Chicago Bears (5-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)
This line suggests that these two teams are even and that the Buccaneers have a standard homefield advantage, as the Buccaneers are favored by a field goal at home. I don’t agree with either of those. The Buccaneers are just 18-36 ATS at home since 2009 and have been outscored by 48 points at home on the season this year, as opposed to +6 on the road. They also rank 22nd in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, a few spots lower than the Bears, who rank 18th.
On top of that, the Bears were missing Jay Cutler for two games, which skews that number a little bit. In the 12 games Cutler has been healthy, they’ve moved the chains at a 72.03% rate, as opposed to 56.25% in the other 2 games. Granted, those two games Cutler missed were against Seattle and Arizona, arguably the two toughest defenses they’ve faced, so they probably wouldn’t have had much success either way, but there’s no denying the Bears would rank higher if Cutler had been healthy all year, like he is now.
The Bears have also faced a much tougher schedule than the Buccaneers, ranking 2nd in strength of schedule, as opposed to 30th for the Buccaneers. The Bears have been a slightly better team than the Buccaneers this season, despite a way tougher schedule, and despite missing their starting quarterback for two games, but despite that, they’re 3 point underdogs here in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers have had little to no homefield advantage in recent years. We’re definitely getting line value with the Bears.
The Bears are also in a way better spot, as they host the Lions next week, while the Buccaneers have to go to Carolina. With their season over in terms of their playoff chances, the Buccaneers could definitely get caught looking forward to their chance at ending the Panthers undefeated season. While the Bears are expected to be favored by 1.5 points next week at home against the Lions, the Buccaneers are expected to be 10 point underdogs in Carolina, per the early line.
The Panthers could definitely end up deciding to rest their starters at least somewhat in that one, with the #1 seed likely to be locked up by then, but they might not with a perfect season on the line and that game could easily serve as a distraction for the Buccaneers this week either way. Teams are 37-58 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs and 37-60 ATS since 2002 as favorites before being double digit underdogs. On top of that, favorites are just 103-169 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Combining the two trends, teams are 20-47 ATS since 1989 as favorites before being double digit underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites.
It also helps the Bears that they are in their 2nd of 2 road games. Teams are 128-94 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 104-64 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 223-224 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.49 points per game, as opposed to 320-435 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.70 points per game. I love the Bears this week. The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because talented wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is expected to be a gametime decision for the Bears.
Chicago Bears 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: Chicago +3