Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (11-3) at Chicago Bears (3-11)

The Bills haven’t been quite as dominant this season as they were last season, when all of their wins came by at least 12 points, leading to a +194 point differential that led the league. However, they have played better in one-score games, going 5-3 this year, after going 0-5 a year ago, which led to them going “just” 11-6, despite their league leading point differential. The Bills’ point differential is also still the second best in the league, only 8 points behind the Eagles, who have benefited significantly from a league leading turnover margin of +12, which is not predictive week-to-week (Buffalo is only at +1). In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is more predictive, the Bills lead the league at +9.80.

The biggest reason why the Bills haven’t been as dominant this season as last season is they have had more injuries and, while some key players have returned, they still are without several for this game, including starting center Mitch Morse, talented safety Micah Hyde, top edge defender Von Miller, key reserve edge defender Boogie Basham, top interior defender Ed Oliver, and key reserve interior defender Jordan Phillips. They’re facing a Bears team that is one of the worst in the league at 3-11, but the Bears have been competitive in most of their games, with 7 of their 11 losses coming by one-score, so the Bills aren’t guaranteed to blow them out in this game, especially on the road.

The Bills are also in a tough spot, as they have to play a much tougher game against the Bengals next week and easily could overlook the Bears as a result, with favorites of a touchdown or more covering at just a 42.0% rate against an opponent who has a winning percentage that is 50%+ lower than their next opponent’s winning percentage, which is the case here, as the Bengals are currently 10-4.

I’m still taking the Bills as 8-point favorites, as the Bills still have five double digit wins this season, mostly against teams better than the Bears, who are unlikely to be as good offensively this week with their talented starting guard duo of Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins being out due to injury, further exposing a defense that has been horrendous since losing edge defender Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith to trades and safety Eddie Jackson to injury. However, there isn’t enough here for the Bills to be worth betting, as big road favorites in a bad way.

Buffalo Bills 34 Chicago Bears 24

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -8

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (12-1) at Chicago Bears (3-10)

The Eagles lead the league with a +14 turnover margin, which is not a predictive stat week-to-week. That would normally make them overrated, but they also rank 3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is predictive, and they have the best team in my roster rankings, so the turnover margin is not the only reason they are winning games. The Bears, meanwhile, rank dead last in schedule adjusted efficiency, while they have a better offense now than they had earlier this season with Justin Fields improving as the season goes on, they’re also without their two best wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool and their defense has been horrendous since trading Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn and losing Eddie Jackson to injury. 

Overall, this is a matchup between one of the best and one of the worst teams in the league, so, even with this line at 8.5, the Eagles are still undervalued this week. They have seven double digit wins this season, a trend that dates back to last season when they also had seven, even though they weren’t as talented as they are this season. The Eagles are in kind of a bad spot with a much tougher game against the Cowboys on deck, but I think this line already prices that in somewhat and, even still, the Eagles are significantly undervalued. Without another good option this week, the Eagles are my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 34 Chicago Bears 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -8.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-8) at Chicago Bears (3-9)

The Packers are 4-8, a year after going 13-4, but their drop off isn’t all that surprising. Despite their record last season, the Packers finished just 10th in point differential and 11th in overall efficiency, even with an MVP season from Aaron Rodgers who, as good as he is, was no guarantee to play at quite the same level in 2022, now in his age 39 season. Add in the loss of by far their top wide receiver Davante Adams this off-season and some regression was to be expected from them, especially on offense.

In many ways, things have gone how you might expect, given the circumstances. The Packers’ defense has remained middling, ranking 17th in defensive efficiency in 2021 and 20th in 2022, but their offense has fallen off significantly, falling from 4th in offensive efficiency a year ago to 15th this season, while their horrendous special teams that ranked dead last in efficiency a year ago has only been slightly better this year, ranking 30th. All in all, the Packers rank just 23rd in the NFL in overall efficiency when adjusted for schedule, about two points below average.

The Packers have also been especially bad on the road this year, going 1-6 with a -44 point differential away from Lambeau, as opposed to 3-2 with a -4 point differential at home, which is nothing new for them, as they have consistently underperformed on the road with Aaron Rodgers, whose QB rating drops 10 points on the road, far above the league average. Given that, I am tempted to go against them on the road this week in Chicago as 3.5-point favorites, a bigger number than you might realize, with 1 in 4 games being decided by a field goal or less, including 1 in 6 by exactly a field goal.

However, the Bears are just too banged up to take this week unless we were getting a bigger number. They’ll get Justin Fields back from a one-game absence this week and he elevates their offense significantly, but he’ll be missing his top wide receiver Darnell Mooney for the first time this season, while their defense, which has been horrendous since trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, will be without their two starting safeties Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson due to injury, a big absence as they were two of their better players that side of the ball. I can’t take the Packers with any confidence, but they still seem like the better side for pick ‘em purposes against a skeleton crew Bears team.

Green Bay Packers 31 Chicago Bears 27

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -3.5

Confidence: None

Chicago Bears at New York Jets: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-8) at New York Jets (6-4)

The Jets’ offense was embarrassed last week in New England, averaging 2.10 yards per play and converting first downs at a 11.76% rate in a 10-3 loss, but they also had a dominant performance on defense once again and, overall, they rank first in the league in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency. Their offensive performance was obviously abysmal, but they were facing the second ranked defense in the league in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency and they are highly unlikely to be that bad two weeks in a row, especially since they’ve made a change at quarterback, which can’t make things worse. 

The Jets only rank 25th in the league in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, but that’s still a lot better than they looked last week and, overall, they rank 15th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about a half point above average. It also helps that the Jets will face a much easier defense this week, as the Bears rank 26th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and have been even worse since trading away Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn. They’ll also be without talented rookie safety Jaquan Brisker this week due to injury.

The Bears’ offense has been somewhat keeping them afloat in recent weeks while their defense has struggled mightily, but that’s almost entirely due to the play of quarterback Justin Fields, as they lack a significant amount of talent around him on offense, and Fields is considered highly questionable this week to play through a shoulder injury. The injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, but it could still affect his play and the Bears might prefer to play it safe with their young signal caller, sitting at 3-8, with their season going nowhere, especially given Fields’ propensity to take off and run, taking extra hits in the process.

Even if Fields plays and is limited, my calculated line favors the Jets by 6.5, so we’re getting line value with the Jets at -5.5 either way, especially if Fields is ruled out, in which case my calculated line would jump to 9.5. I don’t think I want to bet on this game right now, but the Jets should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes and, depending on Fields’ status and where this line settles, I may ultimately end up putting some money on the Jets.

New York Jets 20 Chicago Bears 13

Pick against the spread: NY Jets -5.5

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

A week ago on the early line, the Falcons were 5-point favorites, but this line has since shrunk to favor the Falcons by 3, a significant line movement, considering about 1 in 5 games are decided by 3-4 points exactly. That is likely due to the Falcons losing to the Panthers, but the Falcons split the yards per play and first down rate battle in that game, as the Bears did in their loss to the Lions, so I don’t think those results warrant this line movement. I normally like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that and my calculated line actually has the Falcons favored by 7 points, as the Falcons have a 5.5-point edge over the Bears in schedule adjusted efficiency and a 5-point edge in my roster rankings. 

The Bears have been better on offense in recent weeks, but their defense has been horrendous since trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, two of their best defensive players. The Falcons are bettable as mere 3-point home favorites and, while this is a small bet for now, I would increase this to a high confidence pick if top cornerback AJ Terrell returns from injury for the Falcons, a strong possibility and something that would be a big boost after a 3-game absence, and/or if this line drops down to 2.5, which also seems like a possibility, with the public all over the Bears for some reason.

Update: -2.5s are showing up Sunday morning, so I am going to increase this bet.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Chicago Bears 24

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -2.5

Confidence: High

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (2-6) at Chicago Bears (3-6)

A week ago on the early line, the Bears were favored by 1.5 points at home in this matchup with the Lions, but now they are favored by 3, a significant swing, given that 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. I normally like to go against significant week-to-week line movements as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and I think that is the case here. The line movement is likely driven by the Bears’ near upset of the Dolphins last week, but the Lions played a close game with the Dolphins the week prior and then pulled an upset victory over the Packers last week, so it doesn’t really make sense that this line would have moved significantly.

These two teams are pretty similar, below average teams with much better offenses than defenses, but the Lions are a better version of the Bears, with a significant edge in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, ranking two points above average, 9th best in the NFL, with the 23rd ranked Bears are 1.5 points below average. My roster rankings also support that, giving the Lions a 1.5-point edge on offense. The Lions rank dead last in defensive efficiency, so they are worse on that side of the ball, but the Bears rank 28th and have been horrendous defensively since trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, so the gap isn’t much between these two defenses, with the Lions having the clear edge on offense. 

Despite the Lions being the better team, the Bears are favored by a full field goal at home, suggesting they are the better team. My calculated line is even and the Lions could easily end up pulling the upset, even if my numbers still have the Bears as slight favorites to win straight up. There isn’t quite enough here for the Lions to be worth betting, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Chicago Bears 28 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-3) at Chicago Bears (3-5)

This is one of the toughest calls of the week because there aren’t any trends related to this game and the line is right about where it should be, favoring the visiting Dolphins by 4.5 points. The Dolphins only have two more wins than the Bears, but they have been significantly better on offense when Tua Tagovailoa is healthy, while the Bears lost the yards per play and first down rate battle in two of their three wins, leading to them ranking 27th in schedule adjusted efficiency, 4.5 points below average, while the Dolphins rank 16th, right about average, despite Tagovailoa missing about two and a half games. With Tagovailoa back, the Dolphins have an eight point edge over the Bears in my roster rankings. I’m taking the Dolphins for pick ‘em purposes, but I don’t have any confidence in them at this number.

Miami Dolphins 25 Chicago Bears 20

Pick against the spread: Miami -4.5

Confidence: None

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (5-2)

The Bears pulled the huge upset against the Patriots last week, but they still rank just 25th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about 4 points below average, and my roster rankings have them even worse, about 6 points below average. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are 5-2 despite inconsistent quarterback play, led by a defense that ranks 1st in schedule adjusted efficiency, and they should get a better game from Dak Prescott this week, in his second game back from a thumb injury that he suffered week one and that cost him 5 games.

This line is still pretty high, despite the Bears’ win last week, favoring the Cowboys by 9.5 points, but my calculated line has the Cowboys favored by even more, at 11, and the Cowboys are in a good spot as well, ahead of a bye, as home favorites of 6 points or more cover at a 63.3% rate before a bye. The Cowboys are worth at least a small bet at 9.5 and if Cowboys’ top safety Malik Hooker, who is highly questionable after not practicing all week, ends up playing and this line doesn’t move up, I will likely increase this to a high confidence pick.

Dallas Cowboys 27 Chicago Bears 13

Pick against the spread: Dallas -9.5

Confidence: Medium

Chicago Bears at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Medium

Washington Commanders at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

Washington Commanders (1-4) at Chicago Bears (2-3)

This is a tough call. Normally I like home favorites in non-divisional Thursday games because teams tend to be at a disadvantage when they travel on a short week to face a relatively unfamiliar opponent, unless they happen to be the significantly better team. As a result, non-divisional home favorites cover at a 63.2% rate on Thursdays when both teams are on short rest. The Bears are favored in this game, but only by one-point and, while the visiting Commanders aren’t drastically better than the Bears, they are still the significantly better team and, as a result, I have them as 1-point favorites on my calculated line. That’s not significant line value, but it probably nullifies any extra advantage the Bears would get at home on a short week against a non-divisional opponent. 

Both of these teams have struggled this season, but the Bears’ struggles have been even worse, even though they’ve managed to win one more game than Washington. In both of their wins, the Bears have lost the first down rate and yards per play battle, by 0.41% and 1.30 against the 49ers and by 1.39% and 0.08 against the Texans, winning those games as a result of much less predictive metrics than yards or first downs. In terms of schedule adjusted overall efficiency, which is based on first downs and yards, the Bears rank 30th, 2.5 points behind the 25th ranked Commanders. The Commanders also have a four point edge in my roster rankings. This is a no confidence pick because we’re only getting one point with the Commanders, but they should be slightly favored to win this game.

Washington Commanders 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against the spread: Washington +1

Confidence: None