Chicago Bears (4-9) at Detroit Lions (7-6)
When these two teams met in Chicago 4 weeks ago, I made a big bet on the Bears as 3-point home underdogs. The Lions and Bears have been on my overrated and underrated lists respectively throughout most of this season and Chicago +3 at home seemed like a great value. That line ended up pushing when the Bears missed a potential game tying field goal with time expiring, but I still feel like it was the right side. The Lions scored one of their touchdowns on a fluky fumble return and lost both the first down battle (25 to 20) and the offensive touchdown battle (3 to 2). In first down rate differential, the Bears finished at +6.33% for the game, despite the close loss.
Since then, things have arguably gotten worse for the Lions, as they lost at home to the Vikings, got blown out in Baltimore, and then managed to only win by a field goal in Tampa Bay against a weak Buccaneers team, despite winning the turnover battle by 2, something they’re not going to be able to count on every week. Injuries have become a big problem for this team, as Matt Stafford is playing at less than 100% with a throwing hand injury, while center Travis Swanson will join talented right tackle Ricky Wagner on the sideline this week with an injury, after Wagner missed last week’s game in Tampa Bay.
The Lions sit at 7-6, after going 9-7 last season, but their margin of victory has been slim, with their average victory coming by 6.94 points over the past 2 seasons and 8 of those 16 wins coming by 5 points or fewer. Considering they are favored by 5.5 in this one, that’s very relevant. They also rank 27th in first down rate differential at -4.06%, after posting a -1.90% rate in 2016, as they have allowed 38 more first downs and 4 more offensive touchdowns on the season than they have gained.
The Bears are only 4-9, but they rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -1.40% and they also rank slightly higher in my roster rankings now, given the injury situations of these two teams. While the Lions are banged up, the Bears are getting healthier. Middle linebacker Danny Trevathan, a key player who did not play the last time these two teams met, returned a couple weeks ago, while outside linebacker Pernell McPhee returns from a 1-game absence and safety Adrian Amos and nose tackle Eddie Goldman are questionable to return from 2-game and 1-game absences respectively, after getting in limited practices this week.
The Bears have a talented defense when their key players all are healthy and that could be the case this week for the first time in a while. The Lions, meanwhile, rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 38.13% and have major holes throughout their defense. We lost line value after the Bears’ blowout win in Cincinnati last week, as this line shifted from 6.5 to 5.5, but I like the Bears’ chances of continuing to play well in this game and at least keeping this one close, so 5.5 is still worth a bet.
Detroit Lions 23 Chicago Bears 20
Pick against the spread: Chicago +5.5