Saturday, December 7, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 14: Cowboys vs Bears

Dallas Cowboys vs Chicago Bears: DAL +1 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

I almost had to do a double take when I saw what happened with the point spread in this game. To begin with, Las Vegas had the Bears as -1 point favorites in last week's look-ahead line. On Sunday night, they reopened the Cowboys as -1.5 point favorites.

Yet, for whatever reason all the early money came in on Chicago. The line has gone full circle as the Bears once again sit as -1 point favorites.

The puzzling thing about this move is the Cowboys are 8-4 against the spread this year, while Chicago is 2-8-2. Have we seen anything in November to suggest it will be anything different in this game?

We'll see if Chicago are still favorites when Monday comes around, but I don't think we've seen the last of the line movement for this matchup.

The "public" are still on Dallas, with 62% of the bets coming in on "America's Team".

Keep an eye on

The most glaring thing about this Chicago team is what's happening to their defense. We know that they've been decimated by injuries this season, but that's no excuse for missed tackles. According to ProFootballFocus, they missed 11 tackles last week, which is the sixth time they've gone into double digits this year. To put that in perspective, they only hit double digits six times in their five previous seasons combined.

That said, Chicago's defense isn't bad per se. What we can definitely say is that they are consistently average. If Dallas can commit to the ground game (a big "if"), they have enough balance to put up their fair share of points on Monday night. We once again have to worry about Tony Romo under the bright lights (despite what his apologists say), but this is no longer the feared defensive unit that we've been so accustomed to in Chicago.

When the Bears have the ball, most of the talk has focused on Alshon Jeffery of late. For years Chicago has searched for a reliable threat in the passing game, and now with Marshall, they have two. Pass defense isn't what Dallas thrives at, but inserting Scandrick as a base corner alongside Carr has helped. It won't matter who is at QB for the Bears because Josh McCown has been every bit as productive as Cutler this year, if not moreso.

But when we talk about Chicago's offense, it all starts with Matt Forte. To no one's surprise, the run game has been the best aspect of this offense all year. The good news for Dallas is the expected return of Sean Lee at middle linebacker.  If he's anywhere close to 90% health, he can be a difference maker when it comes to containing Forte.

The area that could give the Bears the most trouble is in the trenches. Their offensive line began the year great, but things have tailed off over recent weeks. How they handle Hatcher and Ware will go a long way in determining what transpires on the scoreboard.

Finally, Dallas actually rank higher on special teams than Chicago. If there is one stat that proves this is not your typical Bears team, that would be it.

Bottom Line

Normally, I'd stay far away from a game like this. Tony Romo is going into Chicago on prime-time in December. On paper, that's a recipe for disaster.

However, we don't need advanced stats to tell us that Chicago is a deeply flawed team in 2013. Without a stout defense to rely upon, they've been unable to take control of games.

Chicago is the worst team against the spread for a reason. They've been overvalued all year, and I can't see why they are favored versus a team that has performed better for most of the year.

This has the makings for a close football game, but I think we're getting some value on Dallas in this spot. I'll roll with the Cowboys.

NFL Pick: DAL +1.