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

New England Patriots at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (4-2) at Chicago Bears (3-2)

The Bears had a disappointing first game back from the bye last week, losing in overtime as 7-point favorites in Miami. Normally teams tend to do well out of the bye as big road favorites, but the Bears were in a tough spot where they didn’t find out they were facing backup quarterback Brock Osweiler until the morning of the game, while the Dolphins likely spent the whole weekend preparing for Osweiler to start, after regular starter Ryan Tannehill re-aggravated his shoulder injury in Friday’s practice. The Bears also might have been caught looking forward to this big game at home against New England as well.

Despite that loss, the Bears are still one of the better teams in the league, so we’re getting some line value with them as 3-point home underdogs against the Patriots. I didn’t expect to bet the Patriots as often as I have early in the season, but we started getting good value with them after they surprisingly lost back-to-back games on the road in week 2 and week 3. Now after 3 straight wins, we’re no longer getting good value with them and instead it is the Bears who are a little underrated.

That being said, we’re not getting quite enough line value to bet the Bears this week, as this line dropped from 3.5 early in the week down to 3, a significant line movement considering about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Since their slow start, the Patriots have gotten top pass rusher Trey Flowers and valuable safety Patrick Chung back from injury on defense, wide receiver Julian Edelman has returned on offense, fellow wide receiver Josh Gordon was acquired from Cleveland and played close to every snap last season, and first round rookie Sony Michel has broken out as the lead running back. They could easily be a dominant team the rest of the way, so it’s not advisable to bet against them unless you’re getting great line value.

The Patriots are also in a good spot with only a trip to Buffalo on deck, one of their easier games of the season. Teams understandably tend to be completely focused and take care of business before easy games like that, as teams are 45-29 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites of 7+. The Bears should be completely focused too and are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I’d need at least 3.5 to put any money on them. This could easily be a push.

Update: Rob Gronkowski injured his back at practice on Friday and did not make the trip with the team. It’s an obvious downgrade for the Patriots, but the line dropped from 3 down to 2, which means the Bears basically have to win straight up to cover, so I’m keeping this as a low confidence pick.

Final Update: As I think about this more, I’m dropping this to a no confidence pick at +2. Brady has been close to automatic as underdogs or favorites or less than 3 in his career, going 49-22 ATS, and I don’t feel like going against that with any confidence. New England could easily win this game by a field goal, especially with Khalil Mack seemingly at less than 100% with an ankle injury.

New England Patriots 24 Chicago Bears 23

Pick against the spread: Chicago +2

Confidence: None

Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-1) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)

The Dolphins have really fallen back to earth after a surprising 3-0 start. After winning those first 3 games by a combined 23 points against a relatively easy group of teams, the Dolphins have lost their last 2 by a combined 41 points on the road against a pair of tough teams in the Patriots and Bengals. They’ve suffered a few injuries, with cornerback Bobby McCain and defensive end Cameron Wake missing last week’s game and likely out again this week, and on paper they are one of the least talented teams in the league right now without those two key defenders. The Dolphins return home this week, but they have another tough opponent on deck, with the Chicago Bears coming to town.

Before their week 5 bye, the Bears had a breakout performance in a 48-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers aren’t exactly the toughest of opponents, but the Bears have been impressive beyond just that one game. They are 3-1, rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +7.59%, 3rd in point differential at +46, and could easily be 4-0 if they didn’t blow a big second half lead in Green Bay in an eventual 1-point loss. Mitch Trubisky remains a question mark under center, despite shredding an awful Tampa Bay secondary for 6 touchdowns, but outside of the quarterback position this is arguably the most talented team in the league. Even with Trubisky a question mark, this is arguably a top-5 team right now, thanks to the most talented defense in the league.

We’re getting good line value with the Bears as just 3.5 point road favorites, as I have this line calculated at -6.5, but the Bears are also in a conflicting spot this week, which makes them a less confident bet. While they are coming off of a bye, and road favorites of 3.5+ are 16-4 ATS since 2010 after a bye, they also have to turn around and face the Patriots in a week, a game in which they will likely be home underdogs. Road favorites are just 25-52 ATS before being home underdogs since 2010, so this could easily be a trap game for the Bears, even off of a bye. They’re the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I’d need this line to go down to 3 to put any money on Chicago.

Update: Ryan Tannehill was surprisingly ruled out Sunday morning, after re-aggravating a throwing shoulder injury during Friday’s practice. That’s obviously a blow to the Dolphins, who now have to turn to backup Brock Osweiler, but the line has compensated appropriately, moving from 3.5 to 7, so this remains a low confidence pick.

Chicago Bears 23 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: Chicago -7

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)

Ryan Fitzpatrick played incredibly well in the first two games of the season, but he fell back to earth last week, with a 3 turnover performance in a home loss to the Steelers, who have struggled defensively this season. Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger and has a lot of receiving talent to work with, so he could continue to post good passing yardage numbers, but he’s a 35-year-old career journeyman who is unlikely to suddenly be a different quarterback in his 14th season season in the league. With Jameis Winston returning from suspension this week, it would not be a surprise to see the Buccaneers pull Fitzpatrick if he turns the ball over early like he did last week. Winston may be an upgrade, but he’s had turnover problems in the past as well and has not seen a lot of first team reps.

Regardless of who is under center for the Buccaneers, the bigger concern is their defense, which ranks 28th in first down rate allowed at 42.13% and is unlikely to improve going forward. The Bears are a much more complete team, with one of the top defenses in the league, a strong offensive line and running game, and a solid receiving corps. Their obvious weakness is second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who continues to look like a bottom-5 starting quarterback, despite an improved coaching staff and an improved supporting cast.

Trubisky should be able to have a solid game against a terrible Tampa Bay defense though. This line, favoring Chicago by 3 points at home, suggests that these two teams are about even, which is not the case. I have this line calculated at about 6.5, so we’re getting good line value with the Bears, who arguably have the most non-quarterback talent in the NFL. They’re a strong play this week and should win this one with relative ease.

Chicago Bears 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago -3

Confidence: High