Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
All across the league, games are seeing an uptick in totals set by the oddsmakers, and understandably so with overs spiking.
At the same time, that leaves certain contests ripe for the picking as it concerns a lower-scoring outcome with the unnecessarily increased over/under. Take today’s matchup in Carolina, for instance.
First of all, the best player on either side, Christian McCaffrey, won’t be suiting up for a fourth straight week. That means this meeting would normally draw a total of at least one or two points higher (tied to McCaffrey’s value), specifically in the 46-47 range — and that just shouldn’t be.
These are not explosive offenses that can trade scores in minimal time. After benching Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears are going with Nick Foles at QB; a guy that might have a Super Bowl MVP nod on his resume but he’s also a career journeyman. So is Panthers starter Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater’s involvement is another major reason to closely examine this bet. As the Saints QB1 last year while Drew Brees was out injured, Bridgewater faced this same Chicago team (on this exact Sunday last year, in fact)... and the over/under was 37.5. So basically, the oddsmakers are saying Bridgewater’s current offense — without its main star! — is more than a touchdown better than New Orleans’ perennial explosive group?
Again, that just shouldn’t be.
In the first season of his three-year, $63 million pact with Carolina, Bridgewater deserves props for faring well, posting career-best marks thus far in completion percentage (73.0), yards per game (286.8), and yards per attempt (8.1). He’s also been supported by impressive play from fellow newcomer Robby Anderson.
But is a regression in store while McCaffrey is out? Absolutely. Yes, Mike Davis has filled in admirably with CMC on the sidelines but I just don’t see that continuing, or at least at the pace he’s been on. Davis is in his sixth season now and barely has more than 1,000 yards on the ground — for his entire NFL career.
With a potentially ineffective rushing attack today, that could definitely cap Bridgewater’s performance if the Bears are anticipating the pass more. As it is, they yield the second-lowest passer rating (77.1) to opposing quarterbacks in all of football. They’ll also get a boost in efforts of limiting the running game from knowing Davis after he was with the club last year.
Chicago boasts the league’s No. 1 red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown to opponents when they get down there on just 36.84 percent of trips (7-of-19). Such a tendency can be extremely crucial for an under when taking on an offense that won’t feature its biggest playmaker. Overall, the Bears give up just 20 points per game, fourth-fewest of all 32 teams.
The Panthers aren’t far behind them in scoring defense, as opponents have only managed 23.6 points each week. Emphasis on “only” in today’s NFL, with nearly half the league remarkably being hit up for more than 28 points on average.
Carolina’s glaring weakness on the defensive side of the ball has been their inability to stop the run, getting gashed weekly for 133.4 yards on the ground. However, they’ll draw a weak running game to tangle within this one, as Chicago ranks sixth from the bottom with 95.4 rushing yards per game. Despite his hype, David Montgomery, uh, doesn’t exactly strike fear in opposing defenses.
Foles at quarterback really shouldn’t either. Though the Bears sit at 4-1, it hasn’t really been because of the Trubisky-to-Foles switch. The Philadelphia Eagles legend is compiling fewer yards per throw (6.0 to 6.5) and a lower passer rating (83.9 to 87.4) compared to his predecessor, and if that sustains, Chicago should continue to be a lethargic offense.
The Bears’ five games have been decided by a whopping 21 points combined. I would look for more of the same here, indicating less activity on the scoreboard.
The Bet: UNDER 45 (-110)
Record: 3-2, +0.8 unit
Last Week: Raiders-Chiefs Over 54 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit