Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicago Bears vs Washington Redskins: CHI +1 (Bet365)

Market Watch

When it comes to the Bears and the Redskins, it's a case of what you see is what you get. Nothing has changed from the LVH look-ahead line. The Skins were -1 point favorites last week, and they re-opened at the same number. A couple books have moved the line to a 'pick em'.

Right now, 70% of the bets are on the road team.

When the Bears have the ball

Over recent years the Bears have been a team that I've rarely backed. This is mostly due to their offense as they consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in third down/red zone efficiency. When this team needed a play, it usually came from special teams and defense.

The jury is still out on Marc Trestman, but he is finally getting some results from this unit. It helps that Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett are producing, but through six games they sit in the middle of the league in third down effectiveness, and near the very top in red zone touchdown percentage.

At the center of it is a rejuvenated Jay Cutler. He still makes mind-numbing decisions sometimes, but he is nowhere near as erratic as he used to be. He's finally playing up to the level that management expected when they brought him in from Denver.  When you add Matt Forte in the backfield and an improved offensive line, the Bears offense is one to contend with.

The Redskins must be asking themselves how to scheme things this week. They don't have quality corners on the outside so it limits their ability to load up in the box or come after the QB. If they do, you can bet that Chicago will take advantage of the favorable coverage. Even worse, when the Redskins drop back in coverage they still can't seem to slow teams down.

What Washington need most is Brian Orakpo is be a game-changer. He's far and above their best pass rusher and with him in the lineup, their defense has a fighting chance.

Last week also marked the first time all year that they didn't give up a play of 20+ yards. If they can repeat that again, Washington could pull out a win. Realistically though, this is a game that needs to be won with RG3's arm.

When the Redskins have the ball

RG3 has had a hard enough time coming back from knee surgery, but something that has complicated his comeback is inconsistent play from his offensive line. This is a unit that graded pretty well last year and all of the same pieces came back to start the year. Some regression was expected, but it's also clear that RG3's legs masked some of the defeciences, particularly at both guard spots.

However, there must be some optimism this week because this is no longer the scary Chicago defensive front that we've become so accomstomed to. Even before the injuries in the interior, this group wasn't playing as expected. The result has been a poor pass rush ranking and an even worse third down conversion percentage.

The problems up front weren't a huge problem because they had great play from the linebackers. But James Anderson has been dealing with a back injury and DJ Williams is on IR.  This week Jon Bostic will make his debut as a starter, so we'll see if he can come in and shore up the middle.  More good news comes from the practice report as both Stephen Paea and Charles Tillman look good to go for a Week 7 return.

RG3 might have some mobility back, but he continues to miss routine passes in the air. Against a struggling Dallas secondary, he was only able to go 9 of 21 for 112 yards in the second half. Surely, one of these weeks he's going to put it all together, but I dont' see it happening this week against a good Bears pass defense. Their best hope is to rely heavily on the run and be opportunistic in the pass game.

Bottom Line

Chicago gave up an alarming amount of big runs when they hosted the Giants, so I expect the Redskins to use a similar approach. The interior DL is severely depleted, and they are lucky they have two safeties who can shut it down when there's a breakdown up front. The problem is RG3 is still not close to where he was last year as a passer. His legs look better, but until he starts winning games with his arm, I'll look to fade Washington in spots like this.

Meanwhile, the Bears offense continues to hum along. They are way ahead of where they used to be under the old coaching staff, and now they have the benefit of going up against a struggling defense. To be fair, Washington's defense were not as bad last week as they were before the bye, but they have a long ways to go before they come close to what we saw last season. Cutler has too many weapons at his disposal, which means the Skins will have to pick their poison.

NFL Pick: CHI +1.