Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) at Chicago Bears (1-4)
This one is tough. Despite similar records and arguably similar levels of talent, the Bears have significantly outplayed the Jaguars through the first 5 weeks of the season. Despite a ton of injuries (Pernell McPhee, Eddie Goldman, Kevin White, LaMarr Houston, Kyle Fuller, Jay Cutler), the Bears rank 8th in the first down percentage differential. They’re arguably healthy now than they were a few weeks ago, with the return of middle linebacker Danny Trevathan from injury. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are healthier than they’ve been all season. Jared Odrick, Prince Amukamara, Brandon Linder, and Kelvin Beachum all missed time earlier in the year, but, coming out of their bye, they are only missing mediocre guard Luke Joeckel. However, through 4 games, they are 27th in first down percentage differential.
Despite that, the Bears are only favored by 1.5 points here at home, suggesting the oddsmakers see the Jaguars as the superior team. That hasn’t been true thus far, as they’ve had much different numbers against fairly comparable schedules. The Jaguars have played the Packers, Chargers, Ravens, and Colts, while the Bears have faced the Texans, Chargers, Cowboys, Lions, and Colts. All of that being said, the reason I can’t be confident in Chicago is because they have easily their biggest game of the season on deck next week, which could cause them to overlook an unfamiliar, underwhelming opponent.
The Bears travel to Green Bay, where they are expected to be 10.5 point underdogs against the Packers, according to the early line. Teams are 39-61 ATS since 2012 before being 10+ point underdogs and 19-33 ATS as favorites before being 10+ point underdogs since 2008. On top of that, favorites are 50-75 ATS since 2008 before a Thursday night game. The Bears are the pick and could be worth putting money on (I may decide to later), but I’m worried about the possibility of the Bears showing up flat with a huge game on deck and the Jaguars showing up and playing their best football of the season, healthy coming out of the bye.
Update: I’ve decided to bump this up to a medium confidence play. As long as the line is under a field goal, the Bears have a good chance to cover.
Chicago Bears 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 16
Pick against the spread: Chicago -1.5