Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (11-1) at Chicago Bears (8-4)

The Bears lost last week in New York to the Giants, but I don’t really hold that against them that much. The Giants have been playing better football over the past month and the Bears were starting a backup quarterback in a terrible spot, with this huge home game against the Rams on deck. They were nowhere near 100% last week, but they still won the first down rate battle by 4.35%, taking the game to overtime, despite losing the turnover battle by 2. Because of that, the Bears remain #1 in first down rate differential on the season at +6.73%, despite playing with a backup quarterback for two games. Their 8-4 record is good, but they’ve been even better than that suggests, as all 4 of their losses came by less than a touchdown (by a combined 14 points) and they won the first down rate battle in 3 of those 4 losses.

Bears starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky is not even listed on the injury report this week, after practicing in full all week, and I expect a much better effort from the Bears in a much bigger game. The Rams are obviously a tough opponent and they’re better defensively with Aqib Talib back, but I don’t think they deserve to be favored by a full field goal here in Chicago. The strength of schedule difference between these two teams worries me, as the Bears have had the easiest schedule by DVOA, while the Rams have had the 9th toughest, but even with that taken into account I have this line calculated about even. Chicago isn’t worth a huge bet, but I think they have a good chance to win straight up and I like getting field goal protection at +3.

Chicago Bears 24 Los Angeles Rams 23 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Chicago +3

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at New York Giants: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (8-3) at New York Giants (3-8)

I’ve picked the Bears in all but one of their games this season and have bet on them 5 times, going 5-0 ATS. They’ve been underrated for weeks, as their 3 losses have come by a combined 11 points. Winners of 5 straight, the Bears are now at 8-3 and statistically have been as good as any team in the league, ranking 4th in point differential at +106 and 1st in first down rate differential at -7.03%. That being said, I’m not taking them this week because they are in a terrible spot and I’m not just referring to the absence of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky hasn’t been bad, but he’s not the reason this team has been winning and backup Chase Daniel is one of the better backups in the league.

The bigger issue is that the Bears have to turn around and host the Rams next week, a game that could easily be as a huge distraction to the Bears. Road favorites are just 39-64 ATS since 2008 before being home underdogs, which the Bears almost certainly will be next week (early line is Rams -3.5). The Giants are just 3-8, but they’ve been competitive in most of their games, losing just 2 games by more than a touchdown, with 3 losses coming by 3 points or fewer. They could easily catch the Bears off guard and make this a game or even potentially win it straight up. We’re not getting any line value with the Giants at +3.5, as the Bears still have a distinct talent advantage, so this is a no confidence pick, but this has trap game written all over it for the Bears.

Chicago Bears 19 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +3.5

Confidence: None

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6)

The rule of thumb with the Lions in the Matt Stafford era is to bet against them when facing good teams. They are 20-38-2 ATS and 20-40 straight up against teams with winning records since Matt Stafford’s first full season as starter in 2011. Most recently, they went 1-11 against eventual playoff teams between 2016 and 2017. I know the Lions have wins against the Patriots, Packers, and Panthers this season, but the Packers and Panthers would have both won if not for several missed kicks and the Patriots have also lost on the road in Tennessee and Jacksonville this season.

That win against the Panthers came last week, but the Lions had a -5.98% first down rate differential in that game, pushing them down to 25th at -3.78% on the season. Their defense has gotten better in recent weeks with top edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah returning from injury, but their offense has taken major hits, trading away slot receiver Golden Tate, and losing wide receiver Marvin Jones, running back Kerryon Johnson, and right guard TJ Lang with injury. The Bears, on the other hand, rank 1st in first down rate differential at 7.00%, as they’ve been even better than their 7-3 record suggests, losing those 3 games by a combined 11 points and winning the first down rate battle in two of them.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would bet on the Bears in this one, but these are not ordinary circumstances. Not only are the Bears in a bad spot playing in an early game on Thursday Night Football against a last place team that they already beat two weeks ago after getting their biggest win of the season on Sunday Night Football last week against the Vikings, but they’re also missing quarterback Mitch Trubisky with injury.

Trubisky is not the primary reason why the Bears are winning games and the line compensated for his absence, shifting from Chicago -4.5 to Chicago -3, but Chase Daniel is a bit of a mystery as an injury replacement. Despite pocketing over 28 million over a 10-year NFL career, Daniel has thrown just 78 passes in his career and has made just 2 starts. Obviously he’s doing something right behind the scenes to keep getting jobs, but I don’t know how much I trust him on a short week on the road favored by a field goal, especially if the rest of the team is flat on a short week after last week’s big win. The Bears are my choice, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Chicago Bears 20 Detroit Lions 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago -3

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1) at Chicago Bears (6-3)

The Bears have quietly been one of the best teams in the league this season. Their 6-3 record is impressive, but they’ve been even better than that suggests. Their 3 losses have come by a combined 11 points and they rank 4th in point differential at +94. In first down rate differential, they are even better, entering this week first at +7.68%. Much like Jacksonville a year ago, they have the best defense in football and their offense gives them enough to win most weeks. They aren’t frequently mentioned as contenders, but they have enough talent and are playing well enough that they should be.

The Vikings are arguably as healthy as they’ve been all season coming out of their bye, after an injury plagued first half of the season, but the Bears are still the better of these two teams. This line, only favoring the Bears by 2.5 points, suggests the opposite. I actually have the Bears a few points better than the Vikings and I have this line calculated at Chicago -5.5. That’s a significant difference, because it crosses the key number of 3. As long as the Bears basically just have to win here at home to cover I like their chances a lot.

The one concern I have with the Bears is that they play again in 4 days on Thanksgiving and the track record of favorites before Thursday Night Football (51-71 ATS since 2012) isn’t great. However, this is a chance for the Bears to make a statement and prove they belong as the contender (and to put themselves in the driver’s seat to win the NFC North), so I don’t think the Bears are really going to be looking past this game to next week’s matchup with the last place Lions all that much. They’re one of my top plays of the week.

Chicago Bears 23 Minnesota Vikings 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago -2.5

Confidence: High

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-5) at Chicago Bears (5-3)

The Bears are quietly one of the better teams in the league. They’re only 5-3, but their 3 losses came by a combined 11 points and they actually won the first down rate battle in 2 of those 3 losses. On the season, they rank 3rd in point differential at +82 and 1st in first down rate differential at +7.69%. Their defense is arguably the best in the NFL and their offense gives them enough to win most weeks. They’ve played an easy schedule recently, playing the Jets and Bills back-to-back weeks, but they were pretty dominant in both games, despite being without top wide receiver Allen Robinson and top edge rusher Khalil Mack with injury.

Robinson and Mack are expected back this week, after the Bears were cautious with them against easier opponents. The Lions are a step up in class, but not by a ton, as they’ve lost a lot of talent in recent weeks. After trading away talented slot receiver Golden Tate to the Eagles at the trade deadline last week, the Lions then lost both cornerback Darius Slay and right guard TJ Lang, two of their better players, to injury last week in a rough performance on the road in Minnesota.

That loss last week pushed the Lions to 19-37-2 ATS and 19-39 against winning opponents since Matt Stafford’s first full season in 2011. They have really struggled against top level teams like the Bears, most recently going 1-11 against playoff teams between 2016 and 2017. They beat the Patriots and Packers this year, but the Patriots were not in mid-season form at that point (they lost to the Jaguars the week before), while the Packers would have won if Mason Crosby hadn’t had the worst game of his life (and the Packers might not end up as a playoff team anyway). There’s a big talent gap between these two teams right now and this line, even though it’s shifted from 4 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week, still doesn’t show that talent gap properly. The Bears should be able to win this one with ease.

Chicago Bears 24 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Chicago -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Chicago Bears at Buffalo Bills: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-3) at Buffalo Bills (2-6)

If the Bills’ quarterback situation went from bad to worse when rookie quarterback Josh Allen got hurt, forcing them to start to street free agent Derek Anderson in his absence, then I’m not sure what the phrase is to describe what happened to their quarterback situation when Anderson suffered a concussion late in his second start last week, forcing to the Bills to turn to 2017 5th round pick Nathan Peterman as their starter this week. Peterman has completed just 45.7% of his 81 career pass attempts in 2 seasons in the league, for an average of 4.44 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions and has proven on numerous occasions he does not belong on an NFL field at this stage of his career.

Peterman has been so bad that even the Bills, who have been high on him since drafting him and even started him week 1 this year, decided that signing Anderson as a free agent and starting him after less than a week with the organization was a better idea than going back to Peterman. Peterman also will not get any help from his supporting cast on easily the worst offense in the NFL, which ranks dead last, picking up a first down or touchdown on a pathetic 25.42% of offensive snaps.

Making matters worse for Peterman this week, he faces arguably the toughest defense in the NFL with the Chicago Bears coming to town. The Bears are just 4-3, but their 3 losses came by a combined 11 points and they actually won the first down rate battle in 2 of those 3 losses. On the season, they rank 6th in point differential at +50 and 2nd in first down rate differential at +8.03%. They should be able to go into Buffalo and give them their 6th double digit loss of the season and 11th in their last 12 losses, but I’m not confident in them because they’re pretty banged up.

Not only is right guard Kyle Long out for the rest of the regular season, but they could also opt to hold out wide receiver Allen Robinson and edge rusher Khalil Mack against a weak opponent, like they did last week at home against the Jets. The Bills’ offense is horrendous and is probably more likely to allow a defensive touchdown than score an offensive one, but they have a capable defense that could make this one close if the Bears aren’t at 100% and aren’t focused against a weak opponent.

Chicago Bears 20 Buffalo Bills 9

Pick against the spread: Chicago -10

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

New York Jets (3-4) at Chicago Bears (3-3)

The Bears are just 3-3, but they are still one of the better teams in the league, with their 3 losses coming by a combined 11 points, including a loss last week to the Patriots by 7 in which they won the first down rate battle by 5.36%. On the season, they have a +36 point differential, 5th best in the NFL, and rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +7.11%, which matches their talent level, as they’ve been a top-5 team on paper since getting Khalil Mack in a trade with the Raiders before the season began.

The Jets, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Despite an easy schedule (Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Denver, Indianapolis, Minnesota), the Jets rank just 28th in first down rate differential at -4.48%. Their defense hasn’t been bad, allowing opponents to move the chains a a 34.66% rate, 10th in the NFL, but their offense ranks 28th in first down rate at 30.18% and is even worse in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on just 34.78% of their red zone trips, worst in the NFL.

The Jets also enter this game pretty banged up, missing top cornerback Trumaine Johnson and three of their top-4 receivers, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and Terrelle Pryor. The Bears, on the other hand, are close to full strength and should be able to win this game at home with relative ease. I wish this line was still -6.5 or -7 where it briefly was earlier this week, but I like the Bears still at -7.5, as this should be a double digit game.

Chicago Bears 24 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Chicago -7.5

Confidence: Medium