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Opening Lines: Week 14

Patriots Open as 3-Point Favorites On the Road Against Bears

The Patriots opened as 3-point favorites against the Bears this week after beating the unholy snot out of the Jets on Monday night. That Jets game doesn’t really relate much to this week’s article, but I just like talking about how bad the Patriots embarrassed the Jets. It was like Christmas, Easter, my birthday, Thanksgiving and Festivus (and trust me, the Jets would have had plenty of grievances to air) all rolled into one. In a word — magical.

Fresh off what looked like an extended 7-on-7 drill against the Jets, the Patriots must travel to Chicago to face a Bears team that is tough to run on, typically doesn’t give up a lot of points to opposing offenses and relies on the offense only to put up enough points to squeeze out a victory. The Bears have won five straight and lead the NFC North with a 9-3 record. While I could incur the wrath of Mike Ditka for saying this, I gotta be honest; I’m not sure the Bears are as good as their record might suggest. We’re talking about a team that lost consecutive games to Seattle and Washington earlier in the year, then almost lost to the Bills in their next game following their bye week. They needed two questionable calls to squeak past the Lions twice. The ’85 Bears, these guys are not. To me, that suggests the Bears are a 7-5 team that just happens to have a 9-3 record. However, they always play good defense, they are running the ball more effectively with Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler has avoided treating the football like it’s covered in scorpions the past few weeks. When they do all three of those things, they are a very dangerous team.

While it’s tempting to get wrapped up in Monday night’s overwhelming victory against the Jets, I am tempering my expectations this week against the Bears. Chicago is a tough place to play, and the Patriots could be ripe for a let-down after a few weeks of ginormous inter-conference games with numerous playoff implications. Still, I don’t mind laying a field goal to bet on a team that has scored 40 points per game in their last four (including two division-leaders and a third who should make the playoffs). This has the feel of a 27-20 game to me, so I’m picking the Pats. I see the over/under as a crapshoot this week. The Pats have nearly hit the over by themselves several times in the past few weeks, but the Bears have consistently found the under in their matchups. If the weather is a factor at all, it’s very possible they don’t hit 41. I’m taking the Patriots at -3, but I’m steering clear of the over/under this week.

Other Lines I Like …

Ravens (-3) at Texans
The Texans’ pass defense is woeful, and the Ravens have plenty of weapons in the passing game to take advantage of that weakness. With Andre Johnson banged up and the Matt Schaub of 2010 not playing like the Matt Schaub of 2009, I don’t see how the Texans can keep this one close.

Bucs (-2) at Redskins
I know I’m playing with fire by betting against another home dog this week, but the Redskins are just an awful team. I watched them against the Giants this week and wondered aloud whether they could beat Ohio State. I’m not sure they could. I’ll give up a safety to pick a Bucs team that took the Falcons to the mat twice this year.

Rams (+9.5) at Saints
Yep, I’m betting on all road teams this week. I must hate money. NFC West teams are bad by definition, but the Saints have a bad habit of playing down to the level of their competition. I don’t think the Rams will win, but I do think they can at least keep things close.
2010 Record ATS 11-12-1