Detroit Lions (5-4) at Chicago Bears (3-6)
The Lions beat the Browns 38-24 in Detroit last week, but the game was a lot closer than the final score suggested. The Browns led 24-17 in the 3rd quarter, despite allowing a return touchdown earlier in the game and getting no points out of a goal line opportunity at the end of the half. The Browns then had another goal line opportunity in the 4th quarter and threw an interception. The Lions won the first down rate battle, but only by 3.15%. On the season, they rank just 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.05%, similar to last season, when they were -1.90%.
Despite being 5-4 this season and 9-7 last season, they aren’t that good of a team. Last season, they won 8 of 9 games by a touchdown or less and didn’t beat a single playoff team. This season, their margin of victory has been better, but that’s largely because they have a +7 turnover margin, tied for 3rd in the league. Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a year-to-year and week-to-week basis (the Lions were just -1 last season), so the Lions probably won’t be able to count on that going forward. Their strength of victory is also once again pretty unimpressive, as 4 of their 5 wins have come against the Cardinals, Giants, Packers, and Browns.
The Bears, meanwhile, have been underrated for most of the season (5-2-1 ATS through the first 8 games), until last week when they were strangely 6 point home favorites against the Packers. The Bears lost outright, though the loss came by 7 points and the game could have been a lot different had they not fumbled at the goal line in the 2nd quarter. Now the Bears are back to being a little underrated, as they are field goal home underdogs against the Lions this week.
The Bears are 3-0-1 ATS this season as home underdogs, with outright wins against the Steelers and Panthers, so they should be able to give the Lions a good game as well. Even if they end up losing, the field goal gives us enough cushion to be confident in the Bears, as close to 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or less. I have this line calculated at even, despite the Bears likely missing middle linebacker Danny Trevathan, so we’re getting good line value with Chicago +3.
The Bears are in a tough spot with the Eagles on deck, as teams are 48-78 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, which the Bears will likely be in Philadelphia. Tough upcoming games tend to present a distraction for teams, though the Bears are in a must win spot at 3-6 so I’d be surprised if they didn’t give a good effort. The Lions, on the other hand, have a much tougher and more important game against the Vikings on deck and it’s in 4 days on Thanksgiving. Favorites are just 61-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to be focused for an inferior opponent with another game right around the corner. I like the Bears a good amount this week as long as we get the full field goal.
Chicago Bears 24 Detroit Lions 23 Upset Pick +140
Pick against the spread: Chicago +3