Chicago Bears (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (2-6)
These two teams both only have 2 wins, but the Chargers are significantly better. While the Bears rank 26th in rate of moving the chains differential, the Chargers rank 7th. Obviously that seems weird given their record, but they actually lead the league in yards per game and are 2nd in first downs per game, behind the Patriots. Their defense has been a serious problem, as they rank 25th in rate of moving the chains allowed, but their offense has been so good (4th) that they still rank 7th overall.
Their 2-6 record is largely the result of a 2-4 record in games decided by a touchdown, a -6 turnover margin, a -3 return touchdown margin, a -7.4 yards per kickoff return margin, and a -10.5 yards per punt return margin. None of those things suggests anything deeply wrong with this team though, but rather that they have the framework of a good team, but just need to clean some things up. They’ve won the rate of moving the chains battle in 6 of 8 games and could easily be 4-4, 5-3, or even 6-2.They’ve almost won in both Green Bay and Cincinnati. They should be favored by more than 4 here against a Bears team that’s mediocre at best.
That being said, I can’t bring myself to put money on the Chargers for a couple of reasons. The first is that they’re going into a bye. That might sound like a good thing, but it’s not, as counterintuitive as that might seem. Big home favorites (6+) typically do very well before a bye (59-20 ATS since 2002), but, for whatever reason, small home favorites like the Redskins are here do not. Teams who are favored by 1-5.5 points at home going into the bye are just 38-62 ATS over that aforementioned time period, as they tend to get caught looking forward to the bye.
The second reason is injuries, as the Chargers are so unbelievably banged up right now. They’ve had injury problems all year and still have moved the ball better than their opponents, a testament to how well quarterback Philip Rivers has played, but this is as bad as it’s been all year. Wide receiver Keenan Allen, tight end Lardarius Green, left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin, center Chris Watt, middle linebacker Manti Te’o, middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, and possibly defensive end Corey Liuget are all out for this one. Losing Allen, 3rd in the league in receiving yards, for the season last week is a huge blow. They are likely to get safety Eric Weddle back, who they really missed him over the past 2 weeks, and the Bears are missing running back Matt Forte, wide receiver Eddie Royal, and center Hronnis Grasu, but I can’t be confident in the Chargers with as many injuries as they have.
San Diego Chargers 34 Chicago Bears 27
Pick against the spread: San Diego -4