Week 1 of the NFL season got underway Wednesday night as the Cowboys went into MetLife Stadium as four-point underdogs and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, 24-17. For those not keen on sports betting jargon, that means oddsmakers expected Dallas to lose that game by four points. Instead, they won the game, and Cowboy backers cashed some nice tickets.
If you’re lost, don’t worry. Stick with me and before this season ends, words like vig, juice, moose, parlay, chalk, suck-out, teaser, and hook will roll naturally off your tongue.
Hell, you might even learn something about football.
For now, know this: I’m going to break down Bears games from a sportsbetting perspective. I’ll look at sides, totals, and propositions for each of their 16 regular season games and, I hope, right into the playoffs. That’s right, the playoffs. Get down a bet on ‘Over’ 9.5 wins if you still can! So let’s put the women and children to bed and go lookin’ for Sunday dinner!
Matt Forte: Total Rushing + Receiving Yards Over/Under 119.5 (-115)
Forte goes off against a Colts defense that ranked 29th in the league against the run last season (144 yards per game at 4.3 yards per carry). Forte averaged nearly 5.0 yards per carry (YPC) in 2011, and he’s averaged nearly 100 yards from scrimmage per game over his career. Between the 20’s, Forte will be used a ton by offensive coordinator Mike Tice, and for that reason alone, we go ‘Over’ his listed prop of 119.5 combined rushing + receiving yards at -115 juice (you have to lay $115 to win $100).
Matt Forte: Will He Score a Touchdown? Yes (-150) No (+120)
Unfortunately, his best shot at scoring a touchdown will be on a long scamper. Even if he runs wild, once the Bears hit the red zone Tice will call upon free agent acquisition Michael Bush to pick up the tough yards, in part to protect the knee Forte sprained last season. Consider: Forte gained 1,487 yards last season (rushing and receiving) but scored just four times. We’ll throw some cheddar on “No” at a +120 return (A $100 wager would earn you $120), no end zone for Forte.
Player to Score the First Touchdown of the Game: Michael Bush (+700)
See a pattern here? It’s called teamwork. Forte gets us closer to cashing our ‘Over’ investment right out of the chute, and then Bush comes off the bench and punches the pigskin into the end zone for a juicy return. While I don’t normally go out on a limb and make these types of wagers, I suspect this will become one of the Bears’ recipes for success all season long. Forte totes the mail and Bush puts it in the box.
Jay Cutler: Total Passing Yards Over/Under 253.5 (-115)
Cutler is going to be giddy taking the field Sunday afternoon with all the new toys upper management put in his garage to play with this season. However, he often produces ho-hum efforts when the running game is in high gear and spectacular shows when it falters. With the duo of Forte and Bush chewing up yards, I’m going to side with history and bet that Jay does not exceed this relatively pedestrian release. Jay threw for a total of 785 yards (196.3 YPG) the four times the offense exceeded 120 yards on the ground in his 10 starts last season. That means there’s exceptional value in backing the “Under”–and finding exceptional value is what investing in sports is all about.
Jay Cutler Total Touchdown Passes: 1.5 Over (-250) Under (+190)
Even if Jay doesn’t tear it up through the air, that doesn’t mean he won’t come through for his fantasy teams. He tossed at least two TD’s in four of the six home games he started last season, and you can bet he’ll have eyes for wide receiver Brandon Marshall on at least one occasion when in scoring distance. Add another to lengthy rookie Alshon Jeffrey or Earl Bennett and you got yourself a winnah-winnah-chicken-dinnah.
Total Field Goals Made in the Game: 3.5 Over (+130) Under (-160)
The only way this one goes ‘Over’ is if the Colts consistently turn the ball over in the second half and allow the Bears to run a couple of plays before settling for Robbie Gould chip shots. I expect the Bears to put this game away in the first half and then go through the motions over the next 30 minutes. Indy won’t be settling for field goals down three tuddies. Lay the extra juice and look for three or less field goals.
Total QB Sacks Made in the Game: 4.5 Over (+100) Under (-130)
Oddsmakers weren’t stupid when they set this line, making it nearly a coin flip proposition with a dead even return if it goes “Over.” These two teams combined for 19 sacks allowed in the preseason, and Bears fans are all too familiar with the problems the hogs have up front. Indianapolis may have switched schemes from the 4-3 to the 3-4, but Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are still two of the best sack artists in the league. Factor in the constant pressure Julius Peppers is sure to unleash upon rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and this prop total could be surpassed by the half.
Will there be a Special Team or Defensive TD? Yes (+155) No (-185)
With Luck making his NFL debut against a Bears defense adept at forcing turnovers and turning them into points paired with a special teams unit that ranked among the best in the league last season, we’re going to jump at the opportunity of almost doubling our money with this prop bet. Indy’s special teams were wretched a year ago, so both Devin Hester and Eric Weems have excellent shots at returning one to the house.
Chicago (-10) -110 & Over 43.5 -110 (Throw ‘em in a 2-Team Parlay!)
The Bears couldn’t have asked for a better opponent in their home opener. While the Colts won’t be nearly as bad as they were a year ago, Indy doesn’t have the depth or athletic ability to hang. This is going to be a banner day for Lovie Smith’s squad, and they’re going to dominate at every level. Laying double-digits in the NFL is always a risky proposition, but the Bears have covered as 10+ point home chalk each of the last two times they were asked to, and that record will remain intact here as they cruise to the high-scoring home win and cover.
Enjoy Week 1, and check back soon to see how well I fared on these picks.
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STORY ART: Main image made in-house; photo courtesy of Herbert Kratky.