Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3)
It’s still unknown who the Bears quarterback will be this week at home for the Raiders. Jimmy Clausen started last week, after coming on in relief of an injured Jay Cutler the prior week. Cutler did get some practice in this week, but he’s reportedly dealing with a pretty severe hamstring pull. The team hasn’t provided any real clarity and it’s possible that they’re just keeping his status a secret to make the Raiders have to prepare for both quarterbacks. This line, at 3.5 in favor of the visiting Raiders, suggests that the odds makers don’t believe Cutler will play and that usually means something.
I like the Bears to cover this week either way, but I’d only put money on them if Cutler were to play and the Bears were to remain underdogs. I don’t really have interest in putting money on Jimmy Clausen, who has completed 53.2% of his passes for an average of 5.08 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his career. Last week, he completed 9 of 17 for 63 yards in a game in which the Bears lost 26-0 and picked up just 7 first downs, fewest by a team in a game thus far this season.
That shutout loss did come against a Seahawks defense that is arguably the league’s toughest, especially in Seattle, where they’re are so good. Even if Clausen is forced into action again, he will have a much easier matchup this team around, though Alshon Jeffery being out again and left tackle Jermon Bushrod joining him on the sideline isn’t good news. The Raiders front seven is much improved, with Khalil Mack and Justin Tuck having good seasons again and free agent acquisitions Aldon Smith and Dan Williams joining them, but their secondary is still porous. Both the Ravens and the Bengals moved the ball through the air effectively against them and even Josh McCown had some success, though the majority of it came once the Browns fell down big early.
The Bears are also in a great spot because of what happened last week. Teams tend to bounce back off of back-to-back losses of 21+ (the Bears also lost by 25 week 2, at home against the Cardinals), going 41-25 ATS in that spot since 2002. On the other side, the Raiders are in a bad spot, hosting the Broncos next week, arguably their biggest game not just of the season, but of the last few seasons for a team that’s been so starved for success over the past decade plus.
The Raiders are expected to be 6.5 point underdogs next week when the Broncos come to town. Teams are 35-74 ATS since 2012 before being 4+ point home underdogs, 19-49 ATS before being 6+ point home underdogs, and 12-28 ATS before being 7+ point home underdogs. That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you’re about to host a very tough opponent, serving as a distraction. Two, you really aren’t that good of a football team. In this scenario, it’s more than former than the latter (though I’m still not sold on this team as a real contender), but still. On top of that, road favorites are 78-120 ATS since 1989 before being home underdogs and 6-24 ATS as 3.5+ point road favorites before being 3.5+ point home underdogs, for the same reasons.
Given that, it’s going to be tough for the Raiders to cover as not only favorites, but favorites of more than a field goal, especially since this is the first time the Raiders have been road favorites since 2012. The Raiders haven’t covered as road favorites since 2005 and are just 1-5 ATS as road favorites dating back to the start of the 2003 season, right after their most recent winning season in 2002. The Bears do have to go to Kansas City next week and teams are 51-90 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs. The Bears are currently expected to be 12 point underdogs in the early line, though it’s unclear which quarterback that line assumes they’ll be starting. If it’s Cutler, that line shouldn’t be that high and might not be by gametime. Like I said, I wouldn’t put money on the Bears unless Cutler is able to play and even then I’d only do it if the Bears were to remain home underdogs, but Chicago should be the right side.
Update: Jay Cutler is expected to start and the line hasn’t moved, staying at 3.5. I guess the odds makers thought that Cutler would play the whole time. Cutler won’t be at 100% and neither will his supporting cast, but the Raiders aren’t proven enough yet to be favored by more than a field goal on the road against anyone other than the most pitiful of teams and I don’t think the Bears are that kind of team with Cutler. They kept it close at home against Green Bay week 1 with Jay Cutler and were keeping it close at home against Arizona before Cutler got hurt. Those teas are both 3-0, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t be able to keep it close with the Raiders. On top of that,the Bears are in a much better spot than the Raiders are. I’d put money on the home underdog at 3.5 and the money line at +150.
Chicago Bears 23 Oakland Raiders 20 Upset Pick +150
Pick against the spread: Chicago +3.5