The first quarter of the season is in the books, the Bears are 3-1, and I’m $500 in the hole.
It could be worse.
Last week against the Cowpokes, the Bears defense ruled the night, but Jay Cutler had his best effort of the young season, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 75 percent of his passes. I’ve said it before but I feel better saying it now: I still think this offense will be one of the best in the league.
As for me, I ended up a lousy 4-5-1 against the spread (ATS) last week, but I reeled in close to a nickel ($500), in large part by betting on Miles Austin to reel in the first offensive touchdown of the game. That alone was good for a cool $700.
Now comes Jacksonville, one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Bears should cruise and I should cash some big tickets, provided Cutler and the boys don’t go into their bye week a day too early.
Here’s how I see it.
Will the 1st OFFICIAL Play from Scrimmage be a Run? Yes (-140)
The Bears like to run, so it makes sense for Chicago’s first play from scrimmage to set the tone. The Jaguars are more adept in defending the pass (21st in the league, which isn’t saying much), and they’re pretty strong on CB Derek Cox’s side of the field. So look for Forte or Bush to hit the ground running. As for the Jags, Head Coach Mike Mularkey was bombarded with questions as to why his best offensive player – Maurice Jones-Drew – was nothing more than an afterthought last week against the Bengals. QB Blaine Gabbert’s got a tough job today, so look for the Jags to ease their young quarterback into the game by giving MJD plenty of carries.
Will Both Teams Make a Field Goal from 37 Yards or Longer? Yes (+200)
We played this prop back in Week 3 against the Rams, and both Robbie Gould and Greg Zuerlein obliged by connecting on 50+ yard field goals. The Bears offense matches up well with the Jaguars defense since the latter has had major problems defending the run (30th in the league at 150.3 Yards Per Game) and isn’t much better against the pass (254.5 YPG). But the Bears will be comfortable enough to settle for a field goal or two. Jags kicker Josh Scobee has a great leg, and with Jacksonville struggling to put points on the board (32nd in the league at 15.5 PPG), they’ll take ‘em any way they can get them.
Will a Touchdown be Scored by Special Teams or Defense? Yes (+160)
How can I not throw a unit on this prop after what the Bears did last week at Jerry’s World? Both Briggs and Peanut were the beneficiaries of pick-sixes that increased the defense’s touchdown tally to three through four games. The D has scored in two straight, and with the amount of pressure it’s sure to get against a Jacksonville front wall that ranks 27th in the league with 13 sacks allowed, another interception return for a score looks like a safe bet. Jacksonville’s also allowed 15 punt returns, tied for the third most in the league. That dripping sound you hear is saliva falling from Devin Hester’s chops.
Matt Forte Total Rushing + Receiving Yards: Over 99.5 (-115)
Those with Forte on their fantasy team might finally rejoice. Yes, he did look a bit gimpy early on last week, but after getting his ankles retaped, the Tulane product ended up averaging 4.0 yards per carry on 13 attempt against a competent Dallas D. The Jaguars have given up 4.3 YPC and just gave up 138 yards to the Bengals last week, with 82 surrendered to Benjarvus Green-Ellis, aka The Law Firm. Forte’s a much greater dual threat than The Firm.
Will Matt Forte Score a Touchdown? Yes (-130)
Provided Forte is close to 100 percent healthy, he should get ample work and a chance to explode. Jacksonville has already given up six touchdowns on the ground to date, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Forte scored two or three times.
Maurice Jones-Drew Total Rushing + Receiving Yards: Over 107.5 (-115)
Mularkey doesn’t have many weapons, so he’ll have little choice but to go to MJD, especially after the criticism the coach took last week for failing to do so. While it’s true the Bears have been tough against the run, allowing only 67.3 rushing YPG at 3.6 YPC, MJD will get a ton of carries, plus his fair share of dump-offs and screens, and pile up yards.
Lance Briggs & Brian Urlacher Total Combined Tackles: Over 12 (-125)
This position is a direct correlation to the one up above. With MJD carrying often, it will be up to the linebackers to bring him down. Briggs and Urlacher combined for only 10 tackles last week, but that was because Dallas found itself down big and had no choice but to abandon the run for the pass. Jacksonville will try to run, and when that doesn’t work they’ll try running again, and then when the game is out of hand, they’ll run some more.
Will Jay Cutler Throw an Interception? No (+160)
If he does, he’ll have only himself to blame as the Jaguars have registered a total of two sacks in four games. Jay stood in the face of the NFL’s 15th ranked pass rush last week and avoided picks. This time, he won’t need to throw as much, as the running backs will carry the bulk of the work. And when Jay does drop back, he’ll have all day to find a receiver. The Jags have only two picks so far this season.
Chicago/Jacksonville Over 40.5 (-110)
Jacksonville is giving up an average of 24.2 PPG. They’ll give up more than that to the Bears, as Forte, Bush, and Cutler will all pile it on. The ‘over’ has cashed nine of the last ten 10 times Chicago played on a Sunday following an appearance on MNF, while the Jags have played to the ‘over’ each of the last eight times they hosted a +.500 opponent.
Chicago Bears (-5.5) -110
The Bears couldn’t have asked for a better opponent this week. The Jaguars are extremely banged up and devoid of superior talent. While they have some nice players, Jacksonville’s extremely young. So far, they’ve been beaten by an average of 13.3 PPG against the three winning teams they’ve faced (Minnesota, Houston, Cincinnati). That makes them 5-16-1 ATS for their last 22 +.500 opponents.
Chicago has cashed three of the last four times it took to the field heading into a bye week. I think they’ll do it again. That will leave them 4-1 straight up and ATS going into the bye.
Which should give us a nice two-week span to reinvigorate our Super Bowl fantasies.