Chicago Bears (2-4) at New England Patriots (3-3)
Coming into the season, many regarded the Bears as among the worst, if not the worst team in the league. They won a couple early games, but the way they won those games suggested they were still one of the worst teams in the league and that they would have a hard time continuing to win games going forward. In both of their wins, the Bears lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle, by 0.41% and 1.30 respectively against the 49ers and by 1.39% and 0.08 respectively against the Texans, a big concern because those stats are much more predictive than the final score.
Sure enough, the Bears have lost three straight games since their 2-1 start and, in terms of schedule adjusted overall efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate, the Bears rank 30th, about 7 points below average. Even that may be the Bears overachieving their talent level, as my roster rankings have them 8.5 points below average and the 2nd worst team in the league, only behind the Broncos, who this week will have to turn to Brett Rypien, one of the shakiest backups in the league, in the absence of Russell Wilson.
The Patriots, meanwhile, were written off by many after a 1-3 start and an injury to starting quarterback Mac Jones. However, they were competitive in all of their losses, barely losing to the Packers in overtime and losing to the Dolphins primarily because of the turnover margin (-3 vs. Miami and -2 vs. Baltimore), which is not predictive week-to-week. In the past two weeks, the Patriots have since seen their turnover issues go the other way, posting turnover margins of +1 and +3 over the past two weeks in blowout victories over the Lions and Browns respectively, with backup quarterback Bailey Zappe under center.
Not only did those two wins get the Patriots back to .500, but they’ve also pushed them all the way up to 5th in the NFL in point differential at +28. Schedule adjusted overall efficiency doesn’t rank them quite as highly, but they still are 14th in the NFL, about one point above average. My roster rankings suggest they are even better than that, having them about 4 points above average, suggesting their high level of play in recent weeks is more indicative of their talent level than their slow start, which was likely the result of a significant change in offensive scheme this off-season.
Mac Jones is expected to return this week, but the way Bailey Zappe has played the past two weeks, I’m not really sure it matters for the purposes of handicapping this game, as either quarterback should be capable of leading the Patriots to a blowout win over the lowly Bears. This line is 8.5, which seems high, but the Patriots have shown a penchant for blowing teams out over the past three seasons, especially bad teams, with 13 of their 20 wins over that span coming by double digits. This isn’t a big play, but the Patriots should be bettable this week.
New England Patriots 23 Chicago Bears 10
Pick against the spread: New England -8.5