, guys like Matt Slauson and LaMarr Houston are back, after missing large chunks of last season. Neither one has a history of injuries so both should bounce back to their original form, which is consistently above average.
I don’t have the Bears as a playoff team or anything, but they were better than their 5-11 record last season (24th in rate of moving the chains differential) and I think they’re better this season than last season. I’m not going to put money on the Bears though, because both top receiver Alshon Jeffery and top edge rusher Pernell McPhee are serious question marks with injury and the line hasn’t really done anything to adjust to that. If the line moves to three or both of those guys end up playing, I may reevaluate, but, for now, I’m just taking the Bears for a low confidence pick.
Chicago Bears 20 Arizona Cardinals 19 Upset Pick +110
Pick against the spread: Chicago +2