Chicago Bears (6-1) at Tennessee Titans (3-5)
This was the toughest game of the week for me. At first glance, this looked like a trap line which is normally a good thing to bet against when sportsbetting online. There is heavy public action on Chicago and yet the line is falling (it opened at -5 and -4.5 and now it’s at -4 and -3.5). However, normally I like to find a trend or a few in the other team’s favor with potential trap lines and I had trouble finding one for Tennessee.
Tennessee is coming off a home overtime loss. Teams are 81-62 ATS in this spot since 1989. However, teams off a home overtime loss as favorites are just 44-38 ATS since 1989, which isn’t as strong. In fact, as dogs off a home overtime loss as favorites, teams are just 20-24 ATS. As home dogs, they are 3-0 ATS, which isn’t a very big sample size at all. There may be something there that says to take Tennessee, but it isn’t strong.
Often times what I like to do when I can’t find a trend for a team coming off an overtime game of any kind is I like to substitute overtime for just close games in general, meaning games decided by a touchdown or less. That didn’t help me much. Teams are 281-246 ATS off a home loss of 7 or fewer since 2002. Going down to 2008, that trend is 118-111 ATS. Off a close home loss as favorites, teams are 71-61 ATS and as dogs off a close home loss as favorites, teams are 41-30 ATS. Off a divisional close home loss as favorites, teams are 11-12 ATS as dogs the following week, including 28-34 ATS since 2002. As home dogs, that trend is 5-3 ATS and when we go back to 1989 to get a bigger sample size, the trend is just 12-14 ATS. Again, there may be something there, but it isn’t strong.
The only “strong” trend in found in Tennessee’s favor is that road favorites are just 5-13 ATS since 1989 off back to back home wins as favorites in which they failed to cover, which is the case for Chicago. Again, it’s a very small sample. To get a bigger sample size, I looked at teams in general coming off back to back home wins as favorites in which they failed to cover and teams are 15-22 ATS. When I expanded to teams coming off back to back wins in general in which they didn’t cover, that trend is 44-48 ATS. Once again, there may be something there, but it’s not strong.
Furthermore, we aren’t getting line value with the Titans. Using the traditional yards per play differential method, this line should be Chicago -1.5 because Chicago is actually a very average team in yards per play differential, so using just that method, it does appear we have line value with the Titans. A lot of sharps do use that method, which is why sharps may be on the Titans this week, but I don’t use just that method.
I created another statistic called rate of sustaining drives differential, which compares how often on a given set of downs you convert for a 1st down or a score, as opposed to how often your opponent does so. This statistic underrates teams that get a lot of big plays and/or don’t allow a lot of big plays, but those are the exact same teams yards per play differential underrates. Big plays are great, but you need to be able to stay on the field offensively or get off the field defensively. Meanwhile, sustaining drives is great and limiting your opponent’s ability to do so is great, but if your offense has no explosion and you’re allowing a lot of big plays, that’s not good. I think these statistics work really well in tandem.
Using that method, we see that Chicago should actually be -8.5. I’m not saying either one is right, but it’s smart to use both to find teams that one statistic under or overrates. In this case, there appears to be no line value either way and if there is, it’s actually in favor of Chicago, because when you average out these two numbers, you get -5.
On top of that, Tennessee has the league’s worst points differential at -95, excluding Kansas City, who surpassed them with their showing on Thursday Night Football. That’s because of their horrific defense. They rank 27th against the pass, 26th against the run, allow 32.1 points per game, 2nd worst in the league, and just made Ryan Fitzpatrick look like a franchise quarterback 2 weeks ago. Going back to rate of sustaining drives, they’re one of 2 teams with an opponent’s rate of sustaining drives higher than 80% as they sit at 84.4%, meaning on any given set of downs, they allow a first down or a score 84.4% of the time. That’s worst in the league. The Saints are next worst at 82.9%. They’re horrendous. Meanwhile, Chicago is one of the top teams in the league.
The Titans also come from an inferior conference (the NFC is 20-12 against the AFC) and they will once again be missing stud left tackle Michael Roos. Replacement Mike Otto was surprisingly good in his first start last week, but there’s no guarantee that will continue, especially since he’ll be matched up with Julius Peppers this week. I can’t take Chicago because of the trap line potential, but it’s a very small play on Tennessee. If I did 0-unit picks, this would be one of them.
Public lean: Chicago (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Tennessee covers)
Sharps lean: CHI 10 TEN 8
Final update: One injury update: Michael Roos will play. I still don’t have a good feel for this game though and neither do the sharps apparently. I’d pick Tennessee if I had to, but it’d be ranked dead last in any confidence pools.
Chicago Bears 23 Tennessee Titans 20
Pick against spread: Tennessee +4 (-110) 1 unit
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