Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

I’ve bet the Bears frequently this season because I’ve thought they were underrated for most of the season. However, I won’t be doing so this week because they are way too banged up. They’ve had injury issues all season, but just in the last few weeks they’ve lost three starters on the offensive line (left guard Josh Sitton, right guard Kyle Long, and right tackle Bobby Massie) and a pair of valuable contributors in their front 7 (outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and defensive end Mitch Unrein). With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Vikings this week, though only for a no confidence pick. I have this line calculated at Minnesota -12.5, so we aren’t getting any line value with them at -12, even as banged up as the Bears are.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Chicago Bears 10

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -12

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-14) at Chicago Bears (4-10)

I have picked the Browns against the spread in 6 straight games because I’ve felt for a while that they aren’t quite as bad as their record suggests, especially with Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman back. They’ve only covered in 1 of those games, but fortunately I have been hesitant to actually bet on them over that time period, only betting on them as 3.5 point underdogs in a game they took the Packers to overtime. In addition to the Green Bay game, the Browns came close to covering in against the Jaguars and Lions, before falling apart late in the game.

This week, I don’t think we’re getting line value with the Browns, as the Bears have been underrated for a while. They’ve had some injury issues in recent weeks, with right guard Kyle Long going on injured reserve a couple weeks back and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and left guard Josh Sitton join him this week. However, they have been better defensively since getting middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back last week and now they get safety Adrian Amos back from a 3-game absence, which is a huge re-addition.

On the season, the Bears have definitely been better than their 4-10 record suggests, as they rank 21st in first down rate differential at -1.16% and 23rd in point differential at -60. They are 2-6 in games decided by 8 points or fewer and have just 4 double digit losses, including a 10-point loss in Detroit last week that was closer than the final score. The Bears were about even in first down rate in that game, but lost by 10 because they lost the turnover battle by 3 and had 2 red zone interceptions. Fortunately, turnover margin tends to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, so I don’t hold that against them too much, especially since they are now facing the league’s worst team in turnover margin this week.

The Bears have faced one of the toughest schedules in the league this season in terms of opponent’s records at 56%, as only the Panthers and the Saints have faced a toughest schedule. That strength of schedule will obviously drop this week after facing the winless Browns. The Browns, meanwhile, have a strength of schedule of just 46%, largely as a result of playing in the much easier AFC. The Bears are 1-10 against NFC teams this season, but have won all 3 games they have played against AFC, beating the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals. On the season, the NFC is 36-22 against the AFC (31-25 ATS).

That being said, there isn’t enough here for me to confidently bet on the Bears as 6.5-point favorites. Both teams are in pretty bad spots, as they both have tough upcoming games, with the Browns going to Pittsburgh and the Bears going to Minnesota. Both teams are expected to be double digit underdogs in those games and teams are just 105-179 ATS (37.0%) since 2008 before being double digit underdogs. The Browns should be more focused though, as they try to avoid going 0-16, and underdogs tend to be better before being double digit underdogs than favorites anyway, as underdogs are 82-137 ATS (37.4%) in that spot since 2008, while favorites are 22-40 ATS (35.5%) over that time period. The Bears could definitely look past the Browns here this week, though I still like their chances of winning this one by at least a touchdown.

Chicago Bears 20 Cleveland Browns 12

Pick against the spread: Chicago -6.5

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

The Bears were a capable opponent in the middle of the season, but they’ve had a lot of injuries in recent weeks. They got stud middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back from a 3-game absence last week, but have since lost nose tackle Eddie Goldman, right guard Kyle Long, and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee indefinitely from a team that had already lost outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, tight end Zach Miller, and safety Adrian Amos long-term, all of whom were contributing in the middle of the season.

Fortunately, they get to face a Bengals team that is equally banged up. The Bengals will be missing stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict, cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, safety Shawn Williams, outside linebacker Nick Vigil, and running back Joe Mixon. On top of that, stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins, middle linebacker Vincent Rey, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard all were significantly limited in practice this week and are listed as questionable. As banged up as the Bears are, the Bengals shouldn’t be favored by more than 4 points against anyone except the Browns, who incidentally are the only team the Bengals have beaten by more than 4 points all season.

The Bengals are also in a terrible spot. Not only are they coming off of a brutal late loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night, a loss that arguably ended their season, but the Bengals also have to turn around and go to Minnesota next week. Given that, they could easily look past the lowly Bengals, who still have enough talent to keep it close with a banged up Cincinnati team. Teams are just 29-55 ATS since 2008 as 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point road underdogs, which the Bengals will likely be in Minnesota next week (+7.5 on the early line). The Bears are worth a small bet at 6 or higher.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Chicago Bears 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6.5

Confidence: Medium

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (3-8)

Going into their week 9 bye, the Bears were coming off of a solid 3-3 stretch. They had pulled upsets over the Steelers, Panthers, and Ravens and played one score games against the Vikings and Saints, with their only big loss coming in Green Bay on a short week, back when Aaron Rodgers was still healthy. As a result, the Bears came out of the bye as 6 point home favorites against the Brett Hundley led Packers. However, the Bears lost that game straight up and then lost the following two weeks as well, with last week’s loss in Philadelphia coming by 28 points (31-3).

A big reason why the Bears haven’t played as well in recent weeks has been their defense, which was a huge part of their solid play earlier in the season. Without middle linebacker Danny Trevathan, their defense took a big step back, but he returns to the lineup this week after a 3-game absence. Even without him, they came within a missed field goal of going to overtime against the Lions and they could have gone to overtime against the Packers had they not fumbled on the goal line. Last week’s loss in Philadelphia was obviously not close, but the Eagles are the best team in the league right now, so there isn’t a ton of shame in that, especially without arguably your most important defensive player.

Not only do the Bears get Trevathan back this week, but they get probably their easiest matchup of the season with the 49ers coming to town. The 49ers will start recently acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the first time this season and he should be an upgrade over CJ Beathard, but the 49ers have arguably the worst roster in the NFL around the quarterback and Garappolo is still an unknown commodity and likely doesn’t have the full playbook down after just a month with the team.

Despite that, the Bears are just 3 point favorites at home, suggesting these two teams are about even, which I definitely disagree with. When the Bears were 6 point favorites for the Packers a few weeks ago, I bet against them because that line was too high, but the 49ers are even worse than the Packers and the Bears now have Trevathan back, so I don’t understand this line at all. Aside from the Green Bay game, the Bears’ other home games have been wins over the Steelers and Panthers and close losses to the Falcons, Vikings, and Lions, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t beat the 49ers by at least a field goal. The 49ers are a huge step down in class from the aforementioned teams. I wish talented safety Adrian Amos was healthy for the Bears, but getting Trevathan back is more important. This is a high confidence pick at 3.

Chicago Bears 20 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: Chicago -3

Confidence: High

Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

I picked the Eagles to get a first round bye before the season and I have picked them every week this season, including Picks of the Week against the Chiefs, Redskins, and Cowboys. That’s because I’ve consistently thought they were underrated. It’s worked for me this far, as they are 8-2 ATS on the season. However, I am actually going to go against them this week because I think the lines have finally caught up with how good they are. I’ve also consistently thought the Bears have been underrated this season, picking them in 6 of 10 games (4-1-1 ATS in those 6 games).

The Bears are banged up defensively, with middle linebacker Danny Trevathan and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee not practicing on Friday and defensive end Akiem Hicks being limited, but they still have a solid defense. They also have an underrated offense, with a good offensive line, a strong running game, an improving receiving corps with 2nd round rookie tight end Adam Shaheen emerging and wide receiver Dontrelle Inman coming over from the Chargers, and #2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky improving as a starting quarterback. I have this line calculated at -13, so we’re getting 1 point of line value with the Bears at +14. It’s not enough to bet on them with any sort of confidence, but for pick ‘em pool purposes, they are the smarter choice.

Philadelphia Eagles 30 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago +14

Confidence: None

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: High