Bears Odds & Picks: Bet Chicago To Cover Sunday’s Spread Against the Panthers
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Khalil Mack.
Bears vs. Panthers Odds
The NFL season is always full of surprises. Good teams become bad, bad teams become good.
Despite the cyclical nature of the league, no two teams have exceeded expectations like the 4-1 Chicago Bears and 3-2 Carolina Panthers, who meet this Sunday at Bank of America stadium in an NFC showdown.
Oddsmakers have installed the Panthers as a 2.5-point favorites over the Bears, who some might deem one of the worst 4-1 teams in the history of the league. Still, this week’s game is a swift role reversal for a Panthers team that oddsmakers projected to win only 5.5 games and set as underdogs in each of their first five games. It’s no coincidence this line was immediately bet down to Panthers -1.5 where it sits currently.
So where’s the value in this matchup between two of the NFL’s most surprising teams?
When you think of the Chicago Bears, defense immediately comes to mind.
With a healthy Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks, this unit has dominated even without turnover luck on their side, forcing just five turnovers this season, which ranks 20th in the league.
Still, they rank fourth in points allowed (20.0) and are coming off back-to-back games in which they held the Colts to 19 points and the Buccaneers to 20. This defense has been especially stingy in the red zone, where they’ve allowed touchdowns on just seven out of 19 drives (36%) inside their 20-yard line, first in the NFL. They’re also ninth in yards per play (5.2), fifth in total success rate, first in passing success rate and 10th in rushing success rate (per Sharp Football Stats), and fifth in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA.
Although the Bears’ offense is their Achilles heel, they’re coming off two games against the Colts and Buccaneers, who are ranked first and second in defensive DVOA, respectively, and are at the top of nearly every other defensive metric — namely rushing success rate and rushing yards per play.
Chicago rushed for just 1.6 yards per carry against Indianapolis and 2.5 yards per carry against Tampa Bay. To put this into perspective, the Bears have rushed for 4.9 yards per carry against their three other opponents. With the Panthers’ inability to stop the run, we can expect a breakout game from David Montgomery.
Since the injury to Tarik Cohen, we’ve seen an increase in Montgomery’s snap count, with him running 30 routes and garnering 14 targets over the last two games. With the Panthers giving up a league-high 43 receptions to running backs and the third-most yards, things should be a lot easier for Nick Foles and a Bears offense that ranks just 23rd in offensive success rate and is 26th in DVOA.
Foles hasn’t exactly lit things up, but he did face one of the hardest opposing schedules of defenses in the Buccaneers and Colts over his last two starts, so we should look for him to have his best game of the season. The Bears have a lot to be excited about in this matchup, although they will be without offensive lineman James Daniels, who suffered a season-ending chest injury.
The Carolina Panthers offense hasn’t skipped a beat since the injury to Christian McCaffrey. Mike Davis has emerged as more than a suitable replacement, rushing for 220 yards and a touchdown on 46 attempts (4.8 yards per carry) and while logging 30 receptions for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
Much of the Panthers’ success can be attributed to the stellar play of Teddy Bridgewater, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.4%) and has thrown for 292 yards per game, which is sixth among all quarterbacks. Robby Anderson has emerged as their No. 1 receiver, leading the team in targets with 46 and catching 36 receptions for 489 yards and a touchdown. D.J Moore is second in receptions, with 22 for 381 yards and a touchdown.
With the combination of weapons, the Panthers appear to have struck gold with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, and they have the ninth-best offensive success rate. However, red zone troubles have prohibited a solid Panthers offense from being even better, as they’ve scored touchdowns on just 10 of their 20 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Unfortunately the Panthers will have to correct their red zone woes without center Tyler Larsen, who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Panthers still struggle to generate a pass rush, as they have just five sacks and just a 13.5% pressure rate, ranking 31st in both categories. In addition, they are 19th in yards allowed per game (355.6), 16th in yards per play (5.7), 31st in rushing yards per attempt (5.4), are allowing a whopping 60% of runs to be successful and rank 28th in defensive DVOA.
To make matters worse, the injury bug hasn’t been kind to Carolina’s defense as they’ve lost DT Kawann Short for the season after having season-ending shoulder surgery. Yetur Gross-Matos is out with a high-ankle sprain and cornerbacks Curtis Samuel and Donte Jackson have been limited all week in practice and are questionable to play on Sunday. The Panthers did receive some good news on the defensive front, as edge rusher Brian Burns is on track to play after entering the concussion protocol.
I wrote about this game for our early Week 6 bets and thought there was a ton of value on the Bears at +2.5, however I still like it at this current number.
Although the Bears’ 4-1 record may be somewhat fraudulent, the Panthers are a step down in class from who they’ve faced thus far defensively. My model makes this game a pick ’em, and if the Bears can get anything from their offense against a struggling Panthers defense missing Short and Gross-Matos, they should win this game outright. Take the Bears +1.5 and ML +105.
This also makes a good 6-point teaser leg to combine with the Ravens (-8.5 down to -2.5) at -120.
PICKS: Bears +1.5; ML +105