Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-12) at Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

The Bears are 3-12, but have played a lot better than their record, as they have 4 more first downs than their opponents on 42 fewer plays and rank 11th in first down rate differential. How is that possible? Well, 6 of their 12 losses have come by a touchdown or less, including 3 losses by a field goal or less, and they have a -16 turnover margin, tied for 2nd worst in the league. Fortunately for them, turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent and unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, which is why I prefer other statistics.

They’ve dealt with a lot of injuries, but that hasn’t stopped them from going 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 games. Last week was their one non-cover, a 41-21 home loss to the Washington Redskins, but that was primarily because they lost the turnover margin by 5. They actually gained 31 first downs on 67 plays, just the 9th team this season to have more than 30 first downs in a game. They were also just the 3rd team since 1989 to have more than 30 first downs in a game and lose by 20 or more points. The week before they had 29 first downs, but lost by a field goal because of a -4 turnover margin.

As I mentioned though, this kind of thing is inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. For example, the Bears were -7 in turnover margin through the first 13 games of the regular season before going -9 in the past 2 weeks. Since 1989, 33 teams have had a turnover margin of -9 across a two game stretch. The following week, those 33 teams had an average turnover margin of -0.2. If we assume turnover neutral football for them in this game, which we should always assume, they have a great chance of covering this 6 point spread against a Minnesota team that ranks just 24th in first down rate differential.

Minnesota Vikings 19 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6

Confidence: High

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Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (7-6-1) at Chicago Bears (3-11)

The Bears narrowly lost at home last week to the Packers, but they were impressive even in defeat. They won the first down battle 29-20 and the first down rate battle by 11.14% and only lost on a last second field goal because they lost the turnover battle by 4. Fortunately, turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In fact, teams that lose the turnover battle by 4, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week. As a result, those teams cover the spread at a 53.1% rate, including 57.7% as home underdogs, as the Bears are here.

The Bears have been impressive in defeat most of the year actually, as they enter this game 14th in first down rate differential, despite a 3-11 record. Six of their last eight losses have come by 6 points or fewer. At home, the Bears are 3-4 with a +8 point differential and just one loss by more than 6 points (back in week 2). They’ve had a lot of injuries, but are still playing pretty well. Last week, their offense got a boost when top receiver Alshon Jeffery returned from his 4-game suspension. This week, their defense gets a boost with top linebacker Jerrell Freeman returning from a 4-game suspension.

The Redskins, meanwhile, have just 2 wins by more than a touchdown all year and one was at home against the Browns in a game in which they lost the first down battle 26 to 24. They enter this game 19th in first down rate differential, actually a few spots below the Bears, despite having a better record, and are coming off of a home loss to the underdog Carolina Panthers. They’re also without tight end Jordan Reed, their best offensive play maker. We’re getting great value with the Bears as 3.5 point home underdogs, especially since 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. On top of that, the Bears’ close home loss to the Packers last week puts them in a good spot this week, as teams are 75-56 ATS since 2002 as home underdogs after a loss as home underdogs. I like the Bears a lot this week, not just to cover the 3.5 point spread, but also to win straight up.

Chicago Bears 24 Washington Redskins 23 Upset Pick +145

Pick against the spread: Chicago +3.5

Confidence: High

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Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (7-6) at Chicago Bears (3-10)

The Packers got a huge home win over the Seahawks last week, handing Seattle their biggest loss in the Russell Wilson era, 38-10. Unfortunately for them, teams are just 61-80 ATS off of a home win as underdogs, as teams in that spot tend to be overrated and overconfident. Typically, I love betting against teams coming off of home upset wins and the Packers are no exception. The Packers’ big win last week shifted this line all the way from 3.5 in favor of Green Bay to 7, which I think is an overreaction, especially since the Bears almost won in Detroit. The Packers’ win last week was impressive, but much of that big margin of victory was as a result of a fluky +6 turnover margins. Turnover margins tend to be incredibly inconsistent on a week to week basis. In fact, teams that have a +6 turnover margin, on average, have a turnover margin of just +0.3 the following week.

The Bears, meanwhile, have had arguably the most injuries in the league, but they haven’t been bad overall this season and they are still fighting despite being down to backups at multiple spots on both sides of the ball. They rank 18th in first down rate and just 2 of their last 7 losses have come by more than 6 points. At home, the Bears are 3-3 with a +11 point differential and just one loss by more than 6 points (back in week 2). This week, the Bears get top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back from a 4-game suspension, a much needed re-addition for this offense. With this line jumping to 7 as a result of Green Bay’s big win last week, I like the Bears a good amount this week, as they should be able to keep it close against a team that could be overconfident off of a huge win and that has Minnesota and Detroit in their final 2 games of the regular season after this relatively “easy” game.

Green Bay Packers 23 Chicago Bears 20

Pick against the spread: Chicago +7

Confidence: High

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Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-9) at Detroit Lions (8-4)

The Lions are 8-4, but rank 22nd in first down rate differential. They’ve allowed 8 more first downs than they’ve gained and 3 more touchdowns than they’ve scored. Their 15-point win in New Orleans last week was easily their most impressive game of the season, but their other seven wins all came by a touchdown or less and all required 4th quarter comebacks. That’s relevant considering the Lions are favored by 7.5 points here as home against the Bears.

The Bears are one of the weaker teams in the NFL thanks to injuries and suspensions, as they’re missing their top two quarterbacks (Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer), their top-4 pass catchers (Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Zach Miller, and Eddie Royal), their best offensive lineman (Kyle Long), and three of their best defensive players (middle linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and cornerback Kyle Fuller). However, they’re still fighting, keeping it close with Tennessee two weeks ago and winning straight up by 20 as home underdogs against the 49ers last week. There’s not enough here for me to put money on it, but I like the Bears’ chances of keeping this within a touchdown.

Detroit Lions 23 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Chicago +7.5

Confidence: Low

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San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) at Chicago Bears (2-9)

The 49ers have lost 10 straight games, but are favored here on the road. To give you an idea of how rare that is, the 49ers are just the 5th team since 1989 to be favored despite being on a losing streak of 10+ games and just the 2nd team since 1989 to be favored on the road despite being on a losing streak of 10+ games. It’s not like most of those 10 losses were close either, as 7 out of 10 came by double digits and the average margin of defeat is 14.4 points. That being said, I couldn’t be confident enough in the Bears to put money on them unless we were getting a full field goal with them.

The Bears are incredibly banged up right now and might be the worst team in the league. They’re missing their top two quarterbacks (Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer), their top-3 pass catchers (Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, and Zach Miller), their best offensive lineman (Kyle Long), and three of their best defensive players (middle linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and cornerback Kyle Fuller), while outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, outside linebacker Willie Young, starting guard Josh Sitton, and slot receiver Eddie Royal are all expected to be gametime calls. Even if the Bears aren’t the worst team in the league, the 49ers are still in a better spot in their second of two road games, with an easy home game against the Jets on deck (in which they will likely be favored again). The Bears, meanwhile, have to turn around and go to division leading Detroit next week. I’m taking the points, but unless the line creeps up to 3 this is just a low confidence pick. The money line might be your best bet here at +110.

Chicago Bears 23 San Francisco 49ers 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Chicago +2

Confidence: Low

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Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Chicago Bears (2-9)

Despite 5-6 record, the Titans enter this game 6th in first down rate differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a +6 point differential on the season, despite being -7 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 7 plays, they have a +54 point differential (which would be 4th best in the NFL). They have 35 offensive touchdowns on the season, as opposed to 24 allowed by their defense, a +11 differential that is only behind New England and Dallas (both at +13).

This line opened at 2.5 in favor of the visiting Titans, but it has since jumped to 5.5. That’s for good reason though, as the Bears have been absolutely decimated by injuries and suspension in recent weeks. They were as healthy as they had been pretty much all season coming out of the bye, but since then they’ve lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler, tight end Zach Miller, guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd for extended period of time with injury, while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman are both out with suspensions.

Already missing backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Bears will turn to 3rd string quarterback Matt Barkley, who will make his first career start and who struggled mightily in relief duty earlier this year in the first significant action of his career. In addition to being without Long, Sitton, Jeffery, and Miller, the Bears were already without wide receiver Kevin White, who opened the season as the #2 receiver, and could be without slot receiver Eddie Royal, who opened the season as the #3 receiver.

That means Barkley will make his first career start without his best two offensive linemen and his top 3 or 4 targets in the passing game. It figures to be an offensive nightmare. Things are better on the defensive side of the ball, but the losses of Floyd and particularly Freeman will hurt this defense. Better than people think and facing a skeleton crew Bears team, I’d have no problem laying the 5.5 with the Titans here, though I was lucky enough to snatch this at 2.5 on Tuesday before Cutler’s injury came to light.

Tennessee Titans 23 Chicago Bears 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -5.5

Confidence: Medium

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Chicago Bears at New York Giants: 2016 Week 11 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (2-7) at New York Giants (6-3)

This is one of the games I’m torn on this week. On one hand, the Giants are the significantly superior team and they have an easy upcoming game, a trip to Cleveland to take on the winless Browns, so they don’t have any upcoming distractions. The early line has them at least favorites of 6 or more next week and favorites of 6 or more are 89-50 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again. Meanwhile, in terms of first down rate differential, the Giants enter this game 5th, while the Bears enter in 23rd.

Things were looking up for the Bears before their bye, as they were getting guys back from injury and they pulled the home upset victory over the Vikings, but things fell apart again for the Bears last week in their first game back from the bye in a 36-10 loss in Tampa Bay. Not only did they get blown out, but they’ve since lost talented guard Kyle Long for the season with injury, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for 4 games with suspension, and possibly nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who is questionable this week after tweaking his ankle injury in his return last week. The Bears are one of the worst teams in the league, while the Giants have actually been one of the best this season.

At the same time, this line is pretty big at 7.5, after a significant line movement in the past week (the early line was 5.5). As a result, we’re not really getting any line value with the Giants. Teams also tend to bounce back off of embarrassing losses like the Bears’ loss last week. The Bears lost by 26 last week as 2.5 point road favorites, an against the spread loss of 28.5. Teams are 92-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed in that situation.

It also helps the Bears that they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 136-103 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 108-71 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 229-245 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.86 points per game, as opposed to 329-459 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.00 points per game. I’m still taking the Giants, but this is a no confidence pick.

New York Giants 27 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -7.5

Confidence: None

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